Friday, January 15, 2016

Data Collection & Local Farm Visits

Employees at KFP peeling
Waking up this morning the team was rallied to begin our excursion into some rural towns near the factory to visit local farmers in Kampot Province.  These farmers are contracted out by Kirirom Food Production [KFP] for their production of mangoes.  Just before leaving the grounds of KFP we were invited to observe the production line process of peeling the mangoes.  We suited up in our hair nets and lab coats to engage with some of the workers during their daily activities.

Kim and her husband at local farm
Then we hopped back into the van and began a very bumpy ride.  Some of us caught up on extra sleep while others conversed with the international sales manager, Sok Ly, and farm manager, Chhouk Sorprathna, better know as Pros.  The first farm was bustling with chickens, ducks, and dogs traversing the grounds.  Kim Sokhorn, the owner, greeted us warmly and gave us a tour of some of the grounds where she has 1,600 mango trees.  After asking some questions, collecting quotes, and taking photos for the new website, Kim invited us into her home to try sugar palm fruit.  We thanked her for welcoming us to her home and farm.
SMART team, Sok Ly, and Kim

The next farm about 20 minutes away was located in the Tek Tal Commune.  The owner, Mr. Chea Ly, started the farm originally in 2005 growing sugar palm.  However, the process was too technical and he decided to switch to growing mangoes in 2007 and has been doing so since then.  After our tour we were offered to try sour green mangoes.  Sok Ly pulled out a huge knife to expertly peel the mango and shared it amongst all of us.  Two of us had never tried sour green mango before and were surprised by the tangy taste and crunchy bite.

Sok Ly using a hatchet to peel a green mango
This was our second day of home-stay with the Chhorn family.  When we arrived in the driveway Dalis, one of the sisters, greeted us warmly to lunch.  The table was filled with a variety of options including fried river fish, sautéed beef and peppers, fresh vegetables, potato soup, and rice.  We all eagerly awaited dessert though: an array of colorful, local, tropical fruits like longan, jackfruit, red dragon fruit, papaya, and banana.

Array of dishes for lunch at the Chhorn household

The SMART Team was also lucky to not only have many employees of KFP to share the meal with but also Jojo, who is the director of the agriculture department of the Asian Productivity Organization [APO].  Jojo explained that he was working on a seminar about eco-tourism and entertained us with new agricultural techniques like watermelons grown in crates that give the fruit "faces".

Post lunch the team took a quick nap and got back to working on the presentation for KFP, while snacking on dried mango of course!  Then we had another meeting with Dalis to confirm some of our findings and inform her on the progress we have made thus far on the final presentation for KFP.

Dinner was shared again with the family and employees.  We found a huge gecko in the backyard, stargazed, and shared stories from our hometowns!

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