The Lotus Farm is a 20-acre lake producing thousands of gorgeous lotus flowers, all harvested to create a unique, silk-like textile, and was set up by local brand Samatoa in 2013.
The lotus is a powerful spiritual symbol in Asia, one of purity and divinity. It’s also very pretty – and a pretty versatile flower at that. Not only might you stumble across it in traditional Khmer cooking, it also has properties that produce a delicate fibre that can be woven to produce organic and empty-your-wallet-expensive eco-friendly garments.
The Lotus Farm workshop is located on the road to Phnom Krom, which takes you to the floating fishing village of Chong Kneas on the Tonle Sap Lake, just before the local restaurants with their swaying hammocks. It’s possible to cycle down here in about half an hour from town, but many bends in the road do not make this the safest option.
If you’re headed to Chong Kneas – only recommended if you’re very short on time and truly can’t make it to more interesting and far less touristy floating and stilted villages – then the Lotus Farm makes for a short and interesting diversion. The stilted wooden workshop perches over the organisation’s second lotus farm — the main one is in Battambang — where you’ll be introduced to the various sustainable processes involved in lotus fabric production and invited to try your hand.
The lotus stem holds the secret to the woven goods. In a complex process that can only be done by hand, lotus stems are collected, selected and cleaned and then sliced open to reveal the fibres within. Those threads are then carefully layered and spun into thread for weaving. It can take a month to produce just one metre of the unique eco-friendly silk-like fabric — and no worms need to be boiled alive to do it, as with silk. With that kind of dedication, it goes without saying that the clothing and accessories fashioned from this fabric are exclusive, as are the prices.
A couple of traditional looms operate at the workshop and a small collection of items are for sale, though the collection of clothing of the high-end fashion brand is found back in Siem Reap town on Street 26 off Wat Bo Road. Conscious not only to cater to the niche luxury market at the Lotus Farm, there are a few more affordable gift items such as lotus bath products, but there’s no pressure to buy. Shopping is not the main draw but rather an education on this surprisingly productive flower.
If you’re interested in arts and crafts, also worth a visit are Artisans D’Angkor Centre and the Silk Farm, which like the Lotus Farm are also free to visit.
By Caroline Major
Last updated on 15th September, 2015.