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Experience Rice Farming At Living Land Farm In Luang Prabang

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Experience Rice Farming At Living Land Farm In Luang Prabang
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Amasia | September 9, 2020

Experience Rice Farming At Living Land Farm In Luang Prabang

If you or your family want to try your hand at rice farming, from planting to harvesting, you can do at Living Land Farm in Luang Prabang. This farm offers you a rare glimpse into the lives of traditional rice farmers in Luang Prabang. Arriving at the Living Land Farm, you’re in for a fun and hands-on experience. You will be able to experience how it is like to plough the land, plant rice, harvest them, thresh and eventually cook up a traditional meal!

Set in a beautiful farmland about 20mins from town, it is peaceful and serene yet bustling with life as all sorts of plants and animals interact in a thriving ecosystem. Besides farming, you will also get to see a host of other traditional crafts such as blacksmithing, bird traps, musical instruments and a whole lot more.

Also comprising a zen-like lotus lake, and an organic garden with more than 30 types of vegetables and fruits, it will delight the plant-lover in you, if not inspire the creation of one!

WHAT IS THE ‘RICE EXPERIENCE’?

Rice is the centre of life in Laos, and here you’ll learn all about how this staple food is produced. Local farmers will teach you about the 13 stages of cultivating rice and you’ll get to try your hand at these activities for yourself. From selecting the seeds to planting and even ploughing the paddy with the farm’s water buffalo!

By the end of the experience, you’ll no doubt be muddy, but also have a fantastic insight into what life is like as a Laotian farmer. And to top off your morning, you’ll then enjoy a tasty lunch of typical Lao dishes at the farm’s Terrace Restaurant. With fantastic views over the surrounding rice terraces and mountains, this is the perfect way to end this half-day farming experience.

THE PROCESS OF RICE FARMING

1. Select The Grain

As soon as one harvest is complete, farmers begin working the next crop. A tiny percentage of the rice grains are set aside and saved to be used as seeds for the next crop. The traditional way of sorting the grains that are set aside is to place them in a bowl of saltwater. The grains that sink are healthier, so they are the ones that get replanted. The salt is rinsed off the grains and those seeds that floated are feed to the farm’s livestock.

2. Plant The Seeds In A Nursery

The seeds that sank in step 1 {the healthier seeds} are replanted in the nursery. The planting process is simple and only requires sprinkling the seeds in an empty paddy on top of the mud. The rice seeds sprout at an alarmingly fast rate!

3. Plough The Field

When the seedlings are deemed strong enough by the farmers, they prepare a paddy by ploughing the land with the help of a buffalo.  At Living Land Farm, they still use a water buffalo to plough the land.

4. Transplant The Seedlings

Next, farmers move the seedlings from the nursery to the ploughed field. Each seedling must be planted in the mud by hand. This can be an especially long process when the heat is excruciating. To pass the time, farmers sing songs and tell jokes.

5. Water And Weed The Seedlings

Watering the fields happens naturally with the help of nearby waterfalls. Once the fields are wet enough, the farmers block the canals with mud to ensure they don’t flood.

6. Harvest The Crop

Farmers must watch the rice crop with precision sharp eyes. If they leave the grains for too long, they fall into the wet paddy and are no longer usable. The harvest can’t be delayed, so farmers must be in a constant state of “ready”.  Once the rice is ready to be harvested, farmers cut the stalk near the base with a handmade sickle and bundle the rice stalks together. Bundles are placed in the sun to dry out.

7. Thrash The Bundles Of Rice

When the rice is dry, the bundles are thrashed against a wooden board. Give thrashing the bundles a try, beating a bundle using a set of batons to release all the grains, then tossing the stalks aside.

8. Clean The Straw From The Grains

Thrashing the stalks get a lot of the rice out of the bundles…but it also sends straw and rice husks everywhere. Since these materials are lighter than the rice grains, farmers use a fan in a figure-eight motion to sort the rice from the rest.

9. Pack And Store The Rice

Rice is loaded into baskets to be transported into homes or storage.  The Hmong, Khmu, and Laos carry 30 kilograms of rice at a time in different way. Carrying this much rice is incredibly hard work. Some women carrying these baskets have to walk with them for five hours or more to their villages.

10. Husk The Rice

Living Land Farm doesn’t use machines! They prefer to honour traditional methods of husking rice. Instead of modern agricultural technologies, they stomp on a long piece of timber that hammers the rice in a stone bowl.

11. Separate The Grains From Husks

Despite having already husked the grains once, farmers still have to sort the edible part of the rice from the husks themselves.  The innovative women of Laos weave trays from bamboo to throw the rice into the air and catch it. The husks fly out and the edible grains land back in the tray. This takes a lot of practice, but, they say, once you nail it you are “ready to be married”.

12. Soak The Rice

Before cooking sticky rice, you have to soak it overnight. Six hours is fine, but overnight is optimal for the right amount of “stick”.

13. Cook The Rice

Sticky rice is always steamed, never boiled, in bamboo baskets that sit on top of a pot of water being boiled by a fire. Rice is flipped, never stirred, by being tossed into the air and caught in the bamboo basket so that it’s cooked evenly.

14. Feast

The average Lao local eats nearly 21 kilograms of sticky rice per month. It’s no surprise that at the end of the long process, farmers want nothing more than to reap what they have seeded. At the end of the tour, you can try all kinds of sticky rice dishes— rice candy, rice cakes, sticky rice and sticky rice louts flower cakes.

COMMUNITY BENEFITS

Run by a local team, the Living Land Farm also supports a variety of community projects. These range from helping with village improvements to offering free English language classes to local children.

The rice, herbs, salad greens and organic vegetables grown on the farm also supply leading hotels and restaurants in Luang Prabang. And, if that wasn’t enough, the farm acts as a training site for students from the Northern College of Agriculture.

Ensuring the benefits of travel reach the communities we visit is a key part of our sustainable travel ethos. And by visiting the Living Land Farm, we’re not only giving our travellers a taste of rural life in Laos, but helping contribute to this fantastic community project.

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