NEGROS Island may just become the Organic Bowl of Asia. This was relayed to us by Slow Food Negros member Chin Chin Uy of Fresh Start farms in Negros Occidental, a prime mover in making organic a way of life in the newest region, Negros Island or Region 18. Before the declaration of this unification, Negros Occidental was with Region 6 together with Iloilo while Negros Oriental was with Cebu in Region 7. This new union makes sense especially because the two provinces share Mt. Kanlaon. Both have coffee lands, and have organic rice, vegetables and other produce.
Did you know that globally only 3 percent of agricultural lands are organic? This was reported by our Slow Food Manila member Paula Aberasturi who recently became a certified PGS or Participatory Guarantee System certifier of IFOAM, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements. But Negros, beating global averages, has 4 percent of its 221,000 square meters of land as organic. In fact, they have a regional ordinance banning GMOs or genetically modified organisms in planting materials, fertilizers, inputs and other agricultural supplies. This is a shining example of what LGUs can do to promote organic and natural farming.
These are all welcome news we heard in our recent Slow Food General Assembly held in Manila recently. Even Baguio has organic festivals as reported by Mayette Paragas of the Slow Food Baguio Convi¬vium. The next event in Baguio is on July 18 to invite many indigenous peoples to rediscover or preserve culinary traditions and save threatened species of plants and animals.
We at Slow Food do not just concentrate on the farmers or sources of good, clean and fair food. We also see the produce through the process of its landing in chef’s kitchens like that of Chef Jam Melchor, the culinary toast in Asean as he spreads the Filipino recipes in 5-star hotels across the region. Chef Jam uses local ingredients like turmeric to make rice dishes and uses adlai, an ancient grain, for risotto.
Chef Chele Gonzalez of Gallery Vask and Arrozeria also reported his use of local ingredients even if he is a chef of Spanish origin. Though he would find it easier to use normal ingredients European chefs use, he strives to use local heirloom rice in his restaurant to help farmers promote the taste and value of this hard-to-find species. But definitely, these heirloom rice have no plastics or foreign matter in them. Safe and nutritious, it helps our IPs in Kalinga, Ifugao and Mountain Province have a sustainable livelihood while promoting good food.
Negros Island can be our model to spread the word about organic agriculture. Ifugao, Mountain Province and Kalinga, on the other hand, can be models for Heirloom rice. There’s a lot of good, clean and fair food but consumers have to be aware of these attributes when they eat in restaurants. Ask the chef how reliable his suppliers or purveyors are. Is the chef conscious about organic and fair trade?
We are now busy preparing for Wofex 2015 that will be held at SMX on August 5 to 8. Within those days we have designated August 7 as our full-day Slow Food Summit. If you care about good, clean and fair food, do join us. Whether you are a farmer, a processor, a chef or restaurant owner or an everyday consumer, you have a role to play. And there is no better way than hearing it from practitioners. Farmers and producers will be around to explain how they grow food. Chefs and restaurant owners will explain how they involve themselves in the Slow Food movement.
If you wish to be part of this growing grassroots movement, just log on to www.slowfood.com. All it takes is Euro 10 to join our hundred or so members in the Philippines. The next international show called Asio Gusto is in KIntex, Gyeonggi Province (near Seoul) in South Korea in November and in 2016 it’s back to Turin, Italy.
In the meantime, come and join us in Wofex. Talk to organic farmers and slow food believers. There is a way to feed the world food that is good, clean and fair. And it may just come from your own farm, too.
Find Slow Food Philippines on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
* * *
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 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 email@example.com.