YOU might say Wednesday's Organic na Negros! Organic Producers and Retailers Association (Onopra) 2010 General Assembly was a show of force.

The Audio Visual Room was jam-packed with members and applicants, including Negros Occidental's alta sociedad who hobnobbed with the small mountain farmers who pioneered the system in their subsistence farms to attain food security.

Except organic agricultural production is no longer produced to meet subsistence needs. It has gone commercial to earn additional incomes for their producers. First, from the Negros market. Tomorrow, the export markets.

Well, maybe not tomorrow. It's today. Negros Occidental is already home to Alter Trade Corporation, a pioneer in both the organic and fair trade niche markets of Europe and Japan. Its value chain has improved the quality of life of sugarcane workers who made good use of their Certificates of Land Ownership Awards to improve their incomes, send their kids to school and pay their taxes.

Then there's the Uy family of entrepreneurs. Ramón Senior is the industrialist who manufactures machines such as shredders to hasten composting to make organic fertilizers for organic farms.

Ramón Junior (Chinchin) avails of these machines to mechanize their less than a hectare of farmland in Silay. With mechanization, the Uy family has redefined the parameters of being a "small" farmer.

They proved British economist Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher right that small can indeed be beautiful. His ideas are often used to champion small, appropriate technologies that are believed to empower people more, in contrast with phrases such as "bigger is better."

Unlike the bigger haciendas which require land size to attain economic viability, their small farm has the scale to provide the organic market of Negros with steady supplies of organic (non-sugarcane) produce.

The General Assembly featured a history of organic agriculture that in the province that dates back to the 1990s. I remember back then that NGOs like the Broad Initiatives for Negros Development (BIND), the organization I worked for, introduced the system to different small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Back then, organic agriculture seems to have an "autistic" sense. Every NGO and people's organization are doing their own things and seldom found the occasion to work with one another. They carved their own worlds and almost never inter-acted with one another.

Then in 1998, BIND Executive Director Eva de la Merced went to Switzerland to make a presentation during a global meeting of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements based on its assisted-POs experiences. The theme then was "The World Goes Organic."

When she went back to Negros, she networked with kindred spirits at the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist. Together with the College of Agriculture of the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos, they organized the first "Negros Goes Organic."

The series of "Negros Goes Organic" usually timed its holding during global October 16 World Food Day celebration, which coincided with the Masskara festivities.

Then came 2005. I was in Columbia University in New York at that time. I often checked the local news over the computer lab of Columbia's School of International Public Relations. I read the Bacolod news that electrified me.

Then Negros Occidental Governor Joseph Marañon signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Negros Oriental Governor vowing to make Negros Island the organic food bowl of Asia. In the process, they created the Negros Island Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development.

An offshoot in 2006 was the coming together of various organic stakeholders to form Onopra. The Negros Goes Organic morphed into the yearly Organic Food Festival.

Those years of hard work had borne fruit. The Negrense local governments have adopted organic agriculture. Then it adopted Provincial Ordinance 007, Series of 2007 that banned the entry of GMOs to protect its organic agriculture. It has since then served as a model against the fight against these frankenfoods.

As the movie has shown during the Onopra General Assembly, Negros Occidental has shown to the world that it's now more than Sugarlandia. Governor Alfredo Marañon vowed to continue supporting organic agriculture in the province. Please email comments to