Sunday, July 26, 2015

Social entrepreneur speaks at Organic Market

Atilano (photo from
A 28-year-old Negrense social entrepreneur, agriculturist and farmer, talked on agri-business at the eighth installation of Organic Market at The District Northpoint Ayala Mall in Talisay City, which opened on July 25-26.

Cherrie Atilano, who grew up in Silay City and was a scholar of the Provincial Capitol under the Pagkaon Scholarship Program, talked on "AGREA: The Business of Agri-business" on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Atilano graduated magna cum laude from the Visayas State University with a degree on agriculture. She is a founder of AGREA Agricultural Systems International, and a consultant of the Department of Agrarian Reform.

She has worked at the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation as executive assistant of its founder, Antonio Meloto, and at Ayala Land Inc. as landscape horticulturist supervisor and head of Land Development.

Meanwhile, the Organic Market again highlighted "slow food," or the use of organic or naturally farmed ingredients that are cooked without the use of commercial seasonings.

Slow Food Negros president Reena Gamboa-Pena said they sold food that has been cooked in the traditional way to remind their fellow Negrenses to not only eat well but to remember their culture.

The Organic Market showcased certified organic fresh produce and all-natural processed products, local artisanal food, homegrown native products, vegetarian dishes, and specialty diets; organic poultry and livestocks; organic farming inputs, supplies, equipment and technology; and handicrafts, textiles and clothing.

The Organic Market is spearheaded by the provincial government of Negros Occidental in partnership with Organik na Negros! Organic Producers and Retailers Association (ONOPRA) lead by its president, Ramon Uy Jr.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Compost Tea in Organic Farming

Photo from
"FARMING is an art. Speaking with the same language to the soil and seeds and microorganisms and the environment is essential in farming. You have to have a connection with them."

This is according to Francis "Koko" Sajulga, the man behind Aloha Organic Garden located in Mahayag in Bunawan, Davao City.

An almost a hectare garden, Aloha is back in the business operations in February this year after it stopped operations for a year.

"We temporarily suspended our operations when we moved to the US for a year for benchmarking with other organic and botanical gardens outside the country," Sajulga said in vernacular, adding that he and his family came up with the decision in their pursuit for learning and acquiring new knowledge, techniques and methods in organic farming.

Aloha is a "Compost Tea" method in gardening, which utilizes an effective, low-strength, natural fertilizer for seedlings and garden plants. It can suppress fungal plant diseases.

The tea brewing process, Sajulga said, extracts and multiplies nutrients and beneficial bacteria and fungi from the wastes called rabbit dung, goat dung, among others and suspend it in the water then spray it to the plants. The process is called "collar spraying."

"One of the things I learned during my educational tour and seminars to different botanical gardens which I applied in Aloha is the compost tea method. What's good in this agricultural practice is it does not require special equipment, it is very easy and it's natural," he said, adding that he learned it during his seminar at Minnesota Botanical Garden in Minneapolis.

Aloha offers a wide array of culinary herbs that come in packs and potted plants. These are Tarragon, Rosemary, Hybrid Basils, Turmeric, Peppermint, Spearmint, and Cilantro, among others.

The organic garden employs five farmers who were trained by Sajulja himself.

"Since the garden is expanding, I can't do it alone so I hire staff to help me. It is also my way of helping them and incorporating in their lifestyle the organic way of living. I even encourage them to plant and have a garden in their houses," he said.

Aloha plans to expand and develop some idle properties of his friends and business partners to covert these lands to organic garden.

Aloha is also in the process of securing a certification from organic certifying bodies.

Aloha organic herb is available in different malls in the city and has plans in introducing new products in the market called "organic dried seasoning." It also offers organic vinegars, herb isaw, organic grilled pork steak, roast beef with herb sauce made available during their food bazaars and exhibits.

It also offers organic potted herbs in a form of giveaways for eco-themed events at P100 to P150. It was featured in the recently concluded 1st Mindanao Halal Festival last July 15 to 16.

For more information, visit their Facebook page

Written by: Ace June Rell S. Perez

Negros Island Region 18 Is Ahead Of The Global Average For Organic Farming Cultivation

The newly created Negros Island Region (Region 18) is one blessed island which serves as a shining example of how a province can chart a pathway to its own food sustenance.  Slowly but surely, Negros Island is showing the rest of the Philippines that going organic makes sense. 

Despite being physically separated by the Mt. Kanlaon range, the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental are of one mind in harnessing land resources towards organic farming.  In fact, Negros Island Region 18 now exceeds the world average in terms of lands allocated to organic agriculture.

The global average for agricultural land dedicated to organic farming is 3 percent.  Negros Island is currently at 4%, and growing!  An enthusiastic group dedicated to organic farming, Organik na Negros! Producers and Retailers Association (ONOPRA) is spearheading various awareness campaigns to attract not just consumers but potential organic farmers into this food sustenance revolution.

Last year, Negros Island was featured
in a 25-minute Living Asia Channel documentary dubbed as the Organic Bowl of Asia.

For those visiting Negros Island, one only needs to make their way to Rapha Valley in the uphill municipality of Don Salvador Benedicto to learn from Dr. Albert Jo, a medical doctor who explains to his visitors the various health benefits of various plants and flowers. 

It is through small platforms for education as these as well as wider scale public media awareness (now even made easier via the use of social media) that helps Negros Island move further in its emphasis and thrust for organic farming.

With this in mind, 5% in terms of agricultural land use for organic farming for Negros Island Region 18 will not be surprising at all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Plant varieties of organic rice, farmers urged

The farmers in Negros Occidental were urged to plant varieties of organic rice so they can gain additional value in their production.

Edgar Libertario, PhilRice-Negros officer-in-charge, said that they have prepared programs to help the farmers choose the right variety of rice.

One of PhilRice’s programs, which is the Farmers Participatory Varietal Development and Palay Check, is designed to assist farmers in choosing the kind of variety and techniques they will use in rice farming.

Among the rice varieties were: aromatic rice, brown rice, purple and black rice and the ride variety.

They are all higher in price compared to the regular rice but have higher level of nutrients, vitamin content and has anti-oxidant property, Libertario said.

“We are like a big restaurant. We cater to every need of the farmers. We serve whatever is in demand and we will never give stuff which you don’t want to eat. We have everything including the technology. And since Negros is into organic farming, we will offer everything organic as long as it is anchored with science,” Libetario said

The province will be a good case study for the development of organic rice and its production, he said.

The provincial government of Negros Occidental had been pushing farmers to shift on organic agriculture and has shunned genetically modified organism-crops from entering the province.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

250 farmers undergo training on organic vegetable production

The farmers who are undergoing a three-month training 
on Organic Vegetable Production at the Merceditas J. Montilla
 Agricultural and Vocational Demo Farm in the Moises
 Padilla town with Negros Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., 
Moises Padilla Mayor Ella Celestina Yulo, 
Gen. Jon Aying, former commanding officer 
of the 303rd Infantry Brigade. /Capitol Photo
At least 250 farmers from Negros Occidental were being trained on organic vegetable production.

The farmers were taking the Organic Vegetable Production Class 01-15 at the Merceditas J. Montilla Agricultural and Vocational Demo Farm in the Municipality of Moises Padilla, which started recently.

The provincial government has allocated P800,000 for the three-month training on organic vegetable production.

The farmers received planting materials and will attend series of classes and planting activities.

The program is intended to promote organic farming as well as to enhance the knowledge and skills of vegetable growers on potential and updated technology.

It is expected to boost the achievement of the provincial government’s thrust to enhance food security and agricultural productivity in the province.

 Marañon said he is happy to help the farmers and told them to work hard because such training would improve their quality of life.

He also advised the farmers to ask for God’s guidance during their training.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tribute Paid to Benjie Casipe, 37, A Great Environmentalist

Leaders in Negros Island's circle of conservationists continue to pay tribute to the life of Benjie Casipe, only 37 years old, a dedicated environmentalist, who passed away in a tragic way last week.

A dreadful incident of robbery and merciless beating landed him in a hospital and eventually caused his untimely death in Bacolod last week. The culprit, a trisikad driver, remains unknown as of this time.  Nevertheless, all are hoping that he will be caught the soonest possible time, and justice will be served on the senseless killing of a young person, who has dedicated his life in community service and working for the good of our environment.

Gerry Ledesma, president of the Philippines Reef and Rainforest Foundation Inc., said Benjie was an excellent community worker and a staunch conservationist. A sorry loss of a good man, Ledesma added, as he pointed out that whoever had beaten up Benjie must know how precious he was.

Benjie was so passionate about what he was doing, particularly in promoting environmental education and dealing with community affairs.

Bacolod Councilor Jocelle Batapa Sigue, on her Facebook post, expressed her sadness on the untimely demise of her friend, and claimed that she will work hard in fast tracking the passage of an ordinance regulating the trisikad and tricycle operations in the city. Sigue said she would do it in spite of possible political repercussions, as some individuals warned her, since nobody dared in the past to touch the issue of the unregulated operations of tricycles and trisikad in Bacolod.

Benjie was also a very active volunteer of the Green Alert Negros. Rusty Biñas, one of the GAN's prime movers, has this to say for Benjie: “We will celebrate your life and contribution to the environment activism. You touched us in many ways, and your peculiar way of telling your story makes us all happy. We will always remember you and your work, especially in protecting the wildlife of Negros when you gave them voice for more than two decades.”

The staff and writers of convey their deepest sympathies to the family and friends of this wonderful person who left so soon.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

PTV4 Launches TV Program On Organic Farming

OA Ako!, a television program spearheaded by the Spread Organic Agriculture in the Philippines group will begin its pilot program on July 11, 2015 at 9:00am.

This is a much needed television program which will help reach more potential organic farmers in the country.

The pilot programs aims to show what Spread Organic Agriculture in the Philippines in spreading the gospel of Organic Farming.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Negros Island Leads The Way In Successful Organic Farming

Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. checks out the organic products during the opening of the 9th Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival in November 2014 at the North Capitol Road, Bacolod City.
The newly created One Island Region of Negros, encompassing Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental has shown the rest of the Philippines the pathway to successful organic farming.

Ramon Uy Jr., president of the Organic na Negros Organic Producers and Retailers Association (ONOPRA), said that there are 10,000 organic areas in the province, adding that farmers have an annual income of P100,000.

In Negros Occidental alone, the annual gross sales of organic farming was pegged at P1 billion.

Uy claimed that organic farming have improve the lives and income of the farmers here.

For Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., the "organic movement have been growing by leaps and bounds."

He vowed that he would continue supporting this movement since it will improve the lives of the poor.

He challenged the agrarian reform beneficiaries not to sell their lands, "plant high-value crops because the government will support you."

"We're an agricultural country. We have a rice soil and good weather," the governor said, adding that the provincial government is trying its best to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.

This was furhter affirmed by the Department of Agriculture which said that organic farming is successful primarily in Western Visayas where Negros Occidental belongs.

Leo Cañeda, coordinator of DA’s National Organic Agriculture Board, said that the organic farming program of the agency had been running in the region for more than four years since the Organic Agriculture Act was passed in 2010, as he stressed that there’s no reason for the program to fail in its birthplace.

Cañeda said that the law targets to transform five percent of the country’s agricultural lands into organic agriculture.

According to DA, about 32,000 hectares of the 633,000 agricultural land area in the region were already converted into organic agriculture.

The province of Negros Occidental, which is known for sugar, aimed to be the organic farming capital of the country.

Meanwhile, small scale farmers who are into rice, corn, high-value crops and livestock production can avail of the crop insurance program.

The farmers, however, should conform to the Philippine National Standard  on Organic Farming so they will be certified as organic practitioners for their products to have access in domestic and foreign markets.

Additional Funding

Recently, the World Bank had allocated P191 million for Negros Occidental after it was chosen as priority province of the national government’s Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP).

Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. stressed that it is a big boost to the province’s agricultural sector and advocacy on organic farming.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for us to feed the whole country. Let the PRDP be a model for all provinces because this will help the underprivileged solve poverty and generate more employment for Negros Occidental,” he said.

The PRDP is a platform that calls for an inclusive, value chain-oriented and climate-oriented agriculture and fisheries sectors. Using the $500 million fund from the World Bank through a 15-year old loan agreement, the national government extended grants for agricultural enhancement programs of qualified local government units.

Negros Occidental was the only local government unit in the Visayas cluster that was chosen as pilot area with muscovado as a priority commodity for development.

Marañon emphasized that rice self-sufficiency remains as his top priority, adding that about 50,000 hectares of rice land are currently irrigated and is expected to expand to 90,000 in the next five years or so.

“The resources of this province are beyond imagination. The agriculture sector is like your three-in-one coffee. It is the key to solving poverty and unemployment,” the governor pointed out, as he cited that the Philippines is the “darling” of agricultural advancement in Asia, and was way ahead of Japan, growth-wise in the 50s and 60s.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Composting machine helps farmers in Bacolod

Senator Cynthia Villar cuts the ribbon of the composting machine.
Also in photo are
 First Lady Josefa Puentevella
 and Councilors Kalaw Puentevella and Wilson Gamboa, Jr. (Bacolod PIO Photo)

The composting machine is a big help to the farmers here.

Senator Cynthia Villar recently turned over the farm equipment to the city government of Bacolod, as it is a part of her advocacy on solid waste management.

Villar said that the composting machine will help the farmers increase their income while, at the same time, promote organic farming in the community.

The senator said that the composting machine will produce quality organic fertilizers and feeds out of kitchen waste.

She said that the farm equipment will also teach the farmers produce their own input. She added this is a step towards the realization on the modern farming vision of the Department of Agriculture.

Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, disclosed that DA had already donated eight composting machines to different cities in the country.

During her recent visit on the potential tourism farms in the province, Villar said she was “happy and impressed” by the farmers’ creativity and entrepreneurial skills.

Meanwhile, Ma. FeTresfuentes, executive assistant for solid waste management, said the composting machine will be placed either at the Office of the City Agriculture in Barangay Alijis, or at the sanitary landfill in Barangay Felisa.

Monday, July 6, 2015

P3.3M agricultural tramline benefits farmers

A farmer checks on the products transported 
through the agricultural tramline./ Capitol photo
The P3.3 million agricultural tramline system in Barangay Igmaya-an, Don Salvador Benedicto town, in Negros Occidental is expected to benefit hundreds of farmers.

The project, which costs P3,390,771.34, was jointly implemented by the provincial government of Negros Occidental, PhilMech and the Department of Agriculture-Region 6.

It is seen to benefit about 400 farmers and many barangays in Don Salvador and nearby barangays of San Carlos City.

The tramline is an alternative transport system for farmers in areas isolated from road network because of ravines, rivers, and dense vegetation; it is a system of steel cables and pulleys that links the production area to the nearest access road for the transport of agricultural products such as upland rice, banana, ginger, corn, vegetables, squash, coconut, among others.

Also, the project will minimize the drudgery of hauling and transport of products; reduce hauling time (from 3 hours of manual hauling to 3 minutes with tramline use); reduce hauling cost to 50 percent thus increase the farmers’ income; and maintain good quality of vegetables by the reduction of mechanical damages.

The project is a two-way bicable tramline system; the cable is 625 meters from Igmaya-an proper to Sitio Quenabong of Don Salvador Benedicto and 864 meters from Igmaya-an proper to Sitio Bedio, in Brgy. Codcod, San Carlos City, and has a hauling capacity of 350 kg per trip.

The tramline has a speed of 100-150 meters per minute and has 80 Hp diesel engine.

The project was recently inaugurated by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Winning from Waste

Sometimes, big problems in farming can be a blessing in disguise. That’s because people are forced to become more creative. Just like when the price of urea fertilizer suddenly increased to P2,200, from the usual P1,200 per bag of 50 kilos, eight years or so ago.

Farmers turned to organic fertilizer, especially vermicompost, which they themselves could produce at their own homes. Vermicompost is produced by earthworms that are fed with animal manure and other farm wastes.

FROM WASTE TO WEALTH Mayor Jonathan de Lara (second from left) and companions observe the operation of the mechanical shaker-strainer through which vermicompost is passed before bagging.
FROM WASTE TO WEALTH Mayor Jonathan de Lara (second from left) and companions observe the operation of the mechanical shaker-strainer through which vermicompost is passed before bagging.
Today, Solsona, a town in Ilocos Norte, is the top producer of vermicompost in the North. Some 500 small-hold farmers, who are members of a cooperative, are producing vermicompost for their own use as well as for sale to other users.

In 2013, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) gave Solsona an award that included cash for having been the No. 2 producer of vermicompost in the country. The No.1 then was Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

Vermicomposting in Solsona started in earnest in 2011, led by former Mayor Joseph de Lara. The year before, de Lara came to know about vermicomposting when he visited the Philippine Carabao Center in Nueva Ecija. He thought if the technology could be adopted by his constituents, they would no longer have to buy expensive chemical fertilizers.

So he gave farmers in Solsona starter kits of one kilo of earthworms and taught them how to set up the vermiculture bins and how to prepare the farm wastes to feed the earthworms. It did not take long for the farmers to realize that vermicomposting was good for them. On their own, they were able to produce the fertilizer they needed for their farms and even had extra to sell. In a culture period of 45 days, the one kilo of earthworms had produced 250 kilos of compost worth P1,250 plus additional five kilos of earthworms worth R2,500 when sold.

According to Mayor Jonathan de Lara, who succeeded his father in 2013, he helped form a cooperative that is now being supervised by the local government to make sure the product meets quality standards. The co-op buys all the excess vermicompost produced by the farmers and then sells it to other farmers not only in Solsona but also in other towns, even outside Ilocos Norte.

The BSWM has been a big help in promoting the use of vermicompost in growing rice. It put up demonstration farms to show the good effects of organic fertilizers. During the first cropping of 2014, the agency bought P250,000 worth of vermicompost from the co-op that it applied on 100 hectares of farmland. Several hectares were also applied with chemical fertilizers for purposes of comparing the harvests.

During the second cropping, the BSWM doubled the area applied with vermicompost, buying P500,000 worth from the co-op. At harvest time, farmers were invited to the field day to see the results. According to de Lara, there was not much difference in the yield. But the big difference was the cost of production. Those fertilized with vermicompost cost much less to produce. Moreover, the grains of those fertilized with vermicompost were heavier. De Lara is truly proud of his town’s achievement.

Written by: Zac Sarian

From farm to Tāza Fresh Table

Farm-to-table food is all the rage nowadays.

Farm-to-table refers to a movement concerned with producing food locally and delivering that food to local consumers, and is associated with organic farming initiatives, sustainable agriculture and community-supported agriculture. One establishment supporting this movement is Taal Vista Hotel through Taza Fresh Table, its latest food outlet.

Taza’s menu features innovative international cuisine using the best ingredients meticulously sourced from local suppliers, with 95 percent of the ingredients sourced from the regions where they are produced.

Vegetables come from Baguio or Tagaytay—if not from the gardens of Taal Vista Hotel itself; these come from small family-owned farms in the area. Seafood comes from their partner suppliers in Iloilo, who fish and farm in ways that have the least impact on the environment. Beef is sourced from Bukidnon, where the Wagyu meat is hormone- and enhancer-free, and is as tender and intensely marbled as its Japanese counterpart. Pork and chicken come from livestock raised with natural feeds without hormones and antibiotics, allowed to graze freely until ready to be processed for consumption. Cheese comes from Malagos Farms, made with fresh milk from this acclaimed dairy farm in Davao. Dairy products including fresh milk and kesong puti are sourced from Laguna. Black rice is organically grown by a cooperative of former sugarcane planters in Negros, where the rich soil of Mt. Kanlaon yields some of the best varieties of heirloom rice in the country. Tablea or cacao tablets used for making chocolate-based desserts come from Alfonso, Cavite, one of the primary producers of tsokolate in the country.

Taza’s Chef Jayme Natividad and his crew are committed to preparing international cuisine with no shortcuts. The New York and San Francisco-trained chef says: “We’re offering international cuisine using the best of local ingredients. Guests can always expect garden fresh herbs and vegetables, handmade pasta, and made-from-scratch sauces. And we will continue to offer more choices in the menu based on whatever is abundant in the market.”


Starting this June, Chef Jayme has created a new breakfast menu for Taza Fresh Table. The brunch menu features comfort food like steak and eggs, eggs benedict, southern fried chicken served with waffles, and french toast and omelette.

The restaurant’s popular fares will also be offered during breakfast, including Taza salad, kale salad, pizza (Margherita, four cheese, salsa verde with pancetta), pasta (Papardelle Caccio e Pepe), Tomahawk pork chop, homemade bacon, and desserts such as molten chocolate cake, vanilla bean custard, olive oil ice cream, and cannoli with ube ricotta and langka cream.

“Taza Fresh Table is all about sourcing local and cooking global,” points out Taal Vista Hotel Area Manager Walid Wafik. The name Taza is derived from the Arabic word “taaza”, which means fresh. And just as delightful as the food is the restaurant’s country garden-inspired interiors, its open kitchen, and its glass walls that offer a scenic 180° view of the The Ridge, overlooking Taal Lake and Taal Volcano, and the surrounding mountains and hills. Taza Fresh Table is open for breakfast every Saturday and Sunday, lunch every Friday and Saturday, and dinner everyday except Tuesday.

Written by: Em P. Guevara


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