After so many postponements, we finally trekked to former Sen. Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan’s weekend farm in Alfonso, Cavite. We talked about how we were making reports on our farm production, number of farmhands, how weather changes affect our produce, and how it is not so simple to tend to a half a hectare weekend farm that is purely organic.
Yet, we carry on. I have been tasked by my ECHOstore partners to tend to our little farm since 2010 and we have learned many lessons along the way.
Ampalaya must have little net bags wrapped around the vegetable even when it is just a few inches long and still growing. Cauliflower can grow beside the herb garden peacefully without being preyed on by many insects and pests.
In our farm we planted marigold and sunflowers around the lettuce plots to serve as food for our insect friends.
Kiko, a fraternity brod from UP days, enthusiastically told stories of how he got his carabao now named Berky, and how he uses Berky to help him till the land. But wait, he had to get the proper farm implements (from Iloilo!) as they were much cheaper from there.
The farm is aptly called Sweet Spring because there really is a spring providing water and natural sounds, and you can just sit and close your eyes while the water gently flows. So Zen-like.
Farther up and down the steps going from one block to the next, we go down 163 steps to reach his herb garden, the seedling nursery and another elevation where this time you can listen to the Mabuhay River. There is a river separating Alfonso, Cavite and Nasugbu, Batangas along the property line. The music of natural river flowing is truly music to an urbanite like myself. Very Zen.
As we were checking his eggplants and tomato patches, out come five piglets of the black native variety. These little black pigs walked around the vegetable plots and found their food and lunch among the plants. Kiko has also enclosed with a net around 3,000-square meters so the farm-raised chickens can freely forage for food and stay healthy without feeds and antibiotics.
A carabao, five piglets and two adult pigs, a few scores of chickens—it really is Old McDonald’s farm and Kiko wants it to stay that way. We both think we can use a model farm for something sustainable but not overwhelming. I suggested he takes up the project. And we discussed what other businesses an entrepreneur can get from our experience in weekend farming.
Other weekend farmers can start with something smaller in area. And start with their favorite food or vegetable choices—mine is arugula and romaine lettuce. His is Red sail lettuce and the local vegetables like ampalaya and eggplants. You also do not have to include animals first. A small farm will not need a carabao. Just a few good hands and a caring attitude may be enough to start a sustainable farm to feed one’s household and a few more families.
The profit comes in environmental, health and social profits. Weekend farms are more for the soul, not for the pocket. It’s good for the heart because you will be fed well, but financial profits will always be a challenge. Especially if like Kiko and myself, we want natural and organic all the way.
When farms have financial targets, climate change and weather disturbances may cause you to tweak organic practices, because you need to reach a certain financial goal. And that is why you need to accept that weekend farming is different from commercial farming.
There are other profits: Good and healthy food. Employment for the community. And the spiritual profit you derive from communing with nature.
Do you know why siling labuyo grows in the wild? Because it is the birds that feed on them, pick their fruits and scatter their seeds. Not man. The birds and the bees do it.
I hope many others take up the hobby of weekend farming and appreciate what nature can provide. Yes, we may eat only a handful of vegetables and this may not require an investment of a greenhouse, garden plots and a few animals.
But if you wish to ensure that your children eat well, and that you have a spiritual relationship with Nature, then it is worth all the investment you may pour into it.
Weekend farming is truly a different kind of Zen.
Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. 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, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, 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.