Faasai Resort and Spa, an award-winning eco-resort in Thailand, has extensive organic gardens at the resort which showcase local trees and an edible forest garden, as well as vegetable and herb gardens. They are also developing a nearby nature sanctuary with a lake and wetlands with an integrated organic permaculture farm. They produce rice, fruit, bamboo, seasonal and perennial vegetables, herbs and nuts for guests, staff and their families, and have a plantation of rare agarwood trees.
Faasai Resort and Spa
The resort is set on approximately six acres of land on one side of a gently sloping hill that faces east. The hill behind the resort backs onto the sea and is covered with regenerating evergreen tropical forest which runs for about eight kilometers, ending in a little bay. It is in Chanthaburi, a beautiful and mountainous province on Thailand’s southeast coast. The province has many rare and unique local plants and animals and used to be part of the global spice trade. As it is in one of the most fertile provinces of Thailand with high rainfall and abundant supplies of ground water, including our own natural springs, we believe that our project will be of great interest to people around the world and will be a treasure for the future.
The owners Surin Laopha and Bronwen Evans bought the land in 2003 when it was covered in tall grasses with a scattering of small trees. Since the previous owner had cleared the land about six years prior to that, none of the trees were more than six years old. Most of the original trees were retained including a beautiful stand of Artocarpus Lakoocha, also known as Monkey Jack. This tropical hardwood tree is prized for its timber (so the local villagers have cut down most of the others in the neighborhood) and produces an edible orange fruit similar to an apricot. Another notable tree on the property is Irvingia Malayana, also known as Barking Deer tree, a tall spreading tree which produces an edible nut similar to an almond, very popular with animals such as deer, squirrels and monkeys. The centre piece of the property is a grand Bodhi tree. Although it was only very small when the land was acquired, it is already a large spreading tree providing a welcome shady sanctuary from the tropical heat. Like its near relative, the Banyan tree, it is from the fig family, so a magnet for birds when the fruit is ripe and it is revered by Buddhists, as the Buddha sat under a tree like this when he became enlightened.
Hundreds more trees have been planted in the past seven years including flame trees that line the drive way and dozens of beautiful Ratchapruek, the national tree of Thailand which is draped in beautiful golden flowers in March and April. About 30 rare and valuable Agarwood trees rim the boundary. Agarwood produces the most expensive essential oil in the world (so has been poached almost to the point of extinction in the wild) and the oil is a source of medicine, perfume and incense. Many deep rooted Neem trees were also planted around the property. These play a valuable role in water retention and their leaves and flowers are used in food and medicine and as an insect repellant.
The vegetable gardens supply the restaurant with ingredients such as lemongrass, chili peppers, basil, morning glory and galangal, while coconuts, jackfruit and papaya also provide a regular supply of fruit for the staff and guests. Other fruit trees on the property (many still immature) include mangos, limes, mangosteen, rambutan, rose apples, tamarind and these are dotted throughout the grounds. Forest crops provide seasonal delicacies such as wild herbs, bamboo shoots and edible leaves and flowers, which are featured in the restaurant as “forest cuisine.”
The gardening system at Faasai follows many permaculture principles with a diversity of species encouraging natural predators such as birds, ladybirds and spiders and layered companion plantings of crops including trees, beans and perennial herbs. The soil is mineral-rich but it was rocky and sparse in the early years of the project as topsoil was regularly washed off the hills in the tropical rains. Through plantings that encouraged the water to meander through the property, channeling the water to selected spots and planting vetiver grasses to absorb the run-off, the soil and rainwater is now being retained and the soil is being steadily built up through applications of manure, compost, leaf mould and fermented brews of effective microorganisms that provide plant nutrients, enhance soil health and discourage disease and insect attacks on the plants.
There are hundreds of different kinds of plants and trees on the property including many unusual local varieties and a growing abundance of birdlife, with well over 50 species spotted at the resort. Other wildlife includes masses of butterflies and dragonflies, about a dozen species of frogs or toads, squirrels, snakes and lizards. Guests are invited to explore the gardens and learn about the local environment and the gardening system and a steady stream of volunteers comes to stay for up to two weeks. In return for board, they work in the gardens at the resort or on its organic farm White Water Lake, which is half a kilometre away.
The built structures at the resort include 14 guest rooms, a restaurant and café, spa, a swimming pool, driveway, water tanks, and accommodation for three families (the owners and staff), with the balance of the land (about 70%) devoted to landscaped gardens and walkways, vegetable and herb patches, the edible forest garden and a wild garden with an ancient cashew nut orchard and regenerating local trees.
White Water Lake
White Water Lake is a combination nature sanctuary and organic farm established by Faasai Resort and Spa which is about half a kilometer from the resort. It covers an area of approximately 15 acres comprising a lake stream, wetlands, grassland and pockets of forest. The integrated organic farming system includes fish ponds, fruit orchards, rice paddies. There are also three cows who help to keep the grass down and provide manure.
The rice paddies are set amidst banana and fruit trees, which are inter-planted with herbs and chillies, a traditional way of farming in Thailand. The rice paddies help to keep the other plants cool and well-nourished, while the fishes and frogs that live in the water help to keep the insects at bay.
The organic farm, which supplies the resort with bananas, papayas, lemongrass and other fruits, vegetables and herbs, including the famous tropical fruits of Chanthaburi such as mangosteen, is managed in the traditional way of integrated Asian farming, with mixed crops and aquaculture. As with other permaculture systems, no artificial chemicals and fertilisers are used, instead it uses a balance of nature as well as a system of effective micro-organisms (EM) to help build fertile soil and create a healthy eco system.
Within a few years the land will be able to provide enough healthy and nutritious food sufficient to feed the owners and the staff who live at the resort and their families as well as making a substantial contribution to the food served at the restaurant. It is also a valuable source of fibre, fuel (oil and coconut palms), shelter and medicines.
This plantation of approximately 1000 Agarwood trees is about half a kilometre from the resort and covers approximately one and a half acres. The trees were planted seven years ago and some of them are now 10-15 metres tall. They are indigenous to the area and were grown from seed so are quite hardy in this local environment although they are fussy about the growing conditions and efforts to grow them elsewhere have not been especially successful. They were irrigated during the dry season for their first two years but since then have been left to nature, apart from the occasional pruning. These extremely valuable trees are highly prized for their fragrant oil which is used for incense, medicine and perfumes. Although originally the plantation was intended by the owners of Faasai as a commercial crop, the trees are now being kept as a carbon sink and a place of rare and tranquil beauty.
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