Posts Tagged ‘sustainable agriculture’

Ancient Adlai: an answer to Food Security

adlai3.jpg

We’re running short of rice. But our country also has an alternative grain. This is the tropical and indigenous ADLAI. It is also called “Job’s Tears.” It’s a versatile grain. Our ancestors cultivated this ancient grain as a staple. The aborigines of Mindanao, considered as the first inhabitants of Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur, have been growing adlai as staple food in the highlands, the same way those in the lowland eat rice. The use of adlai as a staple though has diminished over time.

Adlai grows like grass. You can plant it anywhere and it thrives well despite a harsh climate. After harvesting, Adlai continues to bear grains. When you cut its stalk, a panicle appears again. It is also tolerant to pests and diseases. Farmers can harvest 5 to 6 times a year!

 

Adlai2 (1)

Adlai has been included in DA’s food-security blueprint. It is also part of the Slow Food International Ark of Taste. The grits can also be ground into flour. It can also be made into crackers, rice cake and cookies. It also has 3x more calories and 6x more protein than rice and is regarded as a cure for diabetes. We should learn to eat this indigenous grain like we eat rice.

We grow two varieties: halayhay and Nomiarc dwarf.  We’re saving the seeds of this indigenous cereal and growing more in our farm. There could be enough seeds for everyone. Not only is it a food staple, but we use it as a windbreak and fence, in companion cropping, and especially as part of our ecological pest control.

Growing Food not Lawns: A Day of Backyard Farming

This workshop is especially for those interested in starting their own backyard garden, urban kitchen garden or small farm while practicing sustainable, holistic and biodynamic methods. We are combining the wisdom and hands-on expertise of real farmers. For would-be and aspiring farmers, this is a rare and powerful learning opportunity.

During the workshop, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn to grow healthy food to eat and also have a backyard “farm-acy” for herbs and medicinal plants
  • Gain a basic understanding of biodynamic growing, permaculture, agro-forestry and sustainable agriculture practices.  In particular, we introduce a method of transforming your backyard into a food forest.
  • Make a compost heap
  • Integrate chickens in your garden and learn how to produce your own eggs
  • Learn practical skills to grow food in your backyard or small farm
  • Plan your garden for the year
  • Learn ways of managing insects, attracting beneficials and controlling disease through organic methods
  • Start to culture and raise earthworms in your home
  • Use vermi-compost for your farm

In collaboration with SLOWFOOD MANILA.

Backyard1

DATE AND TIME:  The Introductory Backyard Farming Workshop will be held on January 28 Saturday.  The Workshop starts at 9AM with a short break in the morning.  Lunch is from 12:30-1:30.  It ends at 4:30- 5:00.  Some practical work is included. We will discuss building soil and composting, growing your garden and pest control.  You will also see our homestead and how we grow our garden at home. 

Want to know how the day will go? Take a peek: backyardschedule-jan28

VENUE

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

EXIT ETON: Turn left on Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road (you will see Paseo de Sta. Rosa on your left.) Go straight until you see Vista Mall on your right.  On your left will be a sign “Sta Elena City.” 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, 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.

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ABOUT THE SPEAKER:

Nicolo Aberasturi is the President of Flower Depot, a flower grower and retailer of organic and bio-dynamic flowers, and the President of DowntoEarth, a grower and supplier of biodynamic vegetables, and pasture-raised meat, pork, dairy, poultry, smoked and cured meats. He is a Trustee of the Organic Producers Trade Association of the Philippines and a member of the Philippine Biodynamics Association.

Nicolo has been in farming for 20 years and began practicing sustainable agriculture in 2004, while applying bio-dynamics in 2007. Today he manages Earth Flora, a vegetable and flower farm in Dahilayan, Bukidnon, using sustainable and humane agricultural practices. In 2011, he returned to his roots in cattle farming and is now working or networking with small family farms, to raise animals in the pasture.

DowntoEarth grows vegetables using bio- dynamics and sustainable practices. It raises livestock sustainably and works with a network of sustainably family farmers and ranchers in Mindanao. All of DowntoEarth’s animals have been raised on pasture. DowntoEarth is dedicated to ensure traditional, all-natural, humane and sustainable methods for growing crops and raising animals for food.

PAYMENT OPTIONS

FEE: P2500 (includes lunch, snack and all course materials.)

P2000 Students/Seniors

Group Discounts are also available.  Scholarships are available.   

Fee includes

• Lecturer, all course materials, healthy and delicious lunch, tea, coffee and water

TO REGISTER: registration-form-jan28

To ensure your place, please send full payment by January 18, 2017.  You can pay via bank deposit or personally at our shop (Makati Curb Holdings,  #7433 Ground Floor, Unit J, Yakal St., San Antonio Village, Makati City.  Alternatively, you can pay us at our DowntoEarth booth in the Salcedo or Legaspi markets on Saturday or Sunday. 

Bank Deposit Details:

Deposit to BPI Account (Arnaiz Ave. branch) Account Name: Earth Flora Inc. Account Number: 9661-0147-65

Checks are accepted. Please issue the check under the name of Earth Flora Inc.

Early registration is advised, as slots are limited. If you have deposited, please scan the deposit slip and email it to info@downtoearth.ph.  Once your payment has been received, confirmation will be sent with a receipt and further details about what to bring.

*Cancellation Policy

If for some reason you cannot make it to the workshop, a fee of P500 will be charged to cover administration costs up to two weeks prior to the commencement of the workshop and the balance will be refunded to you. Within 2 weeks of the workshop commencing however, a 50% cancellation fee will be charged. If for some reason the workshop is cancelled, you will receive at least 2 weeks notice and your full payment will be refunded. 

If you have other questions, please let us know or SMS 0915-8979044.

Our flowers drink milk

Ainara watching the Cow giving us milk

There’s never an end to the wonderful discoveries we make everyday. Got fungus? Or powdery mildew? Get milk. We’ve just recently discovered that milk is a Fungicide! It’s as effective (maybe even more effective) as standard chemical brands. How to do it? Get milk, mix with water (our solution is 1 part milk: 10 parts water) and spray twice a week.  You can do trial and error and see how milky you want your solution to be and how often you need to spray. We use fresh milk as we have milking cows in the farm. You can use skim or whole milk though, even reconstituted powdered milk. They say it is the phosphate in milk that boosts a plant’s immune system and fights the fungi. The first scientist to discover this was Wagner Bettiol, a Brazilian. Milk was found to be effective at controlling fungus and also acted as a foliar fertilizer, boosting the plant’s immune system.  We have saved thousands this year by just spraying our crops with milk instead of using synthetic chemicals and fungicides. Who would have thought we would find the solution to our fungicide problems right in our backyard? Or in your fridge?

Better Soil, Better Earth

It is alarming how in a few weeks, Metro Manila and most of our Northern provinces were inundated. The storms have struck us in places that matter: our homes, our loved ones, and our means of livelihood. Farms everywhere are taking a brunt of the disaster. And people are only realizing now how essential agriculture is to our way of life. When roads to Baguio became impassable, our vegetables and fruits could not get to us. Restaurants, groceries and markets were at a loss, they had too little supply, and thus could not feed everyone’s need. Green beans soared to 300% more its normal price. And that’s just a small bean! A few days more of the city being cut off from us and we would have suffered an onslaught of high prices in basic commodities. It was the same scenario in our flower shop, where I saw florists, restaurants and wholesalers, panic buying, because flowers from Baguio did not come.

We rarely give our food sources a thought. Farming is not given its due honor, as really, the source of what is basic to us: food. We are assured that food will be at the markets and grocery stores, and prices will stay the same because food is not scarce, and vegetables and fruits will always be grown, harvested, and delivered to us. Except now we have a direct experience of how it is when we are cut off from our food sources. We are to experience more and more of it as a great number of farms were damaged by the storms and lost their food production for the next few months.
And now, climate change and its devastating effects are looming on the horizon. What happens if we keep having extreme rain, prolonged droughts, unusually strong winds, and our farms are unable to keep up with our food needs?

Climate Change and Organic Farming
bamboo
Our way of life has made it quite impossible for keeping climate change at bay. “Three hundred fifty parts per million (350 ppm) is the recommended safe threshold for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Today, at 386 ppm, we’re over the limit.” That is why we saw the flooding in Metro Manila, a city that we never thought would be submerged. And that is why, storm after storm came, ravishing our farms and mountains too. “To avoid further expensive climate chaos we must deploy the most creative and innovative technology in the world to rapidly pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And [sustainable, organic, biodynamic,] regenerative farming is it.”

There is hope in climate-friendly farming. We need agriculture to pull off more carbon out of our atmosphere. “Organic farming could pull forty percent of global greenhouse emissions our of the atmosphere each year.” Picture that. And that’s a whole chunk of help. “Farmers who are building soil organic carbon can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at rates of 2 tons of CO2 per acre.” When we practice sustainable, organic or biodynamic agriculture, we nurture our soils with creative techniques such as crop rotations, cover cropping, organic fertilizers, and mimic nature’s innovative but gentle methods. Compare this to conventional farming where chemical companies burn fossil fuels to produce synthetic fertilizers, which are flown all over.

Real farmers build real soils. Real soils hold more carbon and hold more water. Real soils perform better in very dry or very wet weather. With good soil, we build a better earth, resilient to the very uncertain climate that awaits us. And that means more healthy food for our growing world.

Inspired and taken in part from Organic Farming Could Stop Global Climate Change

Pesky Potions: Getting Rid of Pests the Natural Way

I recently wrote about the voluminous use of pesticides in plants and flowers. We also loathe pests and insects. Through the years, we have learned a few tricks to get rid of pests the natural way.

Healthy plants and healthy soil: One of the easiest ways to control pests in the farm is to prevent them from coming in! We have learned that healthy plants have healthy defenses. Just like us, when we are weak, we are more prone to sickness. Weak plants are either already infected, or will attract even more predators. What we do in the farm is pull out or dispose of weak plants. Do note that your most important defense is to have a healthy soil. Healthy soils grow strong and vibrant plants. We keep our soils in tip-top shape by natural composting methods such as mulching and using compost or natural fertilizer to the soil.

Healthy vibrant chrysanthemums

In fact, a new study from Washington State University suggests organic growing techniques offer better pest control and larger plants (published in the respected journal Nature.)

“Organic agriculture promotes more balanced communities of predators,” says David Crowder, author of the new study. […]”Our study does not tell farmers they should shift to organic agriculture. What our study suggests is that organic agriculture is promoting these more balanced natural enemy communities and they may have better, organic pest control.”

According to Nature: it is “the relative abundance of different species” rather than the number of species present on a farm that may determine success.  The study found that the increased evenness of organic farms compared with that of conventional farms led to 18% lower pest densities and 35% larger plants.

Here are some of the ways we get rid of our pests through organic farming, and get larger plants because of it:

Minimize insect habitats: Make sure that you do not have breeding places in your area for insects. In our farm, we regularly clean our greenhouses, making sure they are free from debris and weeds, which are breeding places for insects.

Keep the leaves dry: Insects and fungus thrive on wet leaves. Wet leaves also spread disease. In our farm, we use drip irrigation methods to water our plants. Drip irrigation delivers the water to the plant’s roots without wetting the leaves. How is this done? Tiny holes are inserted at various points in a hose, allowing small quantities of water to trickle slowly into the soil over long periods of time. Another advantage of this method is saving water. Unlike sprinkler systems, we use 30-50% less water, applying these directly to the area where the plants need it the most. Drip irrigation also prevents soil erosion and nutrient run-off.

Take advantage of beneficial insects: There are actually some insects or pests that are good for the farm or your garden. For example, LADYBUGS eat aphids, mites, whiteflies and scale (the worst pests for flowers.) That is why we just love ladybugs and take care of these insects in the farm.

Ladybugs are Welcome!

Make your own homemade pesticide barriers or sprays:

Flypaper: Do you know that ANY heavy paper or cardboard, painted with yellow and coated with anything sticky can be an effective flypaper? In our farm, we use recycled hard plastic containers, paint these yellow and then put sticky substances on them. We just hang these in our greenhouses and catch pesky aphids and whiteflies!

Do-it-yourself Sticky Traps

Neem Extract: We use a lot of Neem in the farm. Neem has remarkable powers for controlling insects. Its extract is used as a safe and natural pesticide. It is so unique because Neem does not immediately kill the insect. Instead, it alters an insect’s behavior or life processes in ways that can be extremely subtle. Eventually, however, the insect can no longer feed or breed or metamorphose, and cannot cause damage. Because of this subtle method, our crops, people, and animals are protected.

Fish Emulsion: We have replaced chemical pesticides with mixes of our fish emulsion. What is it? Fish waste, yes you read it right, foul and messy fish entrails! We gather all fish scraps from the markets, grind them, and mix them with an enzyme. We screen out the bones and decant the oil, and what remains is fish silage. Also, enzymes already in the ground fish continued to digest and break down to amino acids. More than a pesticide, it doubles as a great fertilizer. Fish emulsions are wonderful sources of nutrients!

So there. You can actually rid yourself of those pesky flies and insects without spraying yourself and your pretty flowers with chemical concoctions! All it takes is some creativity while you harness the wisdom of nature.

Truly GREENhouses!

We have taken a step farther and have consciously built our greenhouses to be as green as they could be. All our greenhouses are constructed in bamboo. Yes, bamboo! Not those tall, rigid, imposing steel structures, not even concrete, not even hard wood. We do not cut trees!

Bamboo Greenhouses with a View

WHY BAMBOO?

Prevents global warming: Our greenhouses made entirely out of bamboo captures carbon dioxide and stores it. This is because planted bamboo gets CO2 from the atmosphere. When a plant breathes in CO2 and exhales O2, the plant takes the C-carbon atom and converts it into plant matter through photosynthesis, storing the carbon in the plant. When the plant dies and decays, the carbon is eaten by bacteria or insects. The greenhouses could then be seen as a carbon sink, storing the carbon in the bamboo poles.

Grows 3-7 times faster than trees: Bamboo is not a tree. It is a grass. The fastest growing bamboo can grow up to 4 feet a day!

Extremely strong: Bamboo has twice the compression strength of concrete and roughly the same strength-to-weight ratio of steel. Imagine that! Our bamboo poles are able to withstand strong winds and earthquakes.

Weather, termite and mold resistant: Our bamboo greenhouses are naturally designed and treated with natural elements to be weather, termite and mold resistant. Our bamboo poles are treated with non-toxic borates to prevent termite and powder post beetle infestations as well as decaying fungi. Borates have been used internationally for the past 60 years as a safe and effective treatment to stop insects and decay.

One of our Greenhouses

Our walkpaths: Stones, sand and bamboo!

Our walkpaths: Stones, sand and bamboo!

No nails!  Just bamboo pegs!

No nails! Just bamboo pegs!

HOW DO WE DO IT? Our bamboo greenhouses are made entirely of bamboo. The variety we use is the local thorny bambusa variety.   We cut from the bottom of the trunk since this is the hardest part and very good for posts. We cut at the right age , this is when the bamboo will start to have like a white powdery substance around the lower portion of the trunk.  These poles are usually at least 2 years old. To secure the bamboo poles, we scorch it and then bore it into the soil.  We bury it to a height of 1-1.5 meters.  To finally secure it, we put a minimal amount of concrete into the hole.  To put the poles together, we do not even use nails or screws. The bamboo poles are held together by bamboo pegs. Aside from sustainability, the pegs allow the bamboos to sway with the wind.  The greenhouses are then roofed with greenhouse UV plastic film. To attach the plastic to the poles, we need to use nuts and bolts. An important component is that the bamboo poles must be treated.  We use borax and/or boric acid to treat our bamboo poles.  This is quite labor intensive but you can do it with patience.  (There are a number of Youtube videos you can check to guide you.)

We have designed and positioned our greenhouses to ensure that we use the least amount of energy for our crops. Our bamboo buildings use natural ventilation, and rely on the direction, strength or gentleness of winds.  The greenhouses are 8 to 10 feet tall, have open sides and vents in the center, and face the wind. With this, we eliminated the need for energy-powered fans. Not only these, the bamboo poles are designed in a way that we can harvest our rainwater, which we in turn, use to irrigate our plants.  The rainwater we get from the greenhouses are channeled to a water impounding pond or to plant beds that are covered with thick mulch.

We are the proud pioneers of these creative innovation in the Philippines. We only have to thank nature and the creativity of our farmers for our brilliant yet delightful bamboo houses.

Sustainable Agriculture

We care. You care- enough that you wish your flowers do little or nothing to harm the environment or your health, enough that the workers who plant, grow and harvest your flowers are happy. That is why you purchase eco-friendly bouquets that are sustainably grown. We celebrate nature, everything that is beautiful, vibrant and healthy.

Flower Depot Flower Farm

What is Sustainable Agriculture?

Our goal is to tread lightly on the planet. We are mindful of the acts we do in our Philippine Flower Farm, knowing that each act of tilling, growing, harvesting and packaging, can do damage or save the planet. One of the most concrete steps we do this is through implementing sustainable agriculture. When we grow or harvest our Philippine flowers, we remove some nutrients from the soil. If we do not replenish these, the land suffers and we can no longer use the soil for farming. Sustainable agriculture means replenishing the soil while minimizing the use of non-renewable resources, such as natural gas or mineral ores. We engage in concrete steps to ensure that our Philippine Flower Farm produces flowers indefinitely, without causing irreversible damage to the health of an ecosystem. This would entail redefining our practices and processes on the soil, to produce Philippines flowers and foliage that are not only profitable but also healthy. The second is socio-economic, where we enhance the quality of life of our farm workers. Sustainably grown goes beyond organic, as organic refers only to specific chemical and pesticide free practices. Sustainability embraces a much broader perspective and deals not only with production but also in environmental and eco-system issues, and social matters such as the farm’s workforce and community.

Sustainable Crop Production Utilizing Native Methods

We have been fortunate to work with and among Philippine indigenous tribes or natives. They have worked with us imparting the wisdom and heritage of their ancestors on Philippine flower farming. These include sustainable farming techniques that rely on natural methods handed down from generation to generation by the Talaandigs; the Higaonon; and Bukidnon farmers. Alongside their wealth of knowledge on natural methods, we have merged technology and science, to implement agricultural techniques that build our Philippine flower farm soil fertility, while protecting our air, water and wildlife. We have merged and developed a deeply rooted natural system of production, pest management, and weed and fungal control. Among these:

  • We practice natural methods on cover cropping, composting, and crop rotation;
  • Our main source of soil fertility is legume cover crops, which provide nitrogen, micro nutrients and organic matter. We use nitrogen-fixing and leguminous plants that are native to our farm, that form symbioses with nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobia. These are plants that modern farming would have otherwise deemed as weeds. The natives have taught us to use these plants as a viable source of fertilizer. Also, the cover crops provide habitat for beneficial insects, keeping pests very low. Our farm prides itself with beneficials such as lady bugs;

  • Our farm has learned to rely on natural controls for soil-borne diseases and to ward off pests. Among these, we use natural insect traps, neem tree extract and beneficial bacteria and fungi to treat our soil;

  • We hope to eliminate the use of toxic and persistent chemicals found in industrial pesticides and herbicides. That way, we control pests and diseases with the least environmental impact, phasing in organic products over time; and

  • We have learned to follow the cycles and phases of the moon in scheduling our pest management and control, taking into account that the life cycles of these creatures that coincide with the moon’s phases.

We embrace these practices in our Philippine Flower Farm and adopt them in our daily tilling, growing or harvesting. By relying on the knowledge handed by those whom we believe are most in tune with nature and the earth, we build healthy and rich soils to produce Philippines flowers and plants that are healthy and thriving.

Resource Conservation and Energy Efficiency

Our Philippine Flower Farm encourages careful water use, energy saving initiatives, greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts and product packaging minimization.

  • Our Philippine Flower Farm infrastructure has been planned and built bearing in mind our carbon footprint. Our greenhouses are built using renewable resources or recycled material. Among these are bamboo, wooden pegs, stones, old tires, and similar materials;

  • We have designed and positioned our greenhouses to ensure that we use the least amount of energy for our crops. Our buildings use natural ventilation, and rely on the strength or gentleness of winds for its natural ventilation. Thus, we eliminate the need for energy-powered fans;

  • We rely on the forces of gravity for our irrigation, taking advantage of the gift of natural spring water, and use trickle- irrigation to conserve water and prevent erosion;

  • Our irrigation systems do not use more water from the natural spring than is naturally replenished; and

  • Our greenhouses are designed so we can harvest and utilize rainwater to irrigate our plants and treat our Philippine flowers.

Waste Management

  • We wish to have minimal or zero waste on our Flower Farm and encourage composting and recycling of our agricultural and non-agricultural wastes;

  • We recycle crop waste, weeds, twigs (almost everything!) and livestock manure for composting; and

  • Packaging materials to send flowers to the Philippines nationwide are recycled and reused over time.

Protecting Ecosystems In and Around the Farm

Because of our efforts to use natural methods and products, and our minimal use of heavy equipment or machinery, we protect the ecosystems around the Philippine Flower Farm such as rivers and streams.

Taking Care of our People

Your flowers are the result of the dedication and diligence of a handful of farmers in Bukidnon, a number of them natives. They are led by Toto, a native from Bukidnon, whose passion for growing flowers is quite infectious. Our women team are led by Dadang, whose green thumb magically turns every plant green. Our farmers harvest the flowers at their peak freshness early in the morning. We try to get all the flowers in for processing before lunch. Early afternoon, our farmers are able to go home to tend their own farms or gardens, or play with their children. Our Flower Farm prides itself in ensuring a safe, equitable and healthy work environment. We provide our farmers with access to the principal needs. We also support our farmers and their local community through preferential hiring, purchasing, infrastructure improvements and community problem solving. We believe in balancing work and play, having passion for what we do, and celebrating the fruits of our harvest.

Each Flower Depot bouquet is hand selected, carefully arranged, and shipped fresh from our Philippine Flower Farm, with the dedication and commitment to wholly move our farm from traditional and commercial practices to sustainable farming. We hope to transition to a sustainable, organic or biodynamic agriculture in the future. Our ultimate goal is to protect our environment and also enhance the lives of our workers, as they are free from unhealthy and toxic pesticides. By practicing sustainable farming, we hope to build a better and more sustainable future, and lighten our footsteps on the planet.

Our farm is a happy and vibrant ecosystem. In fact, our farm is home to birds, toads, earthworms, snakes, bees and and many many more. What does this mean for your flowers? Since our flowers are grown from vibrant plants, our flowers are also healthy with rich green foliage and bright brilliant blooms.