While travelling to Southeast Asia and wanting to learn more about it’s culinary landscape tourists can take cooking classes or sample local dishes on food walks. Some regions may even offer opportunities to visit a coffee, tea or spice plantation.
The Living Land farm, located 5 km outside of Luang Prabang, has gone one step further by providing visitors the unique experience of learning firsthand how rice is traditionally grown throughout rural Laos.
Participants in the half day “Rice Experience” tour go through the 14 step process that it takes for seeds to be selected, grown, harvested and cooked. Young, energetic farmer Laut Lee and his team interpret the rice growing process assisting visitors in plowing the fields by water buffalo, transplanting of seedlings, harvesting of mature rice and preparing the rice for steaming.
In 2006 Laut Lee formed the Living Land cooperative, consisting of 7 families who primarily grow rice over 8 hectares, in response to the slash and burn farming culture increasingly being employed on the outskirts of urban centres of Laos. The primary goal of the project is to educate a younger generation of farmers about traditional organic farming techniques that results in a continued fertile land through crop rotation, periods of fallow, and natural manure and pest management.
In collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Forestry of the district of Luang Prabang the farm trains and educates college and schoolchildren about planting techniques that do not require the use of fertilizers or pesticides.
The Living Land also grows organic Western vegetables such as microgreens, fennel, beetroot, celeriac and herbs to supply some independent restaurants and exclusive hotels such as the Amantaka.
I sat down with Laut to record this video after participating in the workshop with my four and a half year old rice loving son.
Can’t see the video? Click here.
Cameron Stauch is a chef currently living in Hanoi, Vietnam. He is eating and cooking his way around Asia in search of cooks and producers who are focused on preserving and enriching their local culinary ingredients and traditions. Follow him @camcooks.