With the abundant street markets downtown and farms lining the hills, we naively assumed that the meat and produce in Chiang Mai came from independent farmers. But, large agribusinesses, such as CP, maintain monopolies on agricultural production; much like Monsanto. This type of farming requires large amounts of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. The produce itself is then brought to market by middle men, who purchase from farms and transport it to villages and cities for sale. Farmers are left with no say on how their crops are distributed or how much they should be sold for. It’s harder than we thought to find organic produce and food that comes directly from the source. The bustling markets of Chiang Mai lost some of their magic when we realized that we had been misinformed. But, the best tasting food is found at the street markets and in grungy kitchens. So, how can we eat traditional Thai food while considering sustainability?
The demand for organic produce grows as more people become aware of the problems that stem from pesticide use and mono-cropping. As a result, organic farmer’s markets have been set up around Chiang Mai. You can find one almost every day of the week. The prices are comparable to the street markets, as farmers are conscious of keeping the food affordable for everyone. These farmer’s markets allow us to connect with people who are doing work that we fully support. Here are a few of our favorites:
CMU Campus, on Suthep & Cholaprathan Road, next to The Royal Project Shop
Massive trees and thatched roof structures cover this quaint market. Some students sell crisp lettuce grown on campus, while other farmers sell a variety of crops at the height of their season. Try Lapato coffee, who serves excellent pour-over from beans grown in the surrounding mountains. Young coconuts are cut to order, so you can stay hydrated.
Wednesday & Saturday 7am to 2pm
**This same space offers a larger market, on the first Thursday & Friday of each month. (So we’ve been told, but note that we only went to this market one month during our stay. We can’t be too sure of its consistency during the other months.) This market really gets going by about 10am. Check out the woman with the triangular grill, serving up smoked pork. Kanom jeen and khao soi are all around. Two ladies, close to the CMU entrance, have turmeric fried fish and a super peppery pork curry.
Library behind 3 King’s Monument, Old City
This market has two vendors we really love: PunPun & the tofu lady. There are two tofu producers here; we prefer the woman who keeps blocks of it in a bowl of water, as opposed to the jarred tofu stand. This particular market seems to be catered to Westerners, but it’s a good place to mingle and listen to live music.
Fridays, 12pm to 6pm **Note that some vendors show up late.
This is our favorite of the organic farmer’s markets. It has a lot of variety, and the prices are more reasonable. Be sure to get a chicken from the guy who roasts them in clay pots. Pick up some khao neow (sticky rice) and sit at one of the benches in the shade. There’s also a vendor here who makes tempeh which is some of the best we’ve tried.
Sundays, 6am to 12pm