The Unlikely Educational Farm Tour

An instant fruit treat and shelter for (L-R): me, Warren, Noemi & EJ

It was one hot sunny day of July when we trouped to a farm. It was a trip unplanned, got no idea who will be with us and everything seemed to happen so fast. Soon, we all found ourselves in Warren’s car amazed at each other’s story on how we get into that trip.

Noemi Tirona of Philippine Natural Farming Philippines Inc., has a scheduled out-of-town flight in the afternoon and has to leave at 4pm. EJ, of Bohol Farm Resort was also in a haste to see Warren Tan – the farm owner, thinking they were just going out somewhere. Dennis and I took Warren’s invitation a day prior to the tour as one simple get away from the city, see the farm, then buy some vegetables to bring home right after.

Warren’s Natural Farm

We left Quezon City at 9am and reached the farm in Samal, Bataan at around 11am- under the heat of a scorching sun.

At 10,535 sq. meters, Warren’s farm is not the usual farm with vegetables and animals that I’d been expecting earlier. Acquired in 2011, the farm has its rugged terrains with live fences of Madre de cacao and these trees serve as effective wind barriers. They are also nitrogen fixers which are beneficial to plants and animals because of the nitrogen it can emit in the air, better known as atmospheric nitrogen according to Warren.

Related: Visiting the Demo Farm of Mr. Esemple in Zambales – the 66 year-old Organic Farming Specialist

First thing he wanted us to see was the spring at one side of his farm, but the slope downhill was simply difficult for us ladies to trek so we did not push through.

We headed to the opposite side of the farm instead, and it was a feast to the eyes watching a bounty of santol fruits clinging on its branches. Then I noticed ripe Santol fruits left scattered on the ground- most of them were already rotten. Before I could ask, Warren started to explain (as translated from Filipino).

“I allow them to rot naturally to fertilize the soil, and I don’t use IMO because indigenous microorganisms are already abundant in this farm, so why add more? It’s only used for farms that needed extra nourishment.”(translated from Filipino)

Related: 15 Things I learned from Organic and Natural Farming Seminar at Herbana Farm

He said somebody wants to buy his Santol fruits but he chose not to. According to him, the decaying fruits serve as soil conditioner which save him further expenses on nitrogen inputs and some unnecessary farm tasks.

Those ideas sounded new to me and I was left thinking about the possibility of fertilizing a farm with rotten fruits and atmospheric nitrogen.

Bamboos along the off-the-beaten-path

Warren then took the lead towards the lush green bamboos and as we trekked down the hill, cool air touched our skin and bamboo leaves swayed in a gust of wind. Our steps began to take strides with excitement, wondering what to see next as we trod a narrow path that seemed to me was Robert Frost’s road less traveled. With the air so invigorating, so fresh and cool, nature was certainly a beckon of tranquility in this natural farm.

farmersnotebook_warrentan_03

Of all plants, Bamboo – a grass, is the most efficient oxygen-emitting plant. (L-R): EJ, Noemi, Warren

The sight of dark green poles of bamboos in a vertical array instantly soothed our eyes from sun’s exposure. Oxygen loaded bamboo leaves was certainly a breath of fresh air to our lungs that has been so long occupied with the metro’s carbon monoxide and other air pollutants. This variety according to Warren is called Buho and it has many uses around the farm like where he houses some of his chickens and turkeys for shelter.

Beating around the bush of Papayas

Here’s the papaya plantation seen in only a portion of Warren’s property. The farm’s terrains are rugged and papayas according to Warren are best suited for such a kind of land. When asked why plant Sinta Papayas and not lettuce and other high value vegetables, he said (translated from Filipino), “It’s already common; besides, I am planning to sell them not raw but bottled “atchara” Also, Sinta variety is more profitable than the Red lady variety, that is why I preferred Sinta. Our own local farmers would usually sell them raw or ripe but it’s not profitable, and if it’s not profitable, it cannot be sustainable.”

To Warren, for a farm to be sustainable, it should also be profitable.

Now, Dennis had to climb the water tank just to take a photo of this horizon: Cavite City at the left, West Philippine Sea at the right .

Rows of Sinta Papayas

Rows of Sinta Papayas at Warren’s farm.

farmersnotebook_warrentan_11

The Farm Boys

Below (left), the papaya stem has been destroyed by a typhoon and it needed to be cut down. To save it from rotting during the rainy season, Warren wrapped a plastic bag around it for protection. Eventually this will grow branches from its sides and that’s the time to unwrap. This is one useful tip from Warren.

Further right are kalamansi plants growing in between papayas – a kind of integrated farming.

papaya_kalamansi tree

As we trekked up and down Warren’s farm, we encountered more useful plants .

madre de agua

One is Madre de Agua (left), a nutrient-packed forage for pigs. Another is Biga (right), a plant with juices that is used as natural insecticide.

The Water Source

We continued the journey further down the farm, and there nestled right below the bamboos and the fig-like trees was a pond with some big rocks dotting its surface. Once this pond is developed, I figured out, could be one beautiful attraction of the farm. EJ, Noemi and I shared the same thoughts.

Tibig tree

Tibig tree

Group photo

At the pond

Then when I gazed above the pond, I noticed some fruit-bearing trees. Pointing at one of the trees, I asked Warren: “Fig tree ba yan? (Is that a fig tree?)

Warren answered:” That is Tibig– and that tree can release thousands of liters of water per year. ”

Tibig trees grow abundantly in his farm and wherever tibig trees are many, there is a water source. No wonder the first stream on the other side of his farm was formed and it was all because of a variety of trees around it,- and Tibig trees are the major contributors on the making of that spring. Tibig roots are sponge-like that absorbs water during the rainy season and releases water during summer.

Related: Exploring Finca Verde: The Farm of Organic Greens and Herbs of Dos Mestizos

Warren lead us to another water source, clean sparkling water run down the water pipe he made available to anyone visiting his farm. Water drops from the water pipe was just so fitting to have it right there at the end of the slope to quench one’s thirst.

Here’s a stream just near the pond. This stream, according to Warren, is rich in silica and other minerals. From this water source, atmospheric minerals are derived from it.

farmersnotebook_warrentan_05

Atmospheric minerals are also needed by the plants – the reason why he is giving emphasis on making energized water as an abundant source in his farm-a quantum farming principle.

Learning experience

The heat of the sun that afternoon was still unbearable to take notice of other things; more so on exploring the other side of the farm where a spring is located. We failed to take photos of the spring, of some vegetables, turkeys and the chickens, and of the papaya that branched out after the onslaught of a typhoon. The farm tour however offered some eye opener – from the purpose of decaying santol fruits to the suppliers of water source called Tibig among other things.

That day was a great learning experience that I least expected; and- it was something not so easy to take for granted, as it was simply rare, and was so different.

Read our interview with Warren Tan. 

Let us feature your farm on Farmers Notebook Farm Visit Series! Do send us an email via farmersnotebook(at)gmail(dot)com or contact form and we hope our next post is all about your farm!

 photo Farm_DB_footer_zpsd4avtmt5.jpg

Farmer Jon & the Integrated Diversified Farming System (IDOFS)

Having encountered Farmer Jon on FB for the first time, this Indian-looking man wearing an Indian headdress has led me into a discovery that he is not an American Indian but a true-blue Filipino farmer of San Narciso, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro – just another Filipino pride with a special message to impart to the world.

jon_farmer

Seeing him in person talking with intense passion in front of attendees, I could say, Mr. Jonjon B. Sarmiento /Farmer Jon is no ordinary farmer at all. All seemed to be so eager to learn from his orientation seminar about the Integrated Diversified Farming System (IDOFS), a free seminar sponsored by Spread Organic Farming in the Philippines (SOAP) in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture (DA), and was held at the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), Quezon City last June 20, 2014.

If you were there and had tried scanning the crowd, it’s obvious that his audience were coming from all walks of life: ordinary citizens and farmers, rich land owners and businessmen, and some politicians including the surprised presence of DA Sec. Proceso Alcala who had spent more than an hour listening to this “salakot”- wearing- farmer in black sweatshirt and blue jeans.

03_alcala

Prior to leaving the venue,Secretary Alcala thanked Farmer Jon and everybody telling that he was also a part of the seminar – a student, just like the rest of us learning from Farmer Jon.

The topics discussed revolved around Farmer Jon’s three main goals:

  1. Spirituality and Care for the Earth (to help save mother earth and the humanity from catastrophic global warming and climate change)
  2. Widespread Injustice on Food Security/Hunger and Poverty (alleviating hunger and poverty through practicing and teaching small farmers and communities for food sustainability), and
  3. Land Security for Farmers (soil preservation/nourishment not through mono-cropping practices but through IDOFS).

About Farmer Jon as a Speaker

02_jon

During the seminar, Farmer Jon was like a standup comedian cracking jokes every now and then. A self-proclaimed- pastor-sounding- farmer, he was preaching the bible verses valuing God’s creation, nature, and the lives of our forefathers. With his funny twists of stories he invented, stirring people into fits of laughter seemed easy for him. One great example is the secret of Noah’s Ark.

He went on by asking: “Hangang hanga talaga ako kay Noah (on saving a pair of all animals of the planet); di nyo ba alam ang secret ng woodpecker? Binutasan ng woodpecker ang arko at ang ginawa ni Noah ay tinapalan bawat butas ng cow dung! (I really admired Noah; don’t you know the secret about the woodpeckers? The woodpeckers drilled holes on Noah’s Ark, and all what Noah did was to patch each hole with cow dung!)”

As I listened to his story, I was imagining how many holes two woodpeckers could bore around Noah’s ark for the whole 40 days of being out in the flood. Jon added,“…kaya nung naglanding ang arko ni Noah, mukha nang polka dots (That’s why when Noah’s ark finally landed, it was all polka dots!)” Roar of laughter right behind my back, and from everywhere around the seminar hall was all you can hear at that moment.

At some point, a serious discussion about the reality of the small farmers’ accessibility as consumers to healthy food enlightened us about its cruel realities (out of 1.02 billion people around the world 50% were small-time farmers, and 8 out of 10 households are hungry – FNRI survey). On food security issue, Farmer Jon came up with a twist:

“Hindi ba nya (referring to ordinary farmers) pwedeng kainin ang black rice o red rice ? Di ba nya pwedeng kainin ang malalaking saging? Kasi yon ang dinanas ko e! Kaya nagagalit ako sa Tatay ko nuong bata pa ako, kung bakit ang kinakain nami ay may SIPON NA MANOK! (Laughter from audience here) …. At ang binebenta ay yong mga magaganda! Kaya, kung ako ang magkaroon ng kapangyarihan, lahat ng magaganda ay akin muna!”  The crowd laughed as they instantly figured out what he was trying to say.

Farm Practices

But he is not all of a comedian. How he manages his farm is the evidence of how serious an IDOFS farmer he could be. His own farm area is 4,440 sq. meters – not that big, according to him, but how his pigs are saving him feeds and laborious effort with his one-day-one-meal technique, you can’t help it but admire this organic farmer. He would just throw all the weeds, banana trunks, etc. over the pig’s sty, and the pigs’ meal is given only at the end of the day when it’s already dark and the pigs are about to sleep. This ensures food nourishment to his livestock as they stop moving and go to sleep in full stomach right thereafter. The video below will tell you how.

In his “Kuatro Marias Farm” there are different integration and diversification techniques that he has been practicing. With the author’s permission, here are some of the slides from his PowerPoint presentation.

After the wrath of Haiyan/Yolanda, the typhoon ravaged communities in Leyte benefited from workers and volunteers on a mission to help those unfortunate people, and Farmer Jon was one of them. Working with the typhoon victims, he taught them how to do farming using IDOFS techniques in addressing food security and sustainability of which they were grateful of the outcome.

With his sensible understanding about the human life, the ecosystem, and farming, he would rather be interviewed and known not for who he is, but for his three ultimate goals in alleviating hunger and poverty, fighting climate change and soil preservation through practicing and helping people in an IDOFS way of farming.

His message is clear: each one of us should embrace and practice organic farming and help build sustainable communities for a sustainable world.

For those who want to get in touch with him, hereunder are his contact details:

Jonjon B. “Farmer Jon” Sarmiento
Sustainable Agriculture Program Manager – PAKISAMA
IDOFS Farm Planning Consultant
Farmer-Preneur @ Kuatro Marias’ Farm

Address:
Kuatro Marias’ Farm
San Narciso, Victoria,Oriental Mindoro, Philippines
FB: https://www.facebook.com/joncarlos.sarmiento
Email: labuyo28@yahoo.com
Mobile: 0905-3363721

 

15 Things I learned from Organic and Natural Farming Seminar at Herbana Farm

DSC_0053

“If we follow the rule of nature, we will not make mistakes; if we follow the rule of man, we will make a lot of mistakes.”

Those were the words of Gil Carandang referring to climate change that affects the lives of millions of people. He showed us, seminar participants, how man can destroy his environment; and how man can restore nature – through organic farming. A discussion about the natural elements of nature in farming, made me aware how it affects our environment, plants and animals, particularly us humans. While he was giving a 3-day Intensive Seminar on Microbial Organic, Natural Piggery & Free-Range Chicken at Herbana Farms in Laguna last April 24-26, I listed down the things I learned from his lecture-demo.

Here’s my list, in random, of Gil Carandang’s ideas and teachings:

  1. Natural elements in organic farming are: earth/soil, water, wind/air, Fire/sunlight/heat, beneficial and indigenous microorganisms, & bionutrients.
  2. On Ecological & economic sustainability: “Pag mataba ang lupa, siguradong masagana ang ani (If the soil is fertile, yield is bountiful).”
  3. The two-fold problems of farmers: Issues on Soil Fertility and Pests & diseases.
  4. Three uses of food plants are: to be eaten, to sell, and to be given back to soil fertility.
  5. 8 Ways to fertilize the soil: the use of organic matter, compost, animal manure, green manure, mulch, organic fertilizer, Biological Indigenous Microorganisms or B.I.M. a mix of both Korean and Japan technologies (EM in Korea, IMO in Japan), microbial Inoculation, and crop rotation.
  6. How to identify legumes is through pods. If the seeds came from pods then it is a legume i.e., beans, peas, malunggay (moringa oleifera), ampalaya (bitter gourd/Momordica charantia), sampalok (tamarind/Tamarindus indica), and peanut (Arachis hypogaea). They share the same characteristics in terms of water consumption. They need less water, thus better plant them during summer. Plant them during rainy season and the roots are subject to either too much moisture or fungal infection/diseases, that in no time, they rot and die.
  7. Seaweeds, aside from being rich in minerals, have natural growth hormone called auxin.
  8. Kangkong (water spinach/ Ipomoea aquatica) like seaweeds, has natural growth hormone (they grow and spread out even without fertilizers) – best to use as Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ) -a growth promotant for leafy vegetables like pechay (Brassica rapa).
  9. Those who use synthetic growth hormones are prone to hormonal imbalance which could cause cancers like breast cancer.
  10. Flea beetle is the name of the pest that punches holes on pechay leaves, difficult to get rid of, due to its habit of fleeing, thus making it difficult to raise pechay compared to lettuce.
  11. Meat is hard to digest. Once stocked up in your body, it makes your body acidic. Once our body is acidic, it means ailments.
  12. If you drink fermented Takip kuhol (Gotu kola/ Centella asiatica) extract every day, you can grow old more than a hundred years.
  13. Spraying diluted solution of lactic acid bacteria serum to the plant and soil helps plant growth and makes them more healthy.
  14. On becoming an Organic Farmer: “Kung gusto mong maging organic farmer, bawal ang tamad, tanga, at takot.” (If you want to become an Organic farmer, you are not allowed to be lazy, fool (who hates to think and analyze things out), and coward (afraid to try new things in farming).
  15. On taking care of Nature: “If we don’t take care of nature, one day we will be like dinosaurs – extinct.”

Those are just a few things I learned from the 3-day seminar and it’s just a tip of an iceberg; there’s more to it, and I think it’s unfair to share it all in here. Best to attend the seminar yourself and you’ll see how the seminar could really make you think more, rather than simply welcoming the wealth of knowledge, and be called an Organic romantic.

DSC_0473

Other activities include lecture–demo on how to grow your own beneficial indigenous microorganisms (B.I.M.), how to make your own concoctions of probiotics, make yogurt, ferment plant and fruit juices or extract biological nutrient from raw materials readily available in your area, and make your own natural feeds for chicken and pigs. On the other hand, a tour around Gil Carandang’s mini-farm gave us a glimpse of how a 1,000 sqm lot could be enough, and even more than enough to sustain a family’s basic needs. Another mini-tour around a vegetable garden at his “Herbana Farm” introduced us to other forms of organic farming technologies which we could also adapt later on in our own respective farming activities.

To sum it up, it was a rare kind of seminar loaded with viable information on the use of beneficial microorganisms and different techniques in organic and natural farming, that anyone could experiment based on the idea of adaptability and sustainability. The seminar was intensive and holistic in approach that anyone could start his own farm anytime soon. Now the door is wide open for us to explore the real world of organic farming – time for us to grow our own food, save some money, start a healthy living and help save lives.

Read my related articles below: