About us
Peggy and Jon, Pun Pun farm, Mai Tang, Thailand

Pun Pun is a  ten acre organic farm, seed saving centre, and sustainable living and learning centre being run by Jon Jandai and Peggy Reents in Mai Tang, about two hours from Chiang Mai town in northeastern Thailand.  Pun Pun means “one thousand varieties”  in Thai language. The community of about 15 people who live on a permanent basis at Pun Pun farm strives to find more ways to live a self reliant lifestyle by growing organic food, building their own natural homes, and experimenting with low tech appropriate technologies. They seek to bring back the tradition of seed saving amongst farmers and growers by collecting, propagating, and exchanging indigenous and rare varieties. They seek to live simply and continue to learn. Pun Pun is thus a self-sustaining farm not a commercial one. The main aim  of Peggy and Jon is to live a good, wholesome life while working the land organically, and encourage others to do the same according to their individual circumstances.

Background and journey through organic farming:
Jon was raised a farmer and after living in Bangkok for a short time, went back to farming at his homeland in northeastern Thailand.   He was actively involved in the earthen building movement in Thailand, and travelled a lot, holding workshops and training people in earthen building methods. However, it was his deep desire to have a place of his own where he could grow things, start saving seeds and encourage local people to do the same.  Peggy is from Colorado in the U.S. and initially came to Thailand as a university student. After finishing college she returned to Thailand  to learn from working with local organizations and village groups.   She was working in the northeastern part of Thailand learning with these groups when she met Jon in 2001.

Jon is 47 and Peggy is 33. They married in 2003  and purchased the land for Pun Pun in the same year. The couple have an eight year old son named Tahn who is being home schooled on the farm.

When the couple came to this land they had a few visions in mind. Having worked with other farmers through groups and networks in Thailand on organic agriculture and supporting transitions to organic, they knew the only way to create a movement was to create a model in which farmers could see how it can be done.  Mere lecturing or spouting theory would not take them far. Once a model is in place, all a farmer needs to do is to see it once; then they are able to understand it and implement what they learn through observation and training.
As well as being a model, Peggy and Jon wanted to include an active learning centre where they could host workshops, internships, and trainings on sustainable living for both Thais and international people.

Peggy and Jon grow their own rice, have fruit trees, perennial herbs, vegetables, fish ponds, and chickens for eggs.  This constitutes much of their entire diet and suffices for the food needs of the community living at Pun Pun farm.  One acre of land is devoted to rice cultivation and about one ton of  rice is harvested annually which is consumed on the farm itself.

Building the soil and farm at Pun Pun:
Creating an organic farm on the land they had purchased was a challenge for Peggy and Jon from the start. The land used to be forest and several years ago it was cut down and mono-cropped with corn. This degraded and eroded the soil so much that in a few years time the soil became infertile and it was deserted.  The old owner then plowed and burned it consecutively to just keep it clear with the hopes of selling it to some unknowing outsider.  There were no trees besides the small mango starters on the far side of the hill. Everything had to be done by hand and with little resources as the couple had no money to invest and few people for work.

At first things were very hard to grow. But Peggy and Jon gradually built up the soil and moved their way up the hill developing as much as they could at a time. They planted banana trees in lines going down the hill, in order to build up organic matter, and to prevent more soil erosion. Then they planted fruit and other herbal edibles in between the banana trees. They  developed the garden beds with manure, compost and mulch. They also had to build all the structures they needed to support community living needs and a place to host programs. This was all done by hand using all available resources possible. Initially Peggy and Jon stayed in a little hut on the neighbor’s land and worked morning to night and delighted in the changes happening everyday. In 2009 they were able to shift into their own beautiful and practical earthen home, which they had built with the help of friends and volunteers.

Manuring and irrigation:
Water  is brought to the farm by gravity feed from a reservoir nearby.  There is  one small solar panel that is used for  lighting up the meeting hall.  The rest of the farm is on the grid as of now, until enough money can be raised to buy more solar panels.  

The farm uses chicken and cow manure which is  available freely from the farm animals. Peggy and Jon make their own farmyard composts as well as liquid fertilizers and biopesticides.

Philosophy underlying Pun Pun:
Another aspect Peggy and Jon are dedicated to work on is to change people’s view of money. Although money can be a tool, they feel it should not be their inspiration or dependency. As the saying goes, “when all the forests and food is gone we will not be able to eat our bills”. They feel that true security comes from the ability to grow your own food, build your own home, and provide for your own needs. These are the skills our modern world has alienated us from and the wisdom that is being lost. Peggy and Jon began the project with no money. Some friends donated a bit and they borrowed a bit to buy the land and they began working on the project with no funding. They wanted to live and work on the land in order to develop it.  This is not to say that they do not use money--- it’s just not their driving force.

“With organic farming, you don't make a lot of money all at once, but you have enough to live on. Most people just compete, try to make money. When you are more lazy and aren't working all the time you can see beauty - the butterfly, the sunset - these things are very beautiful. I think humans are the stupidest animals-- none of the others work  eight hours a day. I just want to tell everyone that they don’t have to work so hard -- they can be more lazy. Laziness is the true way to be an environmentalist, to live sustainably." This is Jon’s outlook on living a sustainable life. By laziness, Jon is not talking about doing nothing. He simply realizes that he does not need a lot of money to be happy and so only works for what he needs.
Jon believes that this mindset is the most important step. "You have to train your mind to say 'enough'," he says. "If we don't have this attitude we can't do this thing."

Teaching and learning through doing:
Another of their premises is that what they demonstrate should be doable by others who wish to work the land sustainably as small organic farmers. For this purpose having degraded soil and no funds was perfect. If they could transform the land with what they had, anyone could do the same. Because of this belief, they focus on simple living and simple low-technology alternatives that individuals are able to manage and understand easily.

"Conventional farming is stuck," says Jon. "People are slaves on the land - they work very hard and have nothing, only debt. When people suffer they have to think about solutions. Organic farming is the solution now."
Peggy and Jon  run their farm, community, and programs based on an experimental and experiential learning approach. They have worked with various groups for the past several years, and find this approach to be the most effective.
They believe in learning by doing and that there is not only one way of doing things. They don’t believe in experts, but in learning together by sharing their collective experience. They have seen that through opening the door for further exploration, new developments can occur. “Mistakes” are simply opportunities for more learning.  They feel that they are all learning continually everyday. True development comes from taking wisdom and knowledge from others and experimenting with it to create improvements. In a nutshell this is what they do.
Several workshops and courses on organic farming, seed saving, earthen building and cookery are held at Pun Pun farm each year. A modest fees is charged for participation in these courses. The courses are held in both English and Thai language.

Pun Pun is running two vegetarian restaurants in the town of Chiang Mai at present. The first restaurant was opened at Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai several years ago. It is an outdoor restaurant under a big tree. Tables and chairs have been placed under garden umbrellas so that customers can enjoy the sounds and sights of nature as they eat. The second restaurant and organic shop was launched in Santitham in Chiang Mai  in 2012.
The restaurant at Wat Suan Dok has classic Thai vegetarian dishes and the restaurant at Santitham has fusion recipes, is open for dinner, and has a space for a shop for organic produce and products from local villagers.  Both places use local organic produce as much as possible.

Pun Pun farm provided the seed capital as a loan to the restaurant.  Friends of Pun Pun who used to live at the farm have gone to Chiang Mai to run the restaurants.  The rice, vegetables and herbs used in both restaurants are from local markets and organic farmers. Local organic produce is thus being absorbed without having to travel thousands of miles to be sold.
Pun Pun Organic Restaurants are projects aimed at supporting local organic farmers, farmer networks, and propagating biodiversity. By buying organic produce from local farmers, the restaurants are supporting  their transition to sustainable food systems.

Vision for the future:
Peggy and Jon share with volunteers and visitors what their  experience and knowledge has taught them. They are also open to  experimenting together to develop new knowledge. Their teaching style is strongly focused on hands-on learning.
Pun Pun is linked to many groups in Thailand. Peggy and Jon interact with several groups but are not members of one specific organization.  They  are a part of a loose network of seed savers as well and helping to organize that.
Pun Pun’s example has inspired the local villagers. There is a small and growing group of farmers in Mai Tang village who are converting to organic gardening and are going back to the tradition of growing kitchen gardens for their own consumption.  They have started a homestay group in the village and some earthen buildings have also come up.

It is a challenge to keep both the farm and the training programs going simultaneously.   There are times when Peggy and Jon are more focused on the land and they are growing a large percentage of their food.  There are other times when a large percentage of their gardens are going to seed.  And there are times when the gardens get a bit smaller because they are  hosting a lot of trainings and have few people to take care of it all.  But they try to maintain a balance that works for the people living on Pun Pun while continuing to do outreach.

Email: pareents@yahoo.com
Web: www.punpunthailand.org