Farm schools for everyone

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CHIT JUAN

CHIT JUAN

“There are 11.8 million farm workers,” shares Sen. Cyn¬thia Villar, head of the Committee on Agriculture in the Senate. “But most of them need help in basic financial management and technology.”

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The senator said this in our recent conversation from which I learned a whole lot about agriculture innovations and programs. Most especially, I learned about her advocacy to educate more people to grow their own food.

She also suggested that I could actually set up our ECHOfarms as a farm school, so we can teach more people. Through this, we can share about how to do backyard gardening and at least grow food for their family. Furthermore, people can then go into commercial farming if they had “hands on” experience.

The senator further expressed her disappointment that most Agriculture graduates are knowledgeable in technology but not in simple entrepreneurship. They graduate without knowing how to make a business out of farming—and something that is sustainable.

This, according to her, is the primary reason why farms should be farm schools.

I remember sending my staff to Bacolod many years ago to learn “hands on” from Chinchin Uy of Fresh Start Organics. Today many people come to our farm to learn basic farming of vegetables the organic way. Last night, on television, I saw the feature on an OFW who decided to come home and do Natural Farming. This was of course after his parents and a sibling died from cancer after farming conventionally all this time in Bulacan. This loss became his reason to venture into Natural Farming, which now makes him an Agripreneur.

If you have a small farm and you wish to make it sustainable, make it a farm school. Share what you know with many others and TESDA can pay you for training these farmers. By the way, what is best is to teach Natural or Organic Farming. How to use vermicompost or using African night crawlers as fertilizer producers. And be truly sustainable and not dependent on chemical fertilizers which promise yields but damage the soil and the environment.

How does one start a farm school? First, you may attend the course Training the Trainors of Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) which Senator Villar is conducting in her Las Piñas farm. It’s for free and it will teach you how to train more people to grow their own food and hopefully also be able to sell their produce to direct consumers, and not just to traders or middlemen.

Second, get hands on experience whenever you can. Plant your seeds, sow your seeds. Watch your food grow before your very eyes. Do the math and make your farm sustainable. You cannot do the computations of simple arithmetic, simple profit and loss. What I guarantee you is that, if you have a farm, you already gain one thing: you will have your own food everyday on your table.

Third, share what you know. Put up a Farm school if your farm is already sustainable. When it is not a drain on the pocket, then it is sustainable. When you can eat what you grow yourself, and have spare produce, you must be doing good.

When you can pay your farm workers and still have enough to spare, you are doing good.

The best test is to undergo the Trainors program and see what you already know and what you still need to do.

Besides that course, there are two more courses for the public:

Backyard Gardening by Down To Earth farms on March 12. This is handled by Biodynamic farmers Nicolo and Paula Aberasturi. www.downtoearthph.com/2016/01/26/want-to-grow-your-own-food

Natural Farming by Andry Lim held regularly at Flor’s Garden in Antipolo.

Learn, grow, and share!

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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, Cebu City, Antipolo and Iloilo City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at puj@echostore.ph

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