WHY should we grow our own food?
I took a friend to ECHOfarms last weekend and he looked at a business model to rent out backyard farms. I thought of that idea, too, but never got around to finding a vacant property, splitting it up into smaller lot sizes and having common shared services like watering, fertilizing and even ground preparation.
I think we can support organic agriculture by giving it a hand ourselves. Like learning how to grow even just tomatoes and lettuce. In the USA, they sell “grow our own tomato” kits. In ECHOstore we sell “sow and grow” kits for you to be able to see a lettuce or basil grow on your kitchen windowsill.
I remember Alu Aran telling me her son grew his own basil in their kitchen window and the family got a kick out of adding their “harvest” to their pasta at one dinner.
You may also want to try planting coffee trees, which are long-lasting. Also, between coffee trees you can grow either vegetables for your family, or bananas and papaya for shade and for eating, too. Peanuts or legumes also make good companion crops to coffee.
If you want to learn more about coffee farming, attend our annual Coffee Summit, this time in Davao for the second year. It will be sponsored by ACDIVOCA that will be launching its MinPACT program to help make more coffee farmers sustainable.
It will be held in SMX Lanang, Davao on October 22. You can email us email@example.com for seat reservations. Whether you want to plant just a hectare or a whole plantation, you may as well meet other coffee stakeholders who have been successful.
In the Visayas
For organic farming in the Visayas, you must visit the RU foundry and May’s Organic Garden in Bacolod to see a model of a sustainable business linked to agriculture and value-adding services. I cannot get over the inspiration I got from the farm visits we just did in Negros, which of course has pioneered the non-GMO campaign in this province.
For traditional farming, there are existing coffee farms that can be visited such as Jim Milabo’s in Mailum,Lunao or in Manapla. Tining Roces-Gamboa started her coffee farm in Manapla just three years ago and will be ready to harvest soon. We can connect you to these new coffee heroes and champions.
You can visit Mt. Apo and go to Kapatagan where Sonny Dizon has his civet coffee farm and the Arabica farms nearby. There’s also a lot of coffee in Bansalan (also in Mount Apo) where our IPs and Great Women in coffee are operating coffee farms from their backyards. You will almost think you are in Baguio, with vegetables and fruits similar to what you would see in the Cordillera, except you are in Mindanao.
It is a good mix to have coffee, vegetables and fruit trees and this is a sustainable farm model I see all over the country. In our own little farm, we have Barako trees that keep the soil intact and helps us avoid soil erosion. We planted bananas and pineapples so we could get cash crops while waiting for the coffee to bear fruit. That was 10 years ago!
Today, we have vegetable plots planted and rotated to lettuce, arugula and even everyday vegetables like pechay and sitaw. And once a year, we harvest our precious barako. Do we drink the coffee from this harvest? Of course, we do. But more than just enjoying the brew, we share the seeds and seedlings with interested farmers who want to start their own Barako farms.
So, yes, it’s a good idea to rent a farm or adopt one and after you get your feet wet, it’s time to work on buying your own land. Then build a little hut. And watch your food grow before your very eyes.
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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 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