Organic farmers set up market

Published by rudy Date posted on July 5, 2009

NAGA CITY – Pushing their advocacy to put natural products in the mainstream market, practitioners of organic farming have opened a market here along the commercial strip of Magsaysay Avenue.

“It’s more of a promotion of philosophy of changing lifestyle for better health and the principle of healing of Mother Nature,” said Sabas Mabulo, a member of the Organik Bikol Advocateurs Network Inc. or Oban. “It’s actually a break-even business.”

Improving yield

Mabulo, who has been into organic farming for two years, sold some 20 natural free-range native chickens in one weekend. For two days each week, Oban members will get to sell all-organic products to customers.

Mabulo said the chickens were raised for 6 to 8 months on an 11.7-hectare farm in San Fernando town, Camarines Sur. The farm is owned by Christian Life Community

Mabulo said that, apart from raising livestock, he also grew root crops, indigenous vegetables and fruit trees using natural compounds and microorganisms from raw materials, like carabao and cow dung.

They concoct their own liquid and solid fertilizers and pest resistance enhancers to improve yield and combat pests and diseases, he said.

Strict product quality

Rosalina Tan, Oban interim president and chair emeritus of the Organic Producers and Trade Association of the Philippines (Opta), said the idea of establishing the organic market every weekend came from Opta president and pioneering natural food advocate Mara Pardo de Tavera.

In 1994, Pardo de Tavera set up the first weekly organic market at the old Greenbelt in Makati City on idle space provided by the Zobels.

At present, she operates organic markets in Barangay (village) San Lorenzo Market, Rustan’s Supermarket, Rockwell, Ayala Center, Forbes and Alabang Town Center.

According to Tan, the organic market at present is very small, accounting for less than one percent of total market supply of food products.

She said the organic market followed a standard product quality that included adherence to sell products that do not have harmful carcinogenic ingredients, synthetic chemicals, preservatives, additives and growth stimulants, which the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement and other international groups have set.

The weekly organic market is held in newly-constructed stalls commissioned by Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte, a health food adherent himself.

Organic products sold in the market all come from Oban members as the group still has to create a mechanism to validate goods produced outside the organization, Tan said.

Climate change

When organic farmers gather, they get to exchange and information regarding organic farming practices, Mabulo said.

“The biggest challenge is climate change, the unpredictable weather pattern, like when rain comes when it is less needed. We are conceptualizing ways on how to adapt to the unpredictable weather pattern,” he said, adding that the group has toyed with the idea of growing crops in low-tech greenhouses.

Ping Federis, one of the most sought-after models in the 1980s and now an organic farming practitioner, said climate change had taken its toll on her organic farm in Magarao, Camarines Sur – wiping out her indigenous papaya.

Federis said she had tried growing other crops including eggplants, tomatoes, pepper, beets, leeks and Brussels sprouts. Later, she found out that she could sustain organic lettuce production by calendaring the planting and harvesting.

She explained that it’s learning by doing.

“And the learning process is continuing,” she said, adding that it had become like a vocation and mission for her.

“It’s break-even or a little earning,” Federis laughed.

Trust

Pardo de Tavera said that to sustain an organic market, one must be very strict with the quality of products sold to safeguard and maintain the trust and confidence of clients who have chosen to change the products they use and the food they eat in favor of good health and environment.

She related how one stall tenant cheated her way into Pardo de Tavera’s first organic venture at the old Greenbelt in Makati City.

She said she immediately terminated the contract of the tenant, who was more interested in generating profit rather than clean living.

Pardo de Tavera once owned an organic store in New York before she settled down in the Philippines and embarked on a self-appointed mission to promote natural food and help heal bodies and the Earth.

She believes that demand for organic products worldwide will go up because of the growing number of people who have come to realize the need to change lifestyles. –Juan Escandor Jr., Philippine Daily Inquirer

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