IT’S my second time to speak at the negros organic festival held at the same time as the 12th National Organic Agriculture Congress which now has more than 2000 people attending and growing in number year on year. Negros is the perfect place as the whole island (as I have written in many columns before) is going organic.
There were a number of us speaking on Marketing Organic Products and I was happy to hear younger people who shared their seemingly small and humble models but big in ideals and dreams to promote sustainable living through organic agriculture.
Charlene Tan of Good Food Community spoke about her Community Supported Agriculture or CSA but she still seeks to find the sweet spot to continue connecting farmers to consumers. I think that the CSA model will work in many places where consumers can get produce from farms close to them and where they can check the farm practices, too. Are they really natural or organic? Does the farmer use sustainable methods of farming?
Jen Horn of Muni.ph shared her ideas about events where consumers can try new start-up products from far¬mers and social enterprises. While Jenny Pascual spoke about her innovative Move Feast—or a movable feast which serves good food in different farm settings. Jenny is also an active member of Slow Food Manila and was in charge of our “move feast” version of Tasting Session Lunch last August.
Ramon Uy Jr or Chinchin as we call him was the most hilarious presentor as the Ilonggo speaker chose to speak in Tagalog as many of the audience came from Luzon and Mindanao, too, and preferred a Taglish delivery rather than all-English speeches. Chinchin presented his Fresh Start products which started as a compost producer then started to become the consolidator of rice and vegetables until he started his own organic vegetable farm, too, in Silay City.
Bea Misa-Crisostomo, another young idealistic mother of one, told us about her journey of advocating “no plastic” by founding a concept of “Tinge”(I am not sure if the direct translation of tinge is ‘mini retail’) where consumers can buy by weight—50 grams of muscovado, 100 grams of sea salt, etc.—in a public market and not using any plastic bag or container. Then another concept called “Sakto” (or a play on the word exact) in Legaspi market, before finally opening a brick and mortar space called “Ritual” at The Collective in Makati. You can feel the passion in her speech as she really told us of the dangers of plastic—like dioxins and other harmful stuff we ingest or breathe in.
We thought the audience were asleep as my session was the evil hour after lunch. But they soon came to us and said they were inspired by our sharing of experience.
Lunch of course was organic green salad, organic red rice, grilled chicken and beef stew; snacks were suman and puto and I had to get Piaya from Chinchin’s booth as he told us how it is made the old artisan-like way. The power of suggestion—I bought the piaya (like a robot being programmed) as he was speaking! All the speakers shared the muscovado piaya and what a nice way to connect what he was saying to what we were eating.
The Marketing session was just one break out session—one of three going on concurrently. But many farmers from Ifugao, Cebu and Bukidnon stayed the whole time to hear all the stories of entrepreneurs who are all bringing organic products to market.
After all the talks (some of which I missed), the farmers came to our side and told us how inspired they are to pursue organic farming and hopefully find new markets for them. A testimonial from a lady who has retired from DOST filled my soul. The lady named Shyla said, “When I was brought to ECHO store by a friend, I felt like I was in heaven. I did not realize that products which I know how to make can now have markets in the city.” She is our hope that retired scientists, retired employees of DA and other NGAs can use their knowledge to teach our young ones and teach other farmers about going organic and finding markets for them.
What a great way to end the week. I feel more energized knowing that the next congress may even be bigger than this one. The Organic movement is indeed growing in the country. Kudos to the DA for supporting this organic program as well as our Slow Food movement.
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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 and Antipolo 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 firstname.lastname@example.org