A FEW weeks ago, we were in Happy Hallow for the training and benchmarking of the agricultural sector and this week we were in Santo Tomas Proper barangays for the oath taking and benchmarking.
Talking with the farmers they said that they maintained agriculture even if it is an urbanized city because they still have the land and they realize their contribution to the people of Baguio. According to them, during calamities and disasters, food for the city is needed and the farmers have to bring this out of their sweat and commitment. An old farmer said that during the 1990 earthquake and when Baguio was isolated from its various road networks, the farmers were producing food for the city. It encouraged them to be more committed and maintain their farms even when so many of the lands in Baguio were converted into condominiums and other commercial purposes.
Green houses have been installed in these farms to help control the temperature and exposure to excessive heat and wind. In Santo Tomas Central, some strawberries and flowers were grown in greenhouses. In Happy Hallows, we visited the green houses provided by the Department of Agriculture for the youth 4H club and the farmers’ organizations. They had a mixed product for these green houses and it was more for sustainable food on the table type.
However, Happy Hallows is more of a bigger agricultural community and sells their produce. I found out in an agricultural community as we visited two houses where their basement is for mushroom production and they live on the second floor. The first floor was fully darkened but during our visit, the grower opened the door and the light came in for us to see the mushrooms.
Then we went to a farmer who related a story that she used to be sick but when she shifted to organic agriculture, she was healed and so she is using organic in her vegetable farm. She has fruit trees surrounding the property, but what was significant was she has a shed for her compost, a pond for her water trough and so I suggested we explore a training farm so others can learn. The challenge is if she can handle other people being part of her farm.
The side of a mountain was converted into a cactus production farm. However, she started to mix some products into the cactus as well. She has more than 12 varieties and is propagating these. She disposes of her cactuses in Wright Park on a regular basis. Amazingly this farm has been expanding through the years from a mere hobby to a business.
But the biggest surprise for me was when we hiked up the mountain and saw the coffee plantation. Climbing more than a hundred steps we passed by generation old coffee trees but what awed me was the new coffee trees that were planted as we climbed up higher. Interspersed were flowers, bamboo trees, fruit trees and in one clearing the burial grounds. In front of the abode was also an orange tree, where we picked some of the ripe fruits which we ate and tasted like the sweet Sagada orange. And the owner mentioned that yes, it was from Sagada.
In contrast, the benchmarking in Santo Tomas, the farmers brought us to terraces of strawberries of different varieties. Small and sweet as well as big and juicy berries, eating these as they were watered with spring water as we climbed the vegetable terraces filled with broccoli, celery and other plants.
The farmers were generous, as we left, they gave us some tokens. Sometimes it breaks my heart because I know it is a labor of love and a great sacrifice from them to spare us these fruits of their labor knowing that it would also have brought more cash into their operation. We love you our farmers in Baguio. May the strawberries fields, the coffee plantation and mushroom dark rooms continue as we support the farmers in their undertaking.