And to wrap up our Women’s Month features, there is no better way than to pay tribute to the sustainable women, the “farm to table” advocates, the www.slowfood.org members.
Farm to table, sometimes also referred to as “farm to fork,” is the practice of bringing farmers’ products directly to consumers through chefs, purveyors and foodies who use these “direct to farm” ingredients.
Truly a chef for the farmers. She connects good, clean and fair food with Manila’s upscale market through her catering and her newest baby, Grace Park.
I got to travel with Margarita to Milan, experienced going to market with her and another volunteer chef Noel dela Rama, and it was such a memorable experience. To see how chefs can actually plan their menu as they see what’s in season, what’s available and what’s local.
Here at home she always finds new uses for otherwise forgotten grains and vegetables like Adlai, like natural sea salt from Negros, and different kinds of local vegetables her secret farmers bring to her attention. I always see her holding a new tomato, another kind of bean, or whatever she thinks must be preserved among our heirloom ingredients. Just like red rice from Kalinga and Ifugao.
Visit her restaurant or ask for catering suggestions. You will soon find that she will be hands-on in figuring out what to do with her recently discovered plants or fruits.
You can taste the passion in her cooking. You can almost see the farmer who is the producer and who she advocates for.
Paula Zayco Aberasturri
Appearing shy and simple she surprises us in the slow food community with her contributions to good clean and fair food. While husband Nicolo tends to the cattle, the pigs and the farm, Paula orchestrates their final presentation to the customers of Down to Earth, their provisions store in Makati City.
She does the packaging ideas and decorates the store (and even our Slow Food booth at Wofex) with her art and poetry. She connects the farmers to consumers via song and dance in her product presentations. Check out their social media accounts and you will know what I mean.
She also does natural flowers for all occasions as they practice bio-dynamic agriculture both for food and flowers (some of which are edible).
They seriously look out for heirloom seeds wherever trips bring them and they try to preserve these heirloom varieties for this part of the world.
She is the wind beneath the wings of farmer husband Nicolo who takes care of the grass-fed cattle for beef, butter and cheese. Visit her store and you will know what she does to merchandise like something as simple as sea salt or coconut sugar. Pretty packaging backed up by real honest farms.
And she is an organic farmer through and through. She observes all organic principles and respects the soil as the living medium we should all plant in.
I cannot not mention this lady who is forever looking for new local ingredients that she can bring to market. From discovering sun-dried tomatoes of our artisan partners to tasting 10 kinds of tuyo and sardines, Reena is the indefatigable foodie partner in ECHOstore. She brings rare finds like heirloom rice within reach of our most discriminating customers.
She also thinks far ahead of menu suggestions when she sees new and old ingredients. These are like some edible flowers, a purer than pure crab paste, local favorites like bagnet, and the longganisas which come from faraway places.
Reena connects small producers and artisans with upscale markets through the ECHOcafe recipes. And as you get to taste them she shares the recipes for you to take home and enjoy. So she deals with Kalinga farmers who may bring down a few sacks of heirloom rice, or an artisan guava jelly producer in Negros processing ECHOstore’s order.
Truly a farm to table advocate, she uses as much local ingredients as she can to encourage local farmers in producing better quality and better value.
She brings life to simple ingredients like mushrooms and tofu, and actually discovers new recipes for her customers to try at home. One of her hits is a banana heart vegetarian burger.
These three ladies of course share the advocacy of Slow Food: to connect our farmers to consumers. That is really the essence and spirit behind the term “farm to table” which is often used today. Sometimes overused because it sounds too good.
But the truth is in the eating, in the connections made, and in the values raised for our producers who work the land and hope to reach the markets who will appreciate their passion for the soil. And their passion to preserve Nature’s gifts to us, of course.
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Chit Juan is the Founder and President of ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle located in Serendra, Podium, Centris, Davao City, Makati and Cebu .She is the President of Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. She often speaks to corporates, academe and entrepreneurs about her advocacies: Social Enterprise, Women Empowerment and Coffee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter@Chitjuan, Instagram: CHITJUAN or Linked In: Pacita Juan.