THAILAND • Asked why he resigned from an engineering career to start anew as a farmer, 33-year-old Pasawut "Jack" Roongrasmi simply replied: "Because I wasn't happy."
Like him, dozens of young men and women in Thailand are turning away from the modern comforts of big cities, determined to make a self-sufficient life for themselves through agriculture.
They grow anything from flowers and rice; to vegetables and fruit like strawberry, longan and lychee; to tubers and roots like yam, groundnut and onion.
To help them, a grassroots network of experienced farmers has developed a "smart" agricultural community called Dare to Return.
The network encourages young people who emigrated to the cities to return and develop their rural hometowns with innovative farming technologies, at a time when rural populations are ageing.
According to the Thai National Economic and Social Development Board, the number of people over 60 living in the countryside rose to more than 11 million last year - 17 per cent of the total population.
The Dare to Return farmers believe agriculture is a vector of sustainability and resilience that can provide a long-term foundation for a society ready to adopt technological change.
Through mutual assistance, community learning and self-transformation, they hope to bridge the gap between the old and new generations and build a basis for a more collaborative society, improving the quality of life for all.
"Once I internalised the fact that I am a farmer, I found that it's a much better life than that of a salaried worker. I've gone further than I ever thought I would," Mr Pasawut said. "Agriculture works beautifully when it becomes a state of mind, focused on doing what is actually feasible."
He says he is happy with his 1,600 sq m farm in Chiang Mai's Mae Rim rural district, where he uses automatic irrigation and electrical supply systems to grow bromeliad plants for export.
He is also taking classes at Mae Jo University, studying the optimisation of light for plants.