Kuya Abel got through the tragedy of his son’s death through organic farming. Ate Susan built her self-esteem by working together in community with other farmers. Kuya Val’s family can take over farming operations while he’s away in East Timor.
They are just three of the 20 farmer families from whom we source our produce. Every day, they lovingly tend to the vegetables that make their way to your homes each week. Without them, the Good Food Community would not thrive.
Partnership with SIBAT
The farmers learned about organic farming with the help of Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya, Inc. (SIBAT), an NGO with over 25 years of experience in appropriate technology all over the Philippines. In 2006, it set up Mangarita Farm in Capas, Tarlac to demonstrate the effectiveness of organic methods of agriculture and to hold training sessions for farmers in these techniques.
In 2010, SIBAT facilitated the birth of the Capas Organic Farmers’ Association, the cooperative which our farmers are a part of. With this partnership, SIBAT offers the farmers soft, affordable loans for seeds, netting, greenhouse construction materials as well as continued training sessions in organic farming such as bio-fertilizer production and natural pest-repellant solutions. SIBAT serves as our main partner in projecting what the farmers will collectively harvest each week, in cleaning and sorting the vegetables for your nourishment and in ensuring the farmers get a fair, sustainable return for their contribution. SIBAT is also an active advocate for safe, GMO-free food and for small farmers’ rights in national policies.
Out of the 300 farmers in the area, only our 20 farmers do organic farming. This is due to the tedious process and high maintenance it entails. Organic farming is relatively new to most farmers as some have only begun doing it three years ago while others started only six months ago. They decided to pursue organic farming not only as a means of earning more, but also to ensure the good health of their families. Thus, farming is a family business as women participate by planting and harvesting vegetables while their husbands take care of the rice.
Membership at Good Food
The farmers were approached by Good Food through SIBAT in October 2010, but their membership was made official last February 2011. Though the farmers have engaged in organic farming, the palayan still makes use of non-organic materials because organic farming would be a tedious process for large productions. However, they have been attempting to convert to organic rice farming little by little.
The farmers have been given the main task of providing organic vegetables to be sold by Good Food. They must not make use of non-organic pesticides, and quality must be assured at all times. All of them are happy with Good Food and the opportunity to sell their produce in Manila. Earnings from the vegetables they harvest are given a week after the vegetables are sold to the customers (usually Fridays).
The Highs and Lows of Organic Farming
Being a vegetable farmer is tough. As with any job, it has a unique set of challenges. The weather is the main problem of all the farmers. During sunny periods, they have a hard time with water. There are only a few water pumps and some of them are very far from the farm. And yet they are not very thankful for rainy seasons. In fact, they find it harder to plant because the crops are destroyed and washed away by the water from heavy rains. Another problem they have are the pests in the greenhouses. One solution they have to fight pests is mixing mint and perla to their pest control solution. They put fermented juice plant to leaves that are turning yellow in order for them to turn green. The rising prices of crude oil and the high cost of building greenhouses are also problems.
However, the farmers persist because they know the long-term benefits of organic farming, the most important of which is the good health of the consumers. The farmers can attest to this as they themselves are not prone to sickness or disease. Aside from health and wellness for the farmers, the soil also becomes healthy as organic farming encourages the multiplication of earthworms which then provides nutrition to the soil. The farming process then becomes easier due to the healthy and arable land. As a result, other farmers who have not yet engaged in organic farming are influenced to change their practices.
You Help Farmers Reach Their Goals
By buying organic vegetables from Good Food, you not only provide the farmers with extra income, you also help fulfill their dreams.
After joining Good Food, all of the farmers noticed an improvement in their way of life. The extra income allowed them to buy meat for dinner, spend for their children’s education, build their own homes, and expand their businesses. Two used the money to celebrate a wedding and baptism, while others have used it for emergency purposes.
When asked about dreams in life, the farmers were delighted to share theirs. Ate Veronika’s dream is to have good health, Ate Susan’s is to give her children education, Ate Rosemary’s is to build her own house with three bedrooms, Ate Robita wants a big house to accommodate her children and grandchildren, Ate Jolina wants her house to be repaired, Kuya Sonny wants to have a business with no debt, Kuya Abiel wants to be able to lend money to others, and Kuya Val wants to expand his farm.
With your continued patronage, the farmers’ dreams can soon become a reality.
Photos were shot by Pauline Balba and Charlene Tan. The film above is by Moshe Ladanga, and presented by the British Council, Philippines.