PLANT TO PLATE....... BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE
at Ori9in Gourmet Farm & Waiting for May, Chiang Mai
Like a Jack In The Box, I was coiled and poised for action as we excitedly left Phuket in search of new ideas and adventure in Northern Thailand. Chiang Mai, and more specifically Ori9in Gourmet Farm, provided the perfect antidote to island fever: with rolling hills, fertile farmlands, rice paddies and an abundance of green at every emerald twist & turn. My thirst for adventure was met by Owner, Farmer & Chef Extraordinaire, Mr James Noble, who kindly took us on a guided tour of the vast property where all produce is grown based on sustainable and organic principles, employing conscientious farming methods.
James and his team start their day around 5am and work in the fields with much of the labour being done by hand, ensuring minimal electricity or diesel on the farm - ‘live or die by the sword’ says James, such is his passion and commitment to protecting & improving the health of the local area and its inhabitants. We saw row upon row of veggies and herbs, all in various stages of their life cycle and all destined for greatness on a plate. Whilst they currently grow for large scale hospitality clients like Banyan Tree, James and his team are equally as passionate about the areas designated to private customers like you and I. For a set fee each month, they will grow you a range of organic, seasonal produce: you stipulate the shopping list and he’ll tell you what’s feasible and what’s not. With next day ‘pick & pack’ delivery all over Thailand, and when you consider the fact most "fresh" supermarket food is AT LEAST 12 MONTHS OLD……well, need I say more?
There is so much in the pipeline at Ori9in Farm: when they open to the public in October it will be a biodynamic farm meets educational amusement park for kids. As well as jam making, ketchup concocting, bike trails and pottery, there will be a world-first and epic ‘maze within a maize’ where kids can be truly immersed (and quite possibly lost!) in nature. Indeed, when I asked James why he came up with the idea & furthermore what motivated him to see it through to fruition, the answer was very simply “for my children’’. What James understands is that we need to work at a grassroots level, raising ecological awareness around the production of food from an early age – and moreover, that this can and should be FUN!
When not tending to his crops, James can often be found in the restaurant kitchen waiting for his (equally dedicated) wife May to bring vegetables from the farm – thus providing the inspiration for the befittingly named Waiting for May restaurant. Waiting for May is one of those bright ideas you think ‘why hasn’t anyone done this before?’ It makes total sense, even more so now as we are starting to understand the catastrophic effects of industrialized farming & gross consumption of nutritionally-bankrupt processed foods.
The restaurants' aptly named ‘White Menu’ (given that’s it’s basically blank, there is no menu) is a revolutionary concept and a testament to REAL food - organically produced in a conscientious manner that you hope heralds a new era in farming. If we all lived by the seasons and ate according to this very simple philosophy of eating locally & what is available now, both humans & the planet would be in considerably better health.
We were fortunate enough to dine at the restaurant ahead of its official opening this week, an unforgettable experience. Each dish at Waiting for May is a surprise - and the surprises just keep coming in their many, varied and flavoursome forms. Noble and his team are anything but boring, using produce fresh from the farm to create an array of dishes which nod to a diverse range of cuisines & cultures....from wild barley risotto to steamed bao buns, there is likely something for everyone although of course, hard to say on a menu that is changing daily.
Along with its partner farm, Waiting for May is a concept which must be embraced, it ticks all the boxes: delicious & nutritious food, ethically & sustainably produced, at fair prices and by staff with a genuine smile on their face & a willingness to help. As a Nutritionist, people often ask me ‘what do you mean by ethical & sustainable eating?’……well, THIS IS IT: to eat knowing where your entire meal came from, to know and support the farmers and the fisherman who produced that food, to know they produced it in a sustainable manner. This is ‘Plant to Plate’ eating at its best. We had an unforgettable experience at Ori9in Farm & Waiting for May, an experience which is critical in paving the way for a new era in farming & food - so that generations to come can both know and understand, what it means to share in a healthier & happier world.