Pakxong district in Champassak is one of the few places in Laos that has a temperate climate. The relatively high altitude means the area is suitable for growing a wide range of crops that thrive in cooler weather.
Most of the crops cultivated are of superior quality and have a niche market, especially the coffee, which is arguably Laos’ most well-known export.
The strawberries grown here are possibly the most expensive and tasty fruit in Laos and at this time of the year they appear in markets, but most are imported from Thailand.
However, there are some strawberry farms in Pakxong district that produce excellent fruit and also attract visitors.
Yamamoto Strawberry Farm is well known in the area and has been in existence for six years. It’s run by a Japanese national named Mr Ikuo Yamamoto, who first set up a farm in 2012 where he grew coffee and raised cattle. Mr Yamamoto is president of Yamamoto Ikusei Noujou Co., Ltd.
But unfortunately the area around the farm got a lot of fog which didn’t suit the coffee trees and they didn’t grow well.
Four years ago, a Japanese company decided to back Mr Yamamoto because they were interested in crop cultivation and wanted to experiment with strawberries, which they felt should grow well in the area.
During the first year of the trial, the plants yielded 400 kilos of strawberries which tasted better than expected. The following year and last year the yield rose to four tonnes but that wasn’t enough to supply the domestic market.
Mr Yamamoto said there is a strong demand for strawberries in Laos but he cannot not grow the crop on a large scale. He sells the fruit to some shops in Pakxe and to some up-market hotels in Vientiane including the Lao Plaza, Don Chan Palace and Crowne Plaza, as well as some restaurants and shops.
Yamamoto Strawberry Farm is open to visitors. You can buy fresh strawberries in the shop and walk around the farm to see the neat rows of plants. When the fruit is being harvested in January and February the farm lays on a strawberry buffet. It’s also possible to pick some strawberries and eat what you can in a limited time.
“We also have a small Japanese style restaurant which serves some simple dishes cooked by a Japanese chef,” Mr Yamamoto said. “We sell some products imported from Japan as well as some of the produce that we and other farms around Pakxong grow.”
Strawberries are at their best at the end and beginning of the year as the plants are loaded with fruit when the weather is cool.
Visitors enjoy the farm because strawberries are a relatively new and unusual crop in Laos. The fruit is perennially popular and people love to eat the succulent red berries.
They enjoy seeing the healthy plants growing and love taking selfies of the panoramic views.
I visited the farm with a friend last month. It is situated 5km south of the main town in Pakxong and lies on the right of the road. It’s open every day from 8:30am until 5pm.
The farm has about 70 cattle whose manure is used to make fertiliser for the plants, so they don’t use much in the way of chemicals.
The strawberries sold here are quite expensive compared to imported fruit because a lot of work goes into producing good quality fruit that tastes sweet.
I would also recommend that visitors buy some of the coffee on sale at the shop. It’s not grown on the farm but comes from other farms nearby where the crop is grown organically using traditional methods.