Chiang Mai, Thailand, is emerging as a global center for specialty coffee, artisanal chocolate, and medicinal cannabis. This 6 week program is a hands-on study of these three important crops, where you will learn directly from farmers and local producers as well as complete a 4-week internship or research project. You will spend extended time in the villages and mountains surrounding Chiang Mai, visit farms, learn about shade grown coffee, cacao production, and medicinal cannabis production, as well as spend time exploring the ancient city of Chiang Mai.
About the Program Center
The program is based at the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute (ISDSI), which has been in Chiang Mai, Thailand, since 1998. ISDSI is staffed by a mix of American, Thai, Karen, and Hmong instructors and support personnel, with a unique, team-based approach to teaching.
The new sustainably built center's amenities include WiFi, a library, a cafe, a gym, a yoga studio, and an outdoor cafeteria that serves fresh Thai lunches daily.
Housing & Meals
You will live in a studio apartment that is a 5-minute walk from the program center. If you choose an internship or research placement outside of Chiang Mai, you will stay in an apartment or rented room. If you stay in Chiang Mai, you will stay at your apartment or relocate to a different apartment in an area of the city closer to your placement. You will also receive a weekly meal stipend.
Although excursions change from term to term, you can expect to visit a variety of sites that may include local markets, farms, dispensaries, cafes, universities, and areas of interest around Chiang Mai.
The objectives for this course are to:
- Have specific knowledge of agriculture and cash crops and their ecological and social context in both upland and lowland Thailand and Southeast Asia.
- Gain an understanding of the role cash crops play in small landholding farms in Northern Thailand as well as the ecology and economics of coffee, cacao, and cannabis.
- Learn about the value chain in cash crop production, with an emphasis on understanding farm to consumer links, but also including the economics of production, processing, and consumer sales.
- Experience and/or research directly in the area of cash crop production, entrepreneurship, and business processes related to coffee, cacao/chocolate, and medicinal cannabis.
Faculty & Staff
A team of dedicated local staff based in Chiang Mai work to ensure that your experience is safe, academically enriching, and rewarding. The course is taught by Thai faculty who are experts in their fields.
Mark A. Ritchie, Ph.D., Resident Director
Ajaan Mark has lived in Thailand for over 20 years, working with local communities, international development work, as well as international education. Originally from the United States, Mark studied the transition of agrarian rural communities in Northern Thailand, and has been involved in project evaluation and assessment, participatory development research, and training of local communities in Asia. He is the Executive Director of the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute (ISDSI). He founded ISDSI with his wife, Dana E.C. Ritchie, over 15 years ago, and is currently working on empowering local communities through international education.
Supawadee "A" Chimmanee, Associate Director
Ajaan A works with ISDSI as an Associate Director, assisting in planning, coordinating, and evaluating programs. She also trains American students about Thai culture, including social and development issues in Thailand. Ms. Chimmanee has a BA in English from Srinakarinwirot University and is working toward an MA in Human and Environmental Management from Chiang Mai University, with a master’s thesis on the network model of natural resources management rights claim. In the past, she worked as a trainer and instructor for the Peace Corps Volunteers and as a project coordinator and in-country consultant for a number of nongovernment NGOs.
Wanlee Kongnim, Program Coordinator
Pi Wanlee works with ISDSI as the MSID Coordinator, serving as a main point person for students on the program. Prior to working with ISDSI, she worked on expanding access to counseling and testing for HIV/ADIS, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis.
Students will earn 6 credits on this 6 week course.
During weeks 1 and 2, you will have intensive classroom study and seminars on the theory and practice of agroecology and entrepreneurship as applied to coffee, cacao, and cannabis production. This will include field studies, workshops, guest speakers, and more. You will also take basic Thai classes that will enable you to communicate in everyday life.
During weeks 3–6, you will be placed in a 4-week internship or independent research project focused on your preferred area of study related to coffee, cacao, or cannabis production. Your final project will be a presentation and report on the internship and application of the seminar weeks.
Application deadline: March 1, 2024
Arrival in Chiang Mai: June 1, 2024
Departure from Chiang Mai: July 13, 2024
Orientation Dates & Locations
You will participate in an online pre-departure orientation hosted by ISDSI.
University of Minnesota participants pay the program fee instead of on-campus tuition and fees for the term they are abroad.
If you do not see a budget estimate for the term you intend to go abroad, the fee has not yet been finalized. We strive to post fees for this program at least 30 days prior to the application deadline. The Learning Abroad Center will delay the posting of some fees until enrollments, inflation, and exchange rates are determined. Note the average increase in fees will be 3–10%. Program fees are based on estimates and may change depending on international economic factors.
Fees or tuition from home institutions may be added to or differ from the University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center fees listed on this page.
Billing & Payments
Visit Billing for information about the billing process for application fees, deposits, and program fees.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Visit Financial Information for information on using financial aid and scholarships for study abroad.
Before you apply to or confirm your participation on this program, review the Learning Abroad Center's Cancellation Policy to inform yourself of the timeline and financial obligations for canceling.
Coffee, Chocolate, & Cannabis: Agroecology & Entrepreneurship in Thailand
|Tuition and educational costs
|International health insurance
|Housing and/or mealsStudents will live in a studio apartment that is a 5-minute walk from the MSID Thailand program center. Students will receive a weekly meal stipend.
|Transportation (if required and included in program fee)
|Total Program Fee
|Program discount for University of Minnesota and Big Ten students, if applicable
|Total Program Fee with discount, if applicable
Estimated Additional Expenses
|Costs Typically Incurred Prior to Departure These costs may need to be paid before your financial aid is disbursed for your term abroad.
|Transportation to and from program siteStudents are responsible for booking their flight to and from Thailand. Students will receive details on how/when to book their flight.
|Total Estimated Cost Incurred Prior to Departure
|Costs Typically Incurred After Arrival in Host Country
|Housing and/or meals not included in program fee
|Essential daily living expensesIncludes cost of required cell phone and local transportation.
|Total Estimated Cost Incurred After Arrival in Host Country
Total Estimated Cost of Participation
|Total Estimated Cost of Participation
|Spending money and personal travel Not included in financial aid calculation
|Additional Notes & Information
|* Immunizations Note: This estimate is based on approximate cost of travel-related vaccinations and medications required for entry or recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Your costs may be higher or lower depending on your travel clinic, the specific immunizations and medication prescribed, and your insurance coverage.
Complete pre-application advising.
US Passport holders require a visa to study on this program. In order to obtain a visa, you must have a valid passport. Current US passport processing times are longer than normal. If you do not have a passport, or your passport expires less than 6 months after your return date from your time abroad, apply for a new passport now.
You will be charged a $50 application fee for each application you submit.
After you submit your application, you will receive an email notification confirming that your application was received. Submitted applications are assigned an application checklist, which will include the following items:
- Application Essay
If you do not meet the GPA requirement for this program you will be required to submit an additional essay. It will be added to your checklist after you start your application, and you will be notified when it has been added.
After You Apply
Before your program begins, review these resources.
Health & Safety
Learn more about staying healthy and safe abroad, including mental health and wellness, international travel insurance, and safety precautions.
Power of Attorney
Consider designating someone as your power of attorney to act as your legal representative while you’re abroad.
Consult our resources on student identities as you prepare for your abroad experience.
Ready to go abroad? Our travel resources will help you pack and learn what to expect.
For further information or questions about this program, send an email to