Farm For Good

Chef Deepanker Khosla brings a different kind of sustainable farming to the city

As his fine-dining restaurant, Haoma, becomes a success story, Chef Deepanker Khosla, also known as DK, is ready to take his business to another level by opening a sustainable farm.

Measuring 10 rai, Tattva by Haoma is located in Nong Chok, a district with vast green areas on the outskirts of eastern Bangkok. The project encompasses a rice plantation, poultry farming, and goat and cow raising. The land, which belongs to his business partner’s father, had been underused until DK developed an idea to turn it into an organic farm to be opened early next year. He’s been meticulously planning what to grow and raise, such as imported chicken breeds like Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island Red. According to DK, Plymouth Rock is served to Queen Elizabeth II while Rhode Island Red eggs are superb. The chickens are fed with dried grass and grains from rice plantations, a feed formula that ensures zero waste, while goats and cows are treated are fed with nutritious grasses to ensure they give better milk.

In operating the farm, he applies the concept of decentralisation with a membership system, better known as community-supported agriculture (CSA) that requires environmentally conscious consumers to make a one-time advance payment for the produce—in this case rice, eggs, chicken meat, milk, and other dairy products—for the whole year. He’s also critical of “greenwashed” produce in the market. Some health-conscious consumers have to pay twice as much out of the belief that they are organic when they are actually not. Tattva will be an alternative for those consumers.

Chef DK and his family have adopted sustainable practices in their own lives as well. “My family and I won’t eat anything that isn’t organic,’’ he says. His Haoma restaurant has also served organic produce supplied by farms in Chiang Rai and Nakhon Ratchasima.

His childhood upbringing also played a major part in shaping the concept for Tattva. According to the Indian-born chef, who settled down in Thailand when he was 23, there was no plastic in his village of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. His family embraced the RRR principle (reduce, reuse, recycle) even before the term became known in the so-called circular economy. Bottles for red-colour condensed syrup, when empty, would be cleaned and re-used to contain drinking water. The same idea would be applied to bedsheets, which would be turned into curtains or grocery bags after they had holes. His house had a backyard farm where fresh tomatoes and other green vegetables would be collected and then cooked for the family. This way, the family was able to adhere to zero-waste practices, which he has applied at his restaurant and the farm.

DK says membership for Tattva will be up for grabs when the farm is ready around January or February next year. The plan is to start with a thousand members, which could then be expanded to 10,000 and more over time. He would see to it that the membership is affordable, saying importance will be attached to affordability and availability of the produce.

The initial plan is that members could get an unlimited supply of produce for one whole month; a discounted amount for the rest of the year; a meal at Haoma; a voucher for accommodation at resorts in Kanchanaburi and Hua Hin; and free visits to Tattva farm. Tattva members will have the first privilege to visit the farm. In fact, visiting the farm two or three times a year could be mandatory in order to keep the membership alive, he said.

Aside from farming, DK says that Tattva is an ideal place for city people to visit and enjoy greenery, which is just a 30-minute drive from downtown Bangkok. Camping facilities will be provided at the back of the farm at a later stage. 

However, a worry that DK has is the urbanisation of the area, which has already slowly begun. It would mean more wastewater which would affect natural water sources and more pollution in the air due to vehicles. “But I do hope we can come together and avoid that,” says the chef.

The chef says the ultimate goal is not money, but he wants to establish the farm with a focus on sustainability as well as build a community with the membership system that’s going to be put in place. He also hopes to foster the knowledge of farming and its importance in the next generation. He cites the example of how children today when asked where eggs come from answer, “The supermarket!” “This is a place where members and their children can come to have farm experience, collecting eggs and playing with the goats,” he says.

He keeps his goals realistic in order to make better and more practical changes to the area, and he hopes Tattva could be a prototype for others to follow.

“I cannot change the world, so I will change what I can.”