From Pasay, Manila, we were joined by fellow lifestyle and travel bloggers for a 4 day trip to Benguet and Sagada in Mt. Province-Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) organized by Niet Jamon Arceo of Agricultural Training Institute (ATI). Our group rode the 10 pm Victory Liner scheduled bus that took us almost a six hours travel to the City of Pines. From Baguio City, we took a van going to Benguet State University, where our host, ATI, is located. ATI is under the office of the Department of Agriculture-CAR. Our itinerary included a farm tour in Benguet and Sagada. See our Sagada spelunking adventure story here.
A Baguio City ride from Pasay, Manila will cost Php 455.00 and a fixed van rate will charge a group of five of Php 150 from Baguio City to Benguet Sate University.
Organic Agriculture Farming
Through the efforts of Agricultural Training Institute, organic agriculture farming has been flourishing in this region. Few of conventional farmers have been practicing this methodology and local entrepreneurs are becoming the game-changers by providing the people of CAR with training and seminars on how to start the organic agriculture farming.
Owners Jefferson and Eliza Laruan of Lily of the Valley Organic Farm have been into farming since 1990’s and shifted to organic agriculture farming to lessen the use of chemical based pesticides and fertilizers for crops. The Laruans have since developed their own vegetable farm using natural grass compost that are not harmful to their crops and are providing good produce in terms of quality, quantity and nutritional values. The planting area of the Laruans is around 1,000 sq. meters, according to Eliza. Grass compost based on studies is proven to be the best organic fertilizer and differs very much in results compared to manures.
The Master’s Garden provides two-day seminar for people who are interested in organic agriculture farming. The two-day training course is open to all experienced farmers and individuals or group who want to start farming as their source of livelihood. Pat Acosta, owner of The Master’s Garden teaches the basic foundation of organic agriculture farming for Php 2,000 per person. Pat (Acosta) is into salad vegetation and culinary herbs farming and has expanded his 3,000 sq. meter farmland into oasis of chemical-free grown vegetables using grass compost. The Master’s Garden has been operating for the last 13 years and is the first organic farm in Benguet. Pat’s goal is to be able to influence farmers to go into organic farming system using all the resources found in their own backyards. If you’re interested to know more of organic agriculture farming, you may contact The Master’s Garden through mobile nos. (0917) 92558499 or (0917) 6468134 or visit them at ME-133 Lamtang-Pico Road, Barangay Puguis, La Trinidad, Benguet.
Importance of compost
Compost is an important factor in organic farming. This the alternative fertilizer that are full of nutrients which is fed to the soil so that the plants and vegetables grow healthy.
How organic agriculture farming is done
The first step to engage in organic agriculture is learning the basics and importance of growing crops without using chemical based pesticides or fertilizers. Once an individual or group knew all of these, then the process begins. Initial investment for organic agriculture farming may vary but one of the key components is to have a quality shredder machine that will turn natural compost into fine grade fertilizer. A machine would cost a Php 170,000, according to Pat, but there are also machines that would cost less expensive. The compost become quality fertilizer which helps crops to grow healthy minus the chemicals which are harmful to human health and consumption.
Organic agriculture herbal plants provides alternative health and food supplements
Another individual who is practicing organic agriculture is Felix Tan, an alternative medicine practitioner who uses naturally and organically produced herbals for his patients health problems. Felix (Tan), who is also a student of Pat, has been applying all that he learned from his mentor for his herbal plant garden. He also uses the same concept that Pat is teaching. Felix encourages his patient to raw food diet and a good source will be organically produced herbal plants and vegetables. He grows wheat grass, lettuce, pak choi (pechay), sugar beets, french beans, ashitaba plant, and a lot more. Felix uses organic seeds that are available from Manila seedlings bank.
Coffee grown through organic agriculture farming
Onesio Lay-os, a humble farmer from Sagada, grows his arabica coffee plants using the organic agriculture methodology. He grows and produces quality arabica coffee beans also known as “coffee shrub of Arabia,“and sells it as an healthy option compared to those grown with chemical based fertilizers. In his farm, he also grows calamansi, dayap (oranges), Japanese tomatoes, peanuts, passion fruit, and a lot of fruit and root crops. Although his crops are organically cultured, his farm is still on the fourth phase of becoming OCCP certified.
Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP)
To be certified and to be able to use “organic agriculture” as labels for products, a farmer must pass the OCCP standards.Certification of organic agriculture combines certification of products and quality systems, but it is primarily certification of a production system or method. All operation in the product chain, including farmers, processors and distributors, must be certified as acting in conformity with the standards and regulations of the certification program.
Certification is one way of ensuring that products claimed to be organic are actually produced according to organic farming principles. It is a way of protecting consumers, producers, and traders against the use of misleading or deceptive labels. It is also a marketing instrument enabling producers to access markets for organic products and obtain premium prices. It also creates transparency as information in certified producing organizations and their products is made public. Application procedure is available on this site.
Benefits from organically grown crops
Consumers are the most who are benefited by the organic agriculture methodology. All the healthy and nutritional values of organically produced are retained compared to the chemically fertilized crops. In short, organic agriculture farming is the key to a healthy lifestyle.
Through the Department of Agriculture (local offices), most of the organically produced crops are sold under ATI. The crops are also available from the farmers who grows these products. In Benguet and in Mt. Province, ATI encourages farmers to sell their produce within their communities.
On the other hand, Pat Acosta, owner of The Master’s Garden has been one of the suppliers of organically produced fresh salad vegetables in Metro Manila and Alabang area. His products are sold in selected SM Supermall groceries and other supermarkets. Pat used to sell their crops in Benguet area before jumping for Manila consumers.
Prices of organically cultured produce are sold three times its chemically grown counterparts. Main reason of this is the law of supply and demand. The demand for these products are high but supplying the market are not enough as only few people and farmers are into organic agriculture farming. The shift from chemical based pesticides and fertilizers to organic agriculture are also met by hesitations and acceptance by farmers themselves. Aside from the mentioned above, big players of chemical pesticides and fertilizers are also in full promotion of the use of their products.
The result and impact to farmers and consumers of organic agriculture farming
Major result of applying organic agriculture farming will solve a lot of health related issues and will be beneficial to a person’s health. Organically produced crops, fruits, plants and vegetable have high source of mineral, vitamins and nutritional contents from A to Z. Consuming organically produced goods contributes to a healthy lifestyle.
Major impact of organic agriculture farming not only help solves alarming rate rise of pollutants but also the lessening of harmful chemicals in the food that we eat. People will become more aware of the harmful effects and threats from chemically grown products and will give them best alternatives to practice healthy eating habits.
It is just unfortunate that big companies producing chemical based pesticides and fertilizers know all of these harmful side effects and they continue producing and selling them. Change must come from the ordinary people who consume food grown with these chemicals. If consumers will patronize organically grown products, more farmers will be encourage to start their own organic agriculture farming. More farmers applying this methodology means more supply of this products. More supplies means more consumers to benefit from its healthy and nutritional values. More benefits from nutritional values means a healthier communities.
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