Thursday, July 15, 2010

A taste of more organic greens

A taste of more organic greens
PR Works, media reps tour PBSP's organic farms

AS the clamor for greater environmental awareness is pursued, the demand for eco-friendly products is also sought.

Take any consumer, for example. A consumer may chance upon a vegetable stall in the wet market or a grocery chain, but he is still looking for the same thing:

Fresh produce that have cheaper prices. 

Vegetables, fruits and crops that are organically grown.

Organically grown products have become the newest trend among consumers because they have several advantages. They have an environmental edge: they are not touched by pesticides and synthetic fertilizers which may harm the soil and decrease its nutritional content.

Organic farming produce crops of higher quality. It also helps the soil gain higher water retention, which is useful for farmers during the dry seasons.

Studies also show that organically grown products are tastier than those grown from other farming methods.

Going organic. Since the early 2000's, the national government and local government units have taken extreme efforts to push for organic farming. One of the measures they have taken is to provide farmers with cheaper organic fertilizer so they can easily shift to organic farming.

In PBSP, the foundation helped its farmers adopt to the technology without sacrificing their yield by providing technical assistance and trainings. PBSP's Center for Rural Technology and Development (CRTD) trains farmers in the proper method of vermicomposting, which can also be a viable economic venture. Some of the most notable farmer communities PBSP was able to help adopt to organic farming were the ones located in Magsaysay, Sudlon II and Tabunan, Cebu City.

However, the products the farmers would harvest annually would all go to waste if there is no stable demand. To assist in this area, PBSP linked the farms to notable markets to ensure that what they planted would have sure consumers.

The most recent project PBSP took part in is the Kumprahan Supermerkado which opened last May 29 at Bridges Town Square, where farmers get to sell directly to their consumers on a rent-free space.

Usually, farmers depend on the middlemen, who owned or rented the stalls of the wet markets, to sell their own harvested crops. Because of this scheme, only the middlemen can set the prices of the products these farmers would sell, which resulted to lower income. With a venue like the Kumprahan Supermerkado available to the farmers, the farmers are given more opportunities to earn more income on their own devices.

Seeing the success of this project, PBSP and Kumprahan take it up a notch higher—now they are bringing the possible consumers close to the farmers' homes.

A tour for something greener. In coordination with PR Works and Kumprahan Supermerkado, various print media representatives and bloggers were toured to the different PBSP-assisted farms with organically grown products.

Reporters and photographers from The Freeman, Cebu Daily News, Sun.Star Cebu and members from the Cebu Bloggers Society joined Bridges Town Square owner Jon Ramos in visiting Sudlon II and Tabunan, Cebu City.

Sudlon II, also known as the Salad Capital of Cebu, is known for its rich lettuce, tomato and cucumber plantations. Every week, the farms of Sudlon would harvest more than 50,000 kilograms of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as other crops such as baguio beans, eggplants and chilli.

As stated by Aladin Pagatpat, president of the Sudlon Farmers and Livelihood and Training Services Foundation (SUFALTRAS), their yield has significantly almost doubled in number when they started farming organically.

“PBSP did not only teach us how to plant using organic fertilizer; they also taught us crop diversification so we could really maximize the use of our farmland in any planting season we have,” he added.

Because of the slopy and hilly terrains of Tabunan, Cebu City, its farmers can only plant certain flowers and what they call “pinakbet ingredients.”

The tour specifically visited the farm of Nonencio Arcayan, who could harvest more than 4,000 kilograms of eggplant in one harvest. Arcayan can harvest twice every week on Thursdays and Sundays.

“Because of the assistance of PBSP, I am not dependent on using pesticides and other synthetic fertilizers just to be able to harvest more crops. Because organic farming is also pushed, I feel prouder to grow crops that did not completely depend on synthetic materials,” Arcayan said.

For organic fertilizers, the farmers of Sudlon II and Tabunan use vermicompost and chicken wastes.

The other side of the looking-glass. For Sun.Star reporter Rebelander Basilan, the farm tour was more than a nice and enriching experience.

“From this tour, I realized that farmers go through problems from the production to the delivery of their crops. They need attention from as many agencies as possible so we can help them,”  he shared.

Kumprahan Supermerkado, he added, is a very good project because it has easily met the need of the farmers—the venue eliminates the middlemen and allows the farmers to set a better prize for their own products.

“Get to know the farmers' lives, get to know how they survive with their own means. If you get to know their lives, you can sympathize with them and be able to find a more concrete way to help them,” he added.

The Freeman Lifestyle writer Maria Eleanor Valeros, on the other hand, has already noted developments in the personalities of the farmers in Sudlon II since she last visited the place two years ago.

“I can see that they are already good in doing PR, which shows that they take pride with what they have, that they have finally found a niche with the help of PBSP,” she added.

Valeros also saw that the farmers' drive in organizing and strengthening their cooperative has improved.

“Before, you barely feel these farmers' presence in the wet markets as compared to the farmers in Mantalongon. Now, you can see that Sudlon's farmers have a strong presence especially in the Korean market because of their salad ingredients.”

"The enterprise component of the program aims at transforming our assisted marginal upland farmers into farmer entrepreneurs, through sustainable technology development and cost-efficient farming techniques, post-harvest handling, market linkage and establishment of institutional buyers like hotels, restaurants and supermarkets. We will soon produce and establish markets for 100% organically grown fruits and vegetables even outside of Metro Cebu and other provinces," PBSP Technical Officer Leo Pelletero said.

For more photos of the Organic Farm Tour, you may visit PBSP's Photo Gallery.