Indefatigable Agriculture Undersecretary Berna Romulo-Puyat has traveled to many farmlands looking for the very people who grow our food—and not just any kind of food, but Slow Food.
And so many people ask him “what is slow food? Is it cooking food slowly so meat gets tender?” Beyond debunking this thinking, Usec Berna understands Slow Food more than anyone else. She knows how to connect the farm straight to the table.
We had the chance to work with her in Salone del Gusto e Terra Madre last October 2014 in Italy. From early morning she would gather everyone to take Chef Gaita Fores and Chef Noel dela Rama to the farmers’ market . She would also arrange for all to have a photo shoot at the piazza, the very center of town. And when the show opened, she was greeting the Slow Food founder Car¬lo Petrini, VIPs and officials. And yes she got to meet Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver, Slow Food’s rockstars.
Back home, you can find her in Ifugao planting rice, in Davao check¬ing the cacao trees, and in Neg¬ros Occidental sort¬ing coffee beans along with the women farmers.
She is the “Farm to Table” Ambassador bar none. She connects the farmer to chefs like JP Anglo and Gaita Fores, foodies like Alicia Sy and Angelo Comsti and to the ordinary no name diner in today’s popular restaurants.
This Friday, August 7, she will open the Slow Food Summit at World Food Expo at the SMX. This is where the connection of farmer to chef and to consumer will again be demonstrated. Slow food advocates will be around to listen to practicing chefs, rice farmers, and biodynamic farmers like Nicolo Aberasturi who will talk about grass-fed beef, among others.
Usec. Berna can easily connect the lifestyle chefs to the hard-working farmers. Both use their hands with the planet in mind—How to grow good, clean and fair food for the farmers and how to prepare food that respects biodiversity for the chefs and foodies like Claude Tayag. It takes someone like her, who is known to the culinary stars but at the same time can bring them all back to the farm. It’s a language she has learned to speak. Preserving biodiversity, promoting local and organic produce, but coming up with dishes that use all these endangered species like heirloom rice, adlai grains, millet, and other old staples that may soon disappear if we do not know them anymore.
The Department of Agriculture has also been actively involved in preserving the endangered species souring agents used in Visayas and Mindanao namely Tabon Tabon, Sua and Batwan. The regional directors and organic focal point people have been made aware of the efforts to preserve these. These are already in the www.arkoftaste.org and has been published for everyone’s appreciation and continuing efforts to preserve such species.
Linking farmers to chefs, linking farms to the very tables we eat on is what Slow Food also espouses. By knowing where our food comes from, we are better guid¬ed on what to help the farmer plant or propagate, or know what we may no longer see in our farms. We are co-producers. Once we stop eating it or buying it, the farmer stops planting it.
And this is what we all will realize after listening to many of our like-minded chefs and Slow Food advocates. What you eat today will continue to be planted by the farmer tomorrow. If you stop eating it, the farmer also stops planting it or harvesting it.
Going green, promoting Slow Food and eating mindfully is what we all should get involved with. After all, Usec Berna and the DA’s work can only help if there are advocates who will also work towards the preservation of these species. The farmer will not succeed if there are no buyers for these produce.
We all have a role to play. Some will plant while others will cook and some will eat.
Whatever our role we can help preserve biodiversity and help everyone gain access to good, clean and fair food. If you want to join the movement just log on to www.slowfood.com. Be a member and help make farmers and chefs meet to give us better food that not only tastes good but makes the world a better place, too.
You can also connect farm to table. Come and listen on August 7 at Wofex.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org of find us on Instagram and Twitter:@slowfoodph.
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium, Centris QC mall, Davao and Cebu City. She is a member of Slow Food Manila. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at email@example.com