And we got to get ourselves back to the garden PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 14:32

CALAMBA, Laguna – Just past the high-tech industrial park, a country road winds it way to the past, in a rustic setting that brings one back to the land.
The future, though, is not far behind, in what Gil Carandang of Herbana Farm calls “quantum agriculture” which taps subtle fields of energy to communicate with cellular DNA and grow plants and animals without the use of chemical fertilizers, weed poisons and pesticides.
But that is getting ahead of the story.

After Ateneo de Manila, major in psychology, Carandang grew sugarcane the conventional way in his father’s farm in Batangas. Tiring of that, he went to the United States where he did corporate work for 14 years.

After what he calls a midlife crisis, he returned to the Philippines and went into organic farming in a 4-hectare land inherited from his mother.
Then back to the U.S. in 2002 as a Fulbright scholar at the University of California Sta. Cruz where he honed his skills in organic farming.

“Let’s get back to the land,” he tells a weekend group of rich urbanites who have paid P1,000 each to partake of a Harvest Festival, inclusive of lunch, a cooking demo from a Makati chef, lectures on the Raw Food Movement and organic piggery – and 2 kilograms of whatever you can harvest from the garden.

As quickly as he states that, Carandang says the farm earns a lot of money each week, “and I work for only one day,” referring to the popular Herbana Farm stall at the upscale Saturday market in Salcedo Village, right smack in the middle of Makati’s capitalist enclave.

“Income crop is what we sell because you can’t grow clothes,” he explains.
There is certainly profit to reap. “It has become a novelty to eat organic. I grow lettuce at a production cost of P10 a kilo and sells it for P280,” he says. “We lowered the price in Greenbelt and nobody bought it because they thought it wasn’t organic.”
Carandang wants to make organic food more accessible to the public.

“A farmer grows organic vegetable at P30, sells it at a gate price of P50, and it reaches consumers at P200,” he says. “I have nothing against middlemen, but not at the expense of the farmer who barely makes a living and the hardworking consumer, while the middlemen get rich.”

“What we need is a social trader, or a capitalist with a conscience. What we propose, an idea that originated in China, is to create a consumer group, merge it with a farmer group, maybe the chef or whoever in between, and deliver good quality organic food at reasonable and fair prices.”
Instead of paying P200 a kilogram, a consumer pays P100; but he or she is committed to buy the farmer’s organic crop.

“We should try to get healthy by eating right,” Carandang continues. “Most of the ailments we have are linked to the foods that we eat.”
He is also behind the organic piggery movement that was launched last year as well organic aquaculture and poultry raising.
“Join us in healing the earth because the main culprit in environmental degradation is agriculture,” he says.

“We have nothing against genetic engineering, such as fermentation and making wine which is biotechnology,” Carandang explains.
“But organic farming basically means no chemical fertilizer or inorganic pesticide. In livestock, no antibiotics, growth hormones and chemical additives. And no genetically modified organisms.

“The most important is sustainability, the ability to produce food in perpetuity,” he says. “What we take from the land, we revert back to the land; this is the essence of organic farming.”

“If agriculture depends on fertilizing the land with petroleum-based chemicals, and the oil will not be there forever, then that is not sustainable,” he says.
“We don’t talk the ideology of the left or the right, but the ideology of the environment because we have only one land, air, water,” Carandang points out, adding that the sustainable way is the only way. -- PAUL M. ICAMINA