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Today we left the big city lights of Bangkok for the countryside. How refreshing to step out of the bus onto Baan Susan Chamchoen Farm and meet the owner Mr Somsak and his wife. With great passion and enthusiasm he toured us through his mixed fruit farm, combining agro tourism with fruit production and 20 value-added products. The King, a great supporter of agriculture, had advised all farmers to diversify. As such, Mr Somsak has a unique intercropping system combining  banana, coconut and mango trees along with ducks, chickens and goats.

In scenic (and very hot and humid) surroundings, the trees grow on rows of mounded soil separated by a continuous canal system. These canals are used to irrigate and to collect crops while controlling ants and raising fish which links directly to the main 32 km canal leading to the city markets.  

Mr Somsak exemplifies diversification and added value with guest rooms and a restaurant for Thai tourists. The variety of retail products made from his crops include sugar, butter and oil from coconut. He's a third generation farmer having retired from teaching eight years ago. Some of his coconut trees grow to be 100 years old. He was so very excited to show us his farm as AALP Class 16 were the first international tour ever to visit his farm. His innovation, adaptability and resourcefulness was certainly inspiring and all agreed this stop was our Thai highlight.

Mr Somsak insisted that each classmate take a bottle of his coconut oil, posed for pictures in his new Ag More Than Ever Tshirt we gave him and bid us farewell with a left-handed handshake, teaching us that the right hand is used for killing but the left is for peace.  

After a light lunch at a nearby restaurant along one of the main canals, we drove to the Nonthaphum orphanage for children with disabilities. There we were met by a worker and former student who told us how the the 390 residents receive education, vocational training, rehabilitation and social services support. We watched as lunch was served to many of the clients. The school depends on government support and donations to provide fulsome care. The class donated all our excess snacks and, having passed the hat, a $431 US donation to help them carry on their important work. Later we spent time discussing how blessed we are to be healthy and Canadian. We also discussed the act of giving and how it is incumbent upon us all to use our leadership skills and talents to give back to our organizations in our communities. 

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