Written by Chandler Mulvaney, Auburn University
The number above is how many steps I took today.
It is said, that each 1,000 mile journey starts with a single step and today, I believe that our group of 19 students included in the AFA Global Fellows continued our collective journey in Thailand while engaging in the most active day yet.
This morning we started our journey at the First Royal Factory at Fang The Museum. The First Royal Project was initiated by the King in the year 1969. After traveling to the rural, northern hills tribes in the Fang district, the King noticed a need for enhanced livelihood to exist from switching the demand from the opium crops to more financially lucrative cash crops such as kiwis, peaches and other various vegetables and fruits.
In addition to this being the First Royal Project, over 2,000 other Royal Projects have been successfully initiated by the King during his reign. By giving high regard to his people’s needs, the King was able to help increase education, provide proper medication and alleviate some poverty throughout the entire country.
After a quick walk through of the museum here in Fang, we were able to tour the First Royal Factory that focuses mainly on processing and packaging the local fresh fruits into canned goods and most recently, frozen fruit items.
The next step of our journey was made in the direction of lunch and boy, was it good! All of us walked to a small, locally owned restaurant that was operating out of the families kitchen and ate some local delicacies, like blackened chicken, that have been influenced by the immigrated Yunnanese Chinese who crossed into Thailand both during and after the Taiwanese War. During this time spent in Fang, we have been able to notice the way the Yunnanese people have integrated their culture with that of the Thai people to make a truly unique dialect, environment and food, combining for a diverse cultural journey for the each of us.
This afternoon, all 19 of us made a vehicle change and tracked our way up the mountainside to visit the actual First Royal Project where the agricultural products are being continually researched and raised by farmers who are employed by the Royal family to then harvest that crop and transport that said crop to the respective Royal factories where they are later processed. As explained to by our tour guide, all of the crops grown at the First Royal Project are being researched for feasibility in a high altitude climate.
Our journey here was well worth the winding, mountainous drive, because we were able to witness actively growing kiwis, pomegranates, coffee, wheat, oats, cabbage, rhubarb, fresh flowers, bonsai trees; the list goes on and on. From the terrace method of farming fruit trees to the rows of cabbage, I loved being able to witness, first hand, our first true glimpse of Thailand farming!
Because of this experience, I was able to see the connection between one man’s journey (the King) and the difference he made in impacting every individual in his country through the implementation of agricultural research, education and extension outreach. Some time ago, during a speech made by the King, he mentioned that if he were to “Help the hill tribes; Help the Thais; Help the world.” This quote seen at the First Royal Factory museum this morning came alive this afternoon when realizing the true importance of sustainable agriculture in Thailand.
For the remainder of this trip and the near future, I am going to remember the important lesson about one’s journey in life. To remain a servant-hearted, other’s-focused individual; and by doing so, I believe, just like the positive impact made by the King, in my journey and yours, we can both do the same.