Seed School Success and Adventures in Sagada

Image above: Bill and Belle right before leaving Sagada on Friday. With our wonderful hosts Steve and Siegrid.

It is hard to believe that after well over a year of planning and preparations our much anticipated 3-Day Seed School and Farmer Capacity Building Seminar is over and our guest facilitators are off to their next destinations! I cannot begin to express my deep gratitude to Bill McDorman and Belle Starr of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, and Heather DeLong from DeLaney Community Farm at Denver Urban Gardens for jumping head first into this adventure and sharing their knowledge, love, and heart with our farmers and all they encountered during their time in the Philippines. You each made the 3 day seminar the great success that it was by adapting your curriculum to our local context, helping each participant realize they are a critical part of a global movement, and most importantly sharing your heart and knowledge with all you encountered during your time here.

The largest success of the seminar was the fact that it was like nothing any of us had ever done before (facilitators and farmers alike). To have a room full of 50 farmers that traveled from 6 different Provinces in the Philippines (many required 2 days of travel to reach the venue in Baguio City) and create a space for farmers to learn not only from our guest facilitators but also from each other was incredibly powerful! While their challenges might be different in their respective communities as the seminar unfolded it was clear that all of the farmers have something to learn and teach each other. Friends of ENCA Farm is very excited to continue this momentum starting with our core Seed Savers from Benguet Province to step up and become trainers as we continue to work with our new found collaborators across the country. That is the true success of this work when it is fully taught and run by the farmers that are actively restoring seed saving to their communities. Each participant left the seminar with hands on knowledge of how to save seeds, a new found connection to the global landscape of seed saving, we held an impromptu seed swap where farmers got to exchange seeds amongst themselves, and each participant left with a tangible plan of how they will implement their new found seed saving knowledge at their farms and within their communities. We have ignited a powerful group of dedicated farmers and community leaders that I have no doubt will change their communities for the better with each seed they sow, save, and share!

We have spent that last three days in Sagada one of my beloved pockets of the world. High up in the mountains about 6 hours north of Baguio City nestled amongst pine forest and limestone cliffs sits this beautiful mountain town. While each time I return the startling influx of domestic tourism is visible with new hotels popping up everywhere, I so am thankful to have wonderful local friends to stay with and experience the “real Sagada” through. Siegird, my dear friend and talented local potter and her husband Steve (former Peace Corps) always open their home to me and our guest felt the same hospitality. We went on an epic 5-hour hike up Mt. Ampacao two days ago. As we climbed up steep road and trail it was worth each step to reach the top where there was wide-open grassland and amazing views of neighboring villages and mountains complete with a delightful breeze. This was the perfect place to end our impactful time together to hike, reflect, and eat delicious food and homemade bread that is ever abundant at Siegird’s since her mother runs a bakery out of the house.

I am looking forward to spending a few more solo days here in Sagada to continue to reflect, plan, and prepare for all the follow up work we have with the farmers from the seminar and planning for 2017. We will be finalizing our Seed Library Space and small office at the Municipal Hall in Tublay next week when they officially open the new food-processing terminal in town.

Once again I would like to send a huge thank you to our guest facilitators and The Posner Center for International Development, International Collaboration Fund Grant that made this program possible. We have launched a dynamic community changing movement with 50 farmers and are incredibly excited to watch the seeds we have germinated grow in the coming months and year!




We Need This Work Now More Than Ever: Successful Day 1 of Seed School

Image above: Participants dissect seeds

I have had the distinct honor of working and living with Filipinos for over a decade. Each time I return to my adopted homeland my connections and the great need for our collective work gain further strength and momentum. In light of the shock that rippled throughout the world on Tuesday I know now more than ever how critically important this work is and am incredibly honored to have the ability to channel my tears, frustration, and most importantly passions into something so productive in this time of confusion and uncertainty.

Today was the first day of our 3-Day Seed Saving and Farmer Capacity Building Seminar in Baguio City. As the seminar room filled with 50 farmers and participants representing 6 different Provinces throughout the country, my heart was filled with joy and excitement for all that lies ahead for this collective of farmers. Many of the participants traveled multiple days to attend this training but still arrived with smiles on their faces and eagerness to absorb the information. While each of the participants may come from different regions and produce many varieties of vegetables and rice we are all united in the fundamental understanding that the ability to build sustainable communities starts with each of us!! Not with government (local or foreign) and not with East-West Seeds the largest seed dealer in the Philippines continuing to promote hybrid seeds that leave farmers dependent on purchasing seeds after each planting. But this room full of farmers, waking up to the reality that they can grow their own seeds to sustain their families, communities and the world!!

Today more than ever I am re-empowered to continue this good work and honored to be here putting my energy and love into something so meaningful during this seemingly precarious moment in time. These dedicated farmers are the best example of working to build and be the change we want to see in the world. Wendell Berry once said, “ The threat to precious things will be our advantage. It clarifies our duty.” This is the time that we live in and Friends of ENCA Farm is energized with our new clarified duty and desire to empower Filipino Farmers to Seed and Farmer Up!!



Momentum and Collaboration Lead to Success for Our Farmers

Momentum and Collaboration Lead to Success for Our Farmers

In less than 24 hours I will depart for my yearly trip to the Philippines. Each year’s trip fills me with a wave of emotion for the new goals and aspirations that characterize each annual trip. This year we will be conducting a Seed School and Organic Farming Capacity Building Seminar during a 3-day intensive workshop to over 30 farmers from throughout the Philippines (Benguet Province, Panay Island, and the Sierra Madre). It is our honor to partner with two Rocky Mountain West based organizations to facilitate this dynamic farmer driven program. Thanks to the generosity of The Posner Center for International Development’s International Collaboration Fund, the founders of The Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA) Bill McDorman and Belle Starr, and the Director of Delaney Community Farm at Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) Heather DeLong will be joining us in the Philippines for 16 days.

This trip and program have been well over a year in the making. In August 2015, I had the pleasure of attending Seed School in a Day at the Denver Botanic Gardens, where I first met Bill and Belle. After the class we had coffee together and I shared about our soon-to-launch seed saving programs (that are now in full swing with our core seed savers in Benguet Province) and literally “planted the seed” about them coming to the Philippines with us someday. I am thrilled that this seed is soon to geminate by bringing together international expertise on seed saving and farmers’ sustainable development. And, perhaps most importantly, this program creates a space for farmers to gather, learn, interact, and share their collective challenges and successes. I firmly believe that there is nothing more powerful than bringing together farmers who are committed to building a more climate and food secure world. I am humbled and honored to build these experiences for our partner farmers and am looking forward to seeing the power of this collaboration in action.


Guest Speaker Dennis Apuan receiving the First Annual Friends of ENCA Farm “Seed to Service Award” at the 6th Annual Nourish Event. To see more pictures from the event please visit our Facebook Album.

Also, thanks to our incredibly successful 6th Annual Nourish Event held on Saturday, October 22nd, the excitement for this program is palpable. With over 125 guests, a silent auction, incredible food from our chefs at The Orange Crunch, and a poignant message from our Guest Speaker Dennis Apuan, this was our most successful event to date grossing over $16,000!! Dennis is a prominent figure in the Filipino-American Community in Colorado. He was the first Filipino-American to be elected to the Colorado State House where he served two terms. He is an activist, community organizer, and non-profit leader dedicated to building a more just and sustainable local and global community. Dennis shared powerful words about what justice means in the context of our work in increasing food security in the Philippines:

“ Food justice starts from the conviction that access to healthy food is a human rights issue and goes beyond advocacy and direct service….it calls for organized responses to food security problems, responses that are locally driven and owned.”

Friends of ENCA Farm is committed to supporting these solutions one farmer and one community at a time. It is an honor to work with dedicated Filipino farmers who seek to increase broad access to organic seed as a direct move to liberate themselves from the chokehold that biotechnology companies attempt to exert throughout global food and seed markets.

We know that our involvement and investment in this important, challenging, and often times thankless work is the right place for us to be right now as an organization. It is a sacred process of protecting our human sources of sustenance, cultural heritage, and future success… all found in each powerful little seed our farmers diligently sow, plant, and grow!

I look forward to sharing this trip with you all! Next update from the Philippines!