“That is the spirit and the goal of this farm. This farm is to develop farmers.”
Donald is a farmer. He raises pigs, chickens, a variety of crops and has a large fish pond from which he sells fingerlings and harvests 3000 kg of fish a year. What sets him apart from others, however, is his desire to see farmers in his area prosper and his willingness to help them do so. It is for this purpose that he has set up his own farm as a place he calls the Practical Field Study farm. Feeling it is not enough to simply teach or talk about farming methods, he wants to show how an economically viable farm operates, so welcomes people to visit, observe, and work with him any time. Making himself available as a resource person, farmers come to him almost daily for advice and assistance. “That is the spirit and the goal of this farm,” he explains. “This farm is to develop farmers.”
He prefers this informal style because it attracts those people with genuine interest and allows him to form close bonds. “Those who really want to know, they come and ask. It is like a discussion,” says Donald. He is also working to build up a body of appropriate resource materials for farmers in his Agro-info Center. With funding from the Daichi Company in Japan, this was recently constructed together with a building for assemblies, where he periodically organizes seminars. Topics go beyond farming practices to include wider national and international issues such as global warming and the upcoming trade agreement between several Southeast Asian nations. Those coming from remote villages have no understanding of these issues, yet are being strongly impacted by them.
Donald does not use nor promote the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, but dislikes the term “organic” farming, preferring instead “natural” or “integrated” because it better connects with the concepts of agriculture people understand in the villages. He also trials new techniques in appropriate technology that are useful for farmers in his context, such as hatching native chickens and quail using a homemade solar battery incubator and brooding them naturally, or artificial breeding of fish using a solar system. He is also experimenting with “floating farm” technology, which involves raising crops such as tomatoes on the surface of a lake. For the last two years, he has been operating a pig bank and has given away over 20 piglets, with one offspring to be returned to him each time a sow farrows. He is happy to follow up with answers to farmers’ many questions, such as, “My pig delivered and then two piglets died.” “My pig has diarrhea.” “I want to sell my cow. How to do it?” With the new facilities in place, Donald is looking forward to the ability to reach out to even greater numbers of farmers.