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Food Growing People, see you this Saturday!

Chicken walking on green pasture

Food Growing Peeps:

See you on Saturday!  Some information to make sure you don’t chicken out! 🙂

VENUE:

The workshop will be held at Clubhouse of Hacienda Sta. Elena, Barrio Malitlit, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.  

FROM SLEX / SOUTHBOUND: Exit Cabuyao / Sta Elena. After tollgate, make a right. About 500 meters is the Sta. Elena Village Gate. Enter there and follow the sign to the Fun Farm.  There is a gate at the end of the road (after Fun Farm,) exit there.  Turn left and follow the road until you see the Hacienda Sta. Elena gate. Enter the gate and ask for directions to the Clubhouse. 

FROM TAGAYTAY/STA ROSA ROAD: Make a left into Sta. Elena City (it is before Nuvali). You will pass Fontamara homes, Mesa Homes, Augusta, then you will reach Georgia Club Rotonda. Make right at the Rotonda. It is a long road. You will see walled communities such as Belle Reve on the right. At the end of the road is another Rotonda, make a left. Follow the long road until you see the Hacienda Sta. Elena gate.  Enter the gate and ask for directions to the Clubhouse. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Take the bus to Balibago, then take a tricycle ride from Sta. Rosa exit (tricycle terminal) to Sta. Elena City.

MEALS: All meals are included in the workshop fee. Healthy yet scrumptious meals made of local, organic or sustainable ingredients will be served. Please bring your own water bottles. Please make sure you have submitted our Registration Form so we can take note of any food allergies or preferences.   

If you have a driver or other companions, there are restaurants and shops 15 minutes away from the venue.  

ATTIRE:  Please wear appropriate attire for a workshop. Come in your casual/everyday wear.  While the presentations will be in a covered pavilion, some field work may require us to go outdoors and get dirty. Bring a hat or a shawl/scarf.  You might want to wear rubber shoes or flip-flops, or carry your garden boots. 

TO BRING: Please bring what you need for note-taking.  The weather is unpredictable. Come prepared for rain or heat at mid-day. Waterproof boots might be good! Seed packs, potting soil or Biodynamic preparations may be available for sale so bring extra cash if you are planning to buy. 

See you in a few days!

Paula and Nicolo

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You can Bet the Farm

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They say: “You’re living my dream.” They have fantasies of moving to the country and growing their food. They picture sitting in the patio nestled in green with a breakfast of just-hatched orange yolk eggs, a salad of sun-warmed tomatoes, or a fluffy omelet of just picked herbs and arugula.  They imagine waking up to the chirping of birds, the whiff of fresh air, and then tending to the sprouts in the garden with a nice straw hat and a cotton tee. Later, they will sit in their lawn chair and sip iced tea made from the climbing blue vine, take an afternoon nap, and then read a homesteading book in a cozy garden nook, with magnificent dragonflies dancing.

Not.

This idyllic life does not exist. Alright I’m eating just hatched golden eggs. But to get to that, I rouse to 7 roosters crowing- when the sun rises. And right, I do get a crisp salad with the colors of the rainbow. But to get to lunch, I need to get a whiff of manure, listen to the hens every clucking minute as they lay the golden egg, and the dragonflies? They dance alongside flies the size of of raisins. There’s no sound of quiet. Instead there is a cacophony of: the bee humming; the noisier buzz of the fly who deems best to buzz in my ear; the white noise of the grass cutter; someone sawing and hammering; workers chattering (and playing sad love songs); alright a bird chirping; and chickens squawking. So what, if backyard chickens are the new “it” pet?

Honestly, someone has to lay it bare. And who else but a girl from the city who married into farming and is now living with 70 chickens and 4 compost heaps.

Like you, I didn’t think farming required such drudgery and dirt. My father was a farmer. Well, a farmer from Negros, where hacienderos didn’t do a great deal except have long conversations about vast landholdings over gin and and hunt the fields. And like you, I fancied a countryside home with a kitchen garden.  Except that there’s a huge gap between browsing through hipster farm pictures and shovelling compost.

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First, you will never have your garden back. The chickens will scratch and dig up your lawn and even your ornamental plants. The chicken coop is only cute on Instagram. It’s dark and messy, and it has you breaking your back every day as you clean it. And months before I got my leafy beds of turmeric, corn, okra and eggplant, or the climbing vines of squashes and beans, I lived in misery. I would stare at beds that resembled burial mounds, and mourn a garden that was now a dirt yard with black seedling trays. You can dream all you want, but that pumpkin won’t turn into a coach. It won’t even become a pumpkin so easily.

Second, no one gardens with a nice straw hat and a pretty shovel. (Even when my yard work consists of just weeding and keeping the garden neat and trim.) You need to wear pants and long sleeves or you’re all bites and scraped knees. You don’t wear flip flops or nice boots either. It’s the cheap water-resistant ones you need. The hat is a hindrance and so I’ve cast it for a bandana instead. It’s not for shade, it’s for the leaky faucet on my head.

Third, there’s no hobby farm. Farm life, the one that gives you golden eggs and salad days, is tedious. It’s muddy boots that houses a frog. It’s the same shit on different days. It’s a hallway of dirt tracks, and where tracks lead to the bathroom, to the yard, and back again. It’s a truck, a van, a car caked with soil. It’s a backyard hobby that gets out of control. It’s the whole gamut of an ecosystem: climate change, and soil, and seed, and sapling, and tree and fruit. And while I admit the rewards are worth their weight in golden eggs, still you will need a shitload (pun intended) of patience, some tears, the ringing of ears, muscle power and spotted legs.

And so this is my advice to you: urban dweller, city kid with a tract of land somewhere, hipster, or another gal who wants to save the world one food garden at a time: To embrace this idyllic life, you will need grit and you will need soul. You’ll need to be bitten hard by the farming bug. And I know the hubby will shoot me for nipping some people’s farming dreams, but I daresay: before throwing it all for the farm life, try it first. Muck around with it.  Don’t quit your day job until your feet are long wet. Perhaps spend days in a working farm, the School of Hard Knocks. Try ingesting the daily rhythms of a farm life (try ingesting the dung too.) If there’s no way to volunteer or apprentice, start with a small parcel and befriend soil and sweat. Small and slow. Do it for a year or two. Then, you’ll know if you’re infected by the bug and if eggs are worth all the trouble; if you prefer flocks to your gadgets; or collecting eggs to collecting antiques; or the bitter smell of manure to air-conditioning.

Your gut will know. And especially, your heart will know if it’s the right place. You should yearn for it the way you crave black coffee or the sea. The way you don’t mind a racing heart and being revved up all day. The way you won’t mind sunburn and welts, or stings and sand mites. I have a husband whose eyes light up when he sees a brood of chickens, and whose nose will follow the scent of manure anywhere. He wakes up at 4:00 AM to shovel earth, and yes he yearns for it like an exquisite cup of coffee. Otherwise, throw away well laid-out plans for the vegetable beds, let the farm go, and return to watching nice farm videos.

And I’ll bet the farm on this one.

iHola Patola!

The way to the every man’s heart is through the pleasure of his stomach. And just this weekend, our native and indigenous fruits, flowers and vegetables, bearing with it a distinct Filipino tradition, won quite a number of hearts.

Recovering Tradition

Our deepest sense of identity lies in our food. A fistful of sampaloc in our soup, a nip of sili in patis, even a whiff of vinegar rising from a simmering Adobo, these carry snippets of memory, a time, and a place. Except that we have forgotten a handful of our flavors, have chosen to import grapes and Gruyere, or now fancy that a banquet is only a banquet when there’s a carving of imported roast beef. And so we pressure our farmers to grow temperate plum tomatoes or chunky lettuce heads, and then snub the lean and mean Southern Yellow cow. Our Ligaw cherry tomatoes seem puny and unworthy of a salad and our cows? Well, “tough” luck.

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But this weekend offered hope in a platter. Suddenly, the chefs only fancied local produce. Suddenly, consumers were getting all worked up on the Pancit Pancitan growing in their garden. And suddenly, the small family farmer, the piaya artisan, even the Manong who traditionally concocts sinamak, took center stage. It was an entire weekend of haute cuisine and there we were, exchanging stories about seed and grain, and the food gardens and kitchens of our grandmothers.

More than the food porn, the moving feasts, and the parade of ogle-worthy chefs, Madrid Fusion Manila opened our eyes (and our bellies) to new gastronomy: one that was based on biodiversity; on reviving local tradition; and on rediscovering our native, indigenous and once-loved fruits, flowers and vegetables.

National Treasures

The spotlight was on the unsung Sua and the stony Tabon Tabon, as chefs pinched and smelled, grated and squeezed, knocked and cracked open the secret ingredients for Mindanao’s killer kinilaw.


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And then there was our flamboyant grain. Foreigners and Filipinos were gushing over the Igorot black rice from the uplands, where they still flood 2000-year old rice paddies and thresh the grain with their hands. The colors were ravishing: dark and multi-faceted. The flavor was nutty. I had to write “Precious sample. Please do not steal,” as these grains were only available six months in a year. Though once I gave in and went home to feast on Pata Negra. as I finally bartered our precious grains for the Espanols’ precious tapa, 2 for 2.

And they were wild about our wild flowers too: hibiscus, pigeon pea (kadios), the Butterfly Blue pea, and even the wild berries we had just foraged off our garden. There was a quite a buzz about our “Buzz Buttons,” and I’d notice one guy bring back one, two, and a whole enchilada to sample the buzzing of the buttons on their tongues.

Then there’s the Adlai, the chefs’ manna from heaven and I believe an answer to our food sovereignty 10360456_1066532416710019_4428287769840092154_nand security. This ancient grain has been cultivated for centuries by the indigenous people of Mindanao- the Talaandigs and the Bagobos. Aptly named as Job’s Tears, the grains are tear-shaped, with a texture similar to risotto or quinoa. I munched my way through lunch with Adlai croquettes and had a bite too many of the Black Heritage pork belly over Adlai.

Shorter Chain a.k.a. Farm to Fork

Today’s cliché in the culinary world is “Farm to Table” or “Farm to Fork.” I often gripe about the injustice or the charade, because often it still is the trader that gets the food to everyone’s table. But this gastronomy weekend gives us grounds for hope. Hope for local farmers and small family farms: for those without the trucks and the forklifts; for those who choose to grow food enough for only a few baskets; for those who harvest and plant their own seeds; for those who choose to work the land as their ancestors; and for those who take pride and joy in keeping the earth. Perhaps now or a few years hence, they won’t have to sell short their treasures to the trader at the farm gate. They won’t have to trade their bounty for peanuts. And because chefs and consumers now have a heart for the unsung Sua, the lean Southern Yellow cow, the tear-shaped Adlai, and the multicoloured rice, our farmers won’t give up tradition, and a bounty of national treasures can stay at the table.

Open Pollinated or Heirloom Seeds: Now Available

Open-Pollinated, from True Seed. Open pollinated means the plants are pollinated naturally, by insects, birds, the wind. Plants that grow from open pollinated seeds will give you seeds that will again produce new generations of the same plants. These seeds are untreated and free of pesticides.  They are also not genetically-modified.

An heirloom seed is one that has been passed down from generation to generation, usually for over 50 years.

We are making available these seeds so you can plant and sow them, save seeds and hopefully, grow them so we can keep seeding the planet.

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A Sense of Humus

We just capped a weekend workshop of backyard farming. There we were, mostly urban dwellers raised on store-bought vegetables and Chippy. We were out in the sun for practical work. I had warned them about hats and garden boots but the urban dwellers fancied sneakers or sandals, an umbrella and Rayban sunglasses. We gawked at the farmers with their shovels of earth. They layered the compost pit with dried-up leaves and horse poop like lasagna. A flabby milk-white worm wriggled out of the compost that was supposedly every farmer’s manna from heaven.

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Someone blurts out: “What’s that? Someone replies: “A snake?”

They were probably wondering how on earth they were going to build the same biodynamic compost in their backyard. It entails hours of stirring a pail of water to the infinity sign, months of watching the lasagna turn to mush, and keeping the pit moist until it smells like the earth after a rain. And that’s merely the compost.

A couple tried their hand at breaking and turning soil. “Use your left foot! Not too deep! Not there!” the spectators gave counsel, their arms defiantly folded over the chest. A volunteer protests: “But it looked so easy when you (the farmer) were doing it!”

When you grow up in the city, you tend to have an idealized notion of farming. It’s the man with a cowboy hat and, in our tropical world, wearing slippers. It’s a life of rolling plains, of sowing, of having nature take its course, and of one day harvesting a row of lettuce heads and rosemary. It is pastoral and slow paced. You read a book with a cup of coffee until your seeds germinate and the flowers wake up.

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Now you have a weekend of theory and an hour or so under the sun and you see it is neither pastoral nor slow. You’re not just reading a book with coffee, you’re trying to grasp every plant and why peppers won’t thrive where you live. You’re sensing the woolly bug and keeping up with his life story. Farming is abuzz and fierce. You have a trillion things thriving, multiplying and dying: bacteria and microbes, bugs and earthworms, aphids and leaf miners, and in the midst all these- a tiny sprout that’s trying to break free. And then intensify that with the mighty elements, the phases of the moon, the unrelenting rain, and humus that you need to keep alive.

You now understand why some farmers will snap up a magic pill. It gives them twice or thrice the yield with a flick of the wrist. They wouldn’t have to dig pits and layer it up to their waists. There’s no getting down on their knees to cover beds with mulch, or to line it with canals. They don’t have to wait for ladybugs to visit and eat aphids. They don’t have to lose sleep over holes or black spots, as they can pellet disease with pesticide spray. They don’t have to agonize over what to plant, where, or when. There’s no brewing of manure, worm castings or fish waste for tea compost. And without fail, they get shiny and plump vegetables that look (and taste) like plastic every time. IMG_5598

(Except that a year hence, the patch of ground that bequeathed the bumper crop is half-dead and needs a cocktail of chemicals to keep alive. And the bugs have borne bugs resistant to poison, which are back with a vengeance. The farm goes bald losing precious topsoil. The water is tainted. And, as the beds lose its hold on water and minerals, all manner of life- the microbes, the worm, the bugs, the birds, the bees, take exodus. The handful of dirt is no longer teeming with life. It’s just a handful of dirt.)

And so you begin to appreciate the drudgery and toil of growing food, and doing it without magical formulas and cure-all sprays. You catch sight of farming, and how, from compost to a first crop, it is a way of life. The devoted farmer is far more than a man with a cowboy hat. Farming seeks out those who delight in humus, the smell of dung or rotten peels, and invisible things that may one day poke their heads from down below. It seeks out those who can be intimate with the intangible, with the forces that sprout seeds and make flowers bloom. The select few who get down on their knees digging, weeding, picking grubs, praying for sun and fearing too much rain. The handful that choose backbreaking labor over a magic pill, just so they can keep the earth alive. Especially, you see how all these hours end at the farm gate dependent on a market that does not fully appreciate working with the land. On a market that insists on temperate crops in a tropical country. On consumers who pressure farmers to grow the most difficult vegetable, and then frown at its commensurate variable in price.

I do not know much about the work at our farm. I often just behold the fruits of the harvest, in crates, each tomato wrapped in banana leaves. Except that a weekend of backyard farming has given me a glimpse of how the crate gets to my farm store, and the toil needed so I could earn a living from working with the land.

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I see you now. And this girl who grew up buying vegetables at the supermarket will now pause and give grace before every meal. Especially because you opted for backbreaking labor over a magic pill, and still managed to keep your sense of humus.

Backyard Farming Workshop

Backyard Farming Workshop

Backyard Farming Workshop

Backyard Farming Workshop this August

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VENUE
The workshop will be held at the beautifully rustic Pavilion located beside a family farm at Fun Farm Pavilion, Sta. Elena Golf and Country Estate, Barrio Malitlit, Sta. Rosa, Laguna

FROM SLEX / SOUTHBOUND: Exit Cabuyao / Sta Elena. After tollgate, make a right. About 500 meters is the Sta. Elena Village Gate. Enter there and follow the sign to the Fun Farm.

FROM TAGAYTAY/STA ROSA ROAD: Make a left into Sta. Elena City (it is before Nuvali). You will pass Fontamara homes, Mesa Homes, Augusta, then you will reach Georgia Club Rotonda. Make right at the Rotonda. It is a long road. You will see walled communities such as Belle Reve on the right. At the end of the road is another Rotonda, make a left. Follow the long road until you see the Sta. Elena gate on your right. Enter and follow the sign to the Fun Farm.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Take the bus to Balibago, then take a tricycle ride from Sta. Rosa exit (tricycle terminal) to Sta. Elena City.

MEALS: All meals are included in the workshop fee. Healthy yet scrumptious meals made of local, organic or sustainable ingredients will be served by Pizza Morena by Jenny Burns. Please bring your own water bottles, plates and utensils. If you have any food allergies or preferences, please inform us so that we can discuss how your food needs can be met.

PAYMENT OPTIONS
Workshop Fees
Daily Basis: P2400 per day
P1800 Students/Seniors
Complete Entire Series (3 days)
Discounted Rate P7,000
Students/Seniors P5600

*Scholarships are available.  We have installment options too.

Fee includes
• Professional lecturers and experts in their field
• All course materials
• Healthy and delicious lunch, tea, coffee and water