Farmers Progress and Unexpected Connections in the City

Image above: Ma’am Ester’s newly planted zucchini that will be saved for seeds.

Spending my last day in Tublay on Tuesday visiting our core farmers was the perfect way to cap off an incredibly busy and productive annual trip! Each of our core Seed Savers are kind, funny, dedicated organic farmers, and community leaders all working to help make this world a better place. I am honored to get to work with and learn from each of them. A few weeks ago we distributed the last allotment of infrastructure project funds to 5 of the core farmers. Prior to receiving the funds each farmer submitted plans for their projects with drawings of the greenhouse repairs and composting facilities and projected budgets (that had to include a local counterpart). I am happy to report that almost all the farmers have started their projects and they will all be finished by February. It is wonderful to see their commitment and appreciation of this support and ability to get right to work to make these improvements a reality. Another wonderful aspect of our monthly field visits is observing the camaraderie that the core group of farmers has built over the last year. These farmers, who used to work alone, have now built a community of support and shared knowledge and understanding. Whether, they are trading seeds, livestock, or best practices in organic farming and seed saving this core group of farmers is committed to seeing each other and their fellow farmers excel.

I typically spend very few days in Manila during my annual trips but I was there the last few days which ended up being an enchanted time of connecting with people I normally only see in the North, and making new connections to seed saving initiatives throughout the country. My dear friend Siegird and her fellow potter Tessie (from Sagada) had a pottery exhibit at the Ayala Museum on Saturday. It was so fun to see them in the chaos of Manila and get to support their involvement in such a special show of SE Asian potters. I also had the good fortune, through many wonderful friends and supporters of our work to connect with Amena of Kai Farms.

Kai Farms is an organic farm located in Cavite (about 2 hours from Manila). Amena, like me is a foreigner (though she is Indian) but has lived in the Philippines for almost 15 years and considers it her true home. She and her friend and business partner Karla Delgado (a mutual friend of many wonderful supporters of our work) opened Kai Farm two years ago to serve as a truly sustainable organic farm, education space, and livelihood development center for the community. Amena and I shared a wonderful lunch yesterday and talked all things seeds, farming, the environment, spirituality and more! Kai farms is planning to build a seed temple and they are excited to connect with our programs and exchange and share seeds, host a seed school and more! They are also excited about our potential 2018 Philippines Seed Summit.

This has by far been my post productive trip to the Philippines and while it is always sad to leave I am more excited then ever to be building a team of people locally that are committed to moving this work forward with each seed we sow. Like our collaborator and dear friend Bill McDorman says, “Seed people are some of the most interesting people in the world.” It is gratifying to know we are moving in the right direction and because of our focus on seeds we are connecting with and identifying truly amazing partners and setting big visions for the coming year. Thank you for your continued support of this critically important work and sending you all peaceful wishes for the up-coming holiday season and start to 2017.


Momentum, Planning, and Continued Collaborations

Momentum, Planning, and Continued Collaborations

Image above: Wacky shot with our friends at Maryknoll

It has been an incredibly busy 10 days in Tublay/Baguio since I returned from Sagada on November 23rd. Complete with presenting awards at the local Mr. and Mrs. Tublay pageant, attending the opening of the new Food and Coffee Processing Center in Tublay (where our seed library will be housed), setting goals with our core seed savers for the coming year, and more! On Wednesday, Karen (our local Program Manager) and I met with the core Seed Savers in Tublay. This was the first time I had seen the group since our seminar last month and it was great to reconnect with these dedicated farmers. We de-briefed the seminar and each of them said that it was a huge learning opportunity and they loved being able to share with and learn from the farmers from other regions of the Philippines. It helped them realize how blessed they are in Benguet to have fertile land and supportive government and partners. One of the farmers said that helping our newfound farmer friends should be the Seed Savers largest advocacy! Each of these Seed Savers is ready to teach and we are excited to make this happen in 2017.

Karen has been telling me all year what a great group our core seed savers are, and I now know what she meant. Each of these dedicated farmers is committed to helping restore seed saving to their community and setting a true example of leadership and commitment to making this happen. In addition to de-briefing the seminar we also discussed the groups goals for the coming year. They have decided to form a Seed Savers Association by the end of Quarter 1 and each member will be inviting one dedicated farmer to join the association, as you need 15 to officially register. We will be assisting them with the formation of this association in the coming months and are excited to expand the seed saving trials with more farmers. We also distributed the second half of the infrastructure project funds each Seed Saver submitted proposals for in July. Thanks to the generosity of our donors during our June Global Giving Campaign, 5 of our core group will soon have new composting and greenhouse facilities at their farms to support their continued seed saving and organic farming efforts. I will be visiting the farms before I leave to check in on the progress of these projects and am excited to see the results in the coming months!

Yesterday, Karen and I were invited to give the final talk at Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary (where we held our seminar) climate conference. We are so thankful to have identified Maryknoll as a partner and collaborator as our missions are very similar and the staff and sisters there are very excited to get more involved in our seed saving efforts. The audience was filled with a diverse room of urban gardener’s, local officials, and others. Karen and I shared about the success of our seed saving trials and education and training programs this last year. In fact, one year ago yesterday was when we held the first Seed School in Tublay! Karen and I marvel at all we have built and accomplished since that first seminar one year ago. None of this success has been possible alone and I am daily thankful for Karen and her hard work, passion, and vision for this work. Thankful to our partners at home and here in the Philippines, and thankful to each of you for believing in this work and supporting it in the many diverse ways you do.

Each time we share about our seed saving efforts and the reality of the current state of seeds in the Philippines (all treated with chemicals) and around the world people light up and are making the important connections between seed and healthy food and ensuring our continued resiliency in light of the large challenges we face. This work is not easy, but after all, anything that is worth doing is often not, and I am inspired, empowered, and committed to seeing this movement grow in the Philippines with each farmer we empower to return to the important historical practice of saving their own seeds for themselves and their community!!