Meet Som Keet (35), farmer, carpenter and father. A man who looks for security just as much as everybody else. We meet with him (and his friends) in one of the wooden houses of his village. He stands out from the rest with his outgoing character and a contagious happiness.
He’s a Coffee Farmer
Currently, he cultivates rice, red beans and coffee. He has about 4000 trees with coffee on one of the steep slopes that surround the village. The trees are shadow plants and are covered by high tropical forest trees. He started farming coffee because he saw how the coffee trees of his parents flourished and he was keen to try it.
He had to wait a few years before his little trees would start to flower and bear fruit, but luckily the trees don’t demand too much attention and the clearing of the fields is not so much work compared to the red bean field. He smiles and tells that when they blossom, he and his wife are happy to see the white flowers, followed by the red cherries. He harvests them with the help of his wife and friends in the village; like he helps out his friends when they need an extra pair of hands.
Silaa Coffee has provided the village with a machine to pop open the cherries, let out the two little creme white beans and wash them. After they are washed and the red skins are in one big pile for the pigs to grub around in, Som Keet spreads out the beans on the bamboo construction in front of his house to let the beans dry in the sun.
The coffee is then transported to Silaa Coffee’s farm, together with the harvest of the rest of the village. Selling his coffee to Silaa Coffee is giving Som Keet security: ‘I’m happy that Silaa Coffee gives me a secure market and I hope this will be for the long term. You see, it helps me to build up a future for my children if I know for sure I can sell my coffee for a fair price and my whole harvest at once.’
He’s a Carpenter
He wears a torn blue pair of trousers, with a work-shirt and a blue jacket on top. When he speaks he has a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eyes and he is eager to share his story. How he started working as teenager and moved to Chiang Mai to work in construction. It is probably there that he learned the craft of carpentering. Something he has applied more than once in the village he lives in.
The wooden house we meet in has been made by him and speaks of his craftsmanship. The dark hard-wood floor and walls are well aligned and look strong. The glassless windows are surrounded by a decent frame and give us a spectacular view of the surrounding village. His friends tell me all this, because Som Keet seems to be too shy to boast in his own work. Being a carpenter gives him an opportunity to get more income and survive in this area.
He’s a Father
Something he does like to talk about are his daughters. When we talk about the future, it’s their future he is worried about. ‘I want my daughters to be able to study more. It is my duty as a parent to encourage them, to give them the opportunities. But they have to decide themselves what they want to study. I tell my children that we sell our coffee and beans, so they can choose what they want.’ He laughs when I ask him what they want to become when they grow up. ‘ Well, I have three daughters, surely one of them will have to continue with our coffee.’ He wants to secure their future and hopes that one of them will stay in the village and take over his coffee farm.
Being a father of three girls, a carpenter in a village made of wood and a coffee farmer gives Som Keet the opportunity to continue his work and life up in the mountains of Thailand and gives him the security he is looking for.