Climate change affects farms



Climate change—or whatever you wish to call the crazy thunderstorms or the hot and humid weather we are all experiencing—is really happening.

Filipino farmers will also attest it.

I was having a conversation with biodynamic farmer Nicolo Aberasturi over pizza one rainy afternoon in Makati City. He laments about the changing weather conditions in his native Bukidnon.

Another friend Jordan said, “The heat belt is moving north.” The geologist in Jordan knows what he speaks of. He explains the moving “heat belt” and the effect of the storm now hitting Taiwan, instead of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Chinchin Uy, our organic farmer friend from Negros, told us of his new “rain resistant” cover for his lettuce. Right away, I told Chin I would visit his farm in Silay City so I could apply the same rain cover in Amadeo, Cavite.

Indeed, we, the organic farmersm have been hit hard by the changing weather as we are not able to harvest leafy greens as easily from our soil. The other farmers have shifted to hydroponics, which is not organic. There is a big difference in using soil as a medium and using a solution used in hydroponics. Aquaponics is another name for this method.

That’s just for vegetables. Nicolo, Chinchin and I need to share what we know so more of us will be sustainable. As we eat our pizza topped with his “rocket” or baby arugula, Nicolo noticed the tomatoes are different. “These are not heirloom tomatoes,” he revealed.

Well, I surmise the restaurant owner is hard-pressed to find organic heirloom tomatoes. Or the supply is just too little. But why go specialty organic if one cannot sustain it. That is the dilemma of organic farmers like us.

Another area that deserves attention is local cattle or what Nicolo calls Southern Yellow cows. They are slim cows that are weather-resistant because they are heritage breeds. They are not cross breeds and are all-original stock they found in Min¬danao many years ago. They also give alkaline meat (as opposed to acidic) and never touch antibiotics and do not eat in feed lots. They graze, eat grass and are healthier to consume if we must eat some meat.

Even black heritage pigs are being raised and bred by Nicolo. They go into his bacon and his new product “pork jowls” which are smoked then grilled. But the supply still has to be increased if people wish to eat healthier and cleaner pork products. The more you buy, the more he will breed.

For now, we roll with the pun¬ches. We share our “weather” issues from Cavite to Negros and to Bukidnon. We plan to visit Nicolo in Bukidnon to learn a thing or two about heirloom varieties he grows for Manila’s foreign chefs. We will visit Chinchin in Negros to learn how to “put a roof” over our lettuce and arugula.

Meanwhile, what happens to the farmer who is alone in trying to grow his crop? He must also learn from his neighbors. The Department of Agriculture has an Organic Program you can join in your municipality. In Amadeo, we formed our own association of organic farmers so we can share markets and share experiences. A farmer cannot be alone these days.

Meanwhile, we encourage those with land to make use of their land by planting their own food, at least. Visit a farm and learn a thing or two. There are courses in Backyard Gardening offered by Down To Earth periodically. Find them in Facebook- Down To Earth. The Slow Food Manila group will soon get our hands dirty and learn from Nicolo and Paula Aberasturi. Watch out for our Terra Madre Day event in December as we plan an Earth Market together with all Slow Food advocates around the world.

Meanwhile, let’s seriously look at climate change. And find out how best we can mitigate and reduce the risks involving our food supply. Climate change is definitely here and it affects what we may or will not be able to eat tomorrow.


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