A new agritourism venture outside Chiang Mai puts the spotlight on local ingredients and farm-to-table fare.
Among a host of new initiatives designed to champion a “sustainable future through food,” the Banyan Tree Group has teamed up with chef turned farmer James Noble to develop Ori9in, which bills itself as the first gourmet organic farm in Thailand. Noble, a Briton whose career has included stints as Mick Jagger’s personal chef and as general manager at the Aleenta Hua Hin resort in Pranburi, has more recently been known as the proprietor of The Boutique Farmers, a Pranburi-based sustainable farming operation that supplied organic ingredients to some of the finest kitchens in Bangkok. That project, which wrapped up in January this year, has now been superseded by Ori9in, a 142-hectare spread outside the northern city of Chiang Mai that takes Noble’s formula up a notch.
Opening to the public this month, the new agritourism venture will not only continue to provide top-quality alternatives to imported produce for Thai restaurants and hotels; it will also manage a community garden where local villagers are free to harvest a variety of vegetables. Home as well to Asia’s largest corn maze, the farm will also host Waiting for May, a restaurant committed to sustainability, provenance, and zero waste. Currently operating as a pop-up in Chiang Mai, it promises true farm-to-table fare dictated by seasonal ingredients and healthful, age-old food preparation techniques such as solar baking, earth-oven roasting, fermenting, pickling, and curing—expect dishes like eggplant masala piccata with hung yogurt and pudina, chamoula chicken, or tom yam crayfish risotto.
“This is the future,” explains Noble. “Luxury is changing. Fine dining is changing. What people want from the new norm is to know where their food is coming from. They care much more about the process than whether there’s a white cloth on the table.”
This article originally appeared in the August/November 2020 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Betting the Farm”).