PICK the strawberries in the field and eat them fresh on the spot! Is that a new gimmick? No!

It is fun picking strawberries and eating them fresh from the runners. Can we really eat strawberries this way in La Trinidad Valley now? Yes! And you need not worry about its cleanness or how it is being irrigated?

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The answer is also yes. That is if the whole strawberry fields are now watered with water from the Benguet State University (BSU) irrigation water filtration pump project.

To be sure, several fields operated by the Sariling Sikap Association are already being serviced by the BSU Irrigation Water Filtration Project.

This was turned-over to the association last March 1, 2010 by the BSU headed by President Rogelio Colting and witnessed by Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan, La Trinidad Mayor Artemio Galwan, DA-RFU-CAR Executive Director Cesar Rodriguez and Engineer Benito Espique Jr. of NIA-Benguet.

Mrs. Cynthia G. Kiswa, President of the Sariling Sikap Association said that they produce clean and organic strawberries.

With the turn-over of the filtration project, their association can now start a full blast promotion for their locally produced quality strawberries.

Before the operation and turn-over of this project, strawberry farmers were affected by the increasing pollution of the water that they use to irrigate their fields. Consumers usually asked them where they get water to irrigate their strawberry plants.

This irrigation water filtration project can now take good care of this concern while we worry of making sure that its full operation and efficient management will provide enough clean water for our strawberry fields, she said.

Governor Fongwan, in his message, advised the association to prepare their operation manual and maximize the filtration project to serve all members of the association to produce healthy and quality strawberries.

Fongwan said that the realization of the project was a result of the joint efforts of BSU, NIA, DA and the LGU of La Trinidad while he was still the municipal mayor then. It actually goes further in time when the LGU of La Trinidad started developing deep wells for use by the local population.

This initiative was done together with the Tobishima Corporation with funding support provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), according to Fongwan.

He said that the provincial government and BSU are now also working for adaption and turn-over of new F1 Charlie strawberry varieties from California to be planted by local farmers.

Director Rodriguez, who is expected to retire by March 31, said that he will recommend to his successor to support this endeavor, particularly looking at how local strawberries can be produced all-year round.

With the interest of local farmers to grow organic strawberries, the DA can help by providing rain shelters or greenhouses to farmers, Rodriguez said.

Fongwan appealed to the NIA, DA, BSU and La Trinidad LGU to see how they can enhance the distribution of cleaned irrigation water to farmer-users with additional pipes and construction of water impounding and distribution tanks. (Robert Domoguen)