Volunteer Perspective on Visiting The Seed Savers

Image above: Boaz explaning his planting system

A few weeks ago our Seed Savers Group spent an entire Saturday visiting each others’ farms. We were lucky to have J. Forte, a Filipino-American volunteer participate in this program. Below are his reflections about spending the day visiting the land of our passionate organic farmers.

Reflections By Volunteer:  J.Forte, from Los Angeles, CA

Graduate from UCLA, Philosophy Degree

 “God bless this gift of nourishment that will sustain our bodies so that they may serve you better” said Pastor Alex, prior to a mid-morning snack that was hosted in the humble living room of his abode in the agricultural region of Tublay, Benguet just north of Baguio City.

IMG_3139          IMG_3129

The Seed Savers Group, supported by Friends of ENCA Farm, had assembled to conduct a tour of their individual farms. The group has banded together to promote the importance of preserving the genetic lines of heirloom seeds, (seeds from strains of plants that have not been genetically modified in laboratories), and the importance of using organic farming methods to raise, sustain, and harvest crops for consumption.

The farmers who hosted the tour were quite enthusiastic to show off their farms, their methods, and the fruits of their labor. They spoke highly of the peaceful culture of the farming region and made sure that their visitors felt welcomed and had plenty of delicious organic food to sample. While touring the individual farms, all of which are environmentally sustainable, it also became evident that the individual farmers are each very sincere in their belief of a philosophy and movement that makes good-natured sense. Perhaps it’s that what they are doing is in line with the same kind of godliness behind that sincere prayer offered over a couple of simple store-bought snacks by Pastor Alex.

However, as Pastor Alex expressed, there is unfortunately not much to show for the adoption of the organic foods philosophy. While the organic foods movement has increased its following worldwide, it still meets age-old challenges. These challenges typically revolve around a lack of exposure to education concerning food, and more significantly, profits. If there are no severe, immediate, and noticeable repercussions for consuming fruits, vegetables, and herbs that can’t be labeled organic, then what’s to keep a farmer from using a genetically modified seed that will yield a product that is resistant to the pests which plague a particular region? What’s to keep a farmer from using unnatural chemical pesticides to protect his profits? What’s to stop a consumer from saving money at a grocery store?

IMG_3152     IMG_3146

On the bright side, thanks to organizations like Friends of ENCA Farm, the culture of organic foods is indeed gaining ground here in the Philippines, although significantly behind nations where the general perspective is more health conscious. As long as there is support in the form of increased education about the organic foods movement, increasing market demand for natural whole foods, and opportunities such as eco-tours to places like ENCA Farm, the good ideas and philosophies behind producing and consuming organic foods will surely better manifest.

Galvey farm handpicking worms to feed their compost                        IMG_0554

Volunteer Joah

Volunteer J.Forte on the way to the farm tours.

Traditional Farming Builds a Sustainable Environment

Image above: Members of the Seed Savers Group during the recent farm visits.

Two weeks ago our Seed Savers Group spent the entire weekend together. They visited each others’ farms on Saturday and participated in a cooking demo led by local chef Agunaiya Cloche on Sunday. Below are reflections on the importance of this work from one of our volunteers, a Filipina college student, April Rhoss.

“As traditional farmers, we want to contribute to the protection of our environment and support food security,” said Cesar Galvey, a member of the recently formed Seed Savers Group, regarding their goal as organic practitioners.

Cesar galveys planting system

Cesar Galvey explains planting techniques during a farm visit!

Filipino communities are starting to recognize the importance of preserving our natural environment. This movement is led by organic farmers like Cesar Galvey. Farmers and consumers are becoming  more aware of the many benefits of organic farming including: health, livelihood, education and most importantly, the protection of the natural environment.

In Health: Production of chemical-free products will benefit the growers, consumers, and natural environment.

As Livelihood: Critics say that organic products have lesser yield. However, in the market people are willing to pay more for the produce, because they are aware that the crops are much safer and healthier. This allows organic farmers to not only practice sustainable farming, but earn more money for their labor.

For Education: The farmers are being educated through seminars regarding the different subject matters in organic farming. This widens their knowledge on farming which they can add to the skills they posses and use on a daily basis.

As Natural Environment Protection: Organic farming is an environmentally friendly practice. Organic farming improves soil maintenance, produces less pollution to nearby water systems, and promotes the health and well-being of the entire natural environment. The Seed Saver program also helps the growers to protect their soil as they are able to avoid planting genetically engineered seeds that contain dangerous chemicals, which have large negative impacts on the conservation and protection of the natural environment.

With all these benefits, organically-propagated, regionally-adapted seeds are essential to the on-going support of organic farmers like Cesar Galvey. The Seed Savers Program of Friends of ENCA Farm has created an excellent opportunity for the traditional farmers of Tublay to gain direct access to organic seeds. Cesar and his colleagues are incredibly grateful for this access!