It is no secret that our local farmers get the short end of the stick and one of the main problems they are facing is the low prioritization from the government.
As individuals, there are small ways in which we can support our farmers. However small, if accumulated, they become a social movement. We may not be lawmakers or big corporations than can provide immediate solutions, but there is power in being a consumer.
Sharing conversations with people we have interviewed in the premises of market and farming, we’ve compiled six tips to make it easier for you to support local food producers.
- Buy from your local market (palengke)
Rosal Lim of Kusina ni Tito Ernie, a family-run restaurant in Abanico Street, shared the importance of supporting local farmers and ways to do this.
“Being raised by a family who farmed and fed me local food, I grew up recognizing how important it was to respect and support farmers. Buying from local markets, choosing local produce and eating from ingredients within your local radius is a simple way to do this,” Lim shares.
Lim is also the heart and mind behind Rurungan Sunday Market, providing venues for local merchants.
Here in Puerto Princesa, we have the old market in Malvar Street and the new market in Barangay San Jose. It is the best place to buy your fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and other pantry staples.
Your local palengke offers a diversity of fruits and vegetables. For the best selection, make it a habit to go early in the morning but for those who are kept from making it early, vendors would often offer discounts on what’s left at the end of the day.
- Practice fair trade, avoid haggling
You can hear this at most corners of the market, “Ate, wala po bang tawad?” But growing is not easy and we should avoid haggling with farmers as it takes time for certain types of produce to be ready for harvest.
If we educate ourselves how much hard work is put into growing produce – from expenses, labor, seeds and time, we would know how important it is to pay a fair price to our food producers.
- Eat seasonal and native produce
“In season” fruits are often more affordable than those that aren’t. This way, you do not only support our local farmers, but you also save money.
Make it a habit to familiarize yourself with native vegetables as a substitute to local salad greens we’ve gotten used to.
Earlier, a project conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), in coordination with the World Vegetable Center, launched the promotion of at least 10 indigenous Philippine vegetables.
The list includes alugbati, pako, ampalaya, himbabao, kulitis, labong, malunggay, upo, saluyot, and talinum.
The project proponents advocated for the aggressive encouragement of Filipinos to produce and consume local vegetables for sustainable and healthy living.
In the concept of “we are what we eat”, we have the power to take control of our food decisions; what we eat, what we buy, what brands we support.
Talking to Gia Querubin of Binhi Mindful Market, a community of organic farmers, merchants and shoppers sharing the same advocacy of mindful shopping, she emphasized the importance of knowing where our food comes from.
“Be aware of the broader context of where our food comes from. Eat local, organic and wild food like alugbati, talinum, kulitis and more. Natural sources of vitamin A can be found in our local veggies like kamote, kalabasa, malunggay,” Querubin shares.
She also encouraged protecting heirloom seeds, indigenous rice, and soil.
- Eat at farm-to-table restaurants
This is a type of movement that focuses on producing locally-grown produce and using it in restaurants. It’s a little expensive compared to eating anywhere else but it gives you the peace of mind that you know where your food is coming from.
Chatting with Beth Tugas, owner of La Virginia Farms in Sta. Lourdes, she spoke of the importance of patronizing farm-to-table restaurants as they deal directly with farmers.
“These operations deal directly with farmers and support their livelihood. Because no middle man is involved. The farmer and customer both win,” Tugas shares.
The farmers get fair prices for their produce and these are freshly delivered to customers as meals.
Tugas also spoke of how much food is wasted as supermarkets refuse to sell “imperfect” looking produce.
“This is critical both to farmers and our own food security. Imagine how much food is wasted because middlemen or supermarkets don’t want to purchase odd-looking fruits and vegetables,” she said.
“As farmers, we suffer so much when the market demands perfect-looking produce interpreted by the marketing.”
On organic farming, Tugas shared how produce is valued for freshness, not looks, in farm-to-table operations.
“Organic farmers are the worst-hit. Because we do not spray man-made chemical enhancers or pesticides, our produce are always in the natural harvest state,” Tugas said.
“They taste great but they rarely look perfect.”
Tugas shared her full support for farm-to-table restaurants.
“When you support authentic farm-to-table entities, you can be assured that the money you spend will go directly to helping farmers build their business, support their families, encourage their children of the viability of farming as a profession, and in turn support the local economy.”
- Help farmers market themselves
In Puerto Princesa, there are two-weekend markets organized by individuals who share the same advocacy in promoting local produce and providing venues to those who would like to extend their products to a bigger, wider audience.
Rurungan Sunday Market, happening every first Sunday of the month at Rurungan compound in Abanico Street, and Binhi Mindful Market, are two entities that are closely working with farmers and local merchants to gather and display items for sale.
From fresh produce, self-care items sourced from natural ingredients, eco-friendly alternatives, homemade cheese and yogurt, chili sauces from organically grown peppers, to pre-loved clothes, artworks, handmade jewelry, these market entities serve as a platform to connect merchants and buyers.
Lim said this is a way for them to show more support.
“We try to go a little bit further by engaging with communities and giving them venues to showcase their livelihood,” she said.
This coming Sunday, on September 15, Binhi Mindful Market and Rurungan Sunday Market will join forces as they celebrate Rurungan’s two decades of textile and craft innovation in Palawan, and Binhi’s year of advocating for a conscious and organic lifestyle.
Happening from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Rurungan compound in Abanico Street.
- Listen, share and amplify stories and information on local farmers
We show concern about the issue on R.A. 11203, otherwise known as the Rice Tarriffication Act and other critical issues faced by our farmers.
RA 11203, which was signed into law in February, liberalized rice importation in the country and was intended to solve the worsening rice shortage in the country.
Since its implementation, however, the law has been widely blamed for the plunging farm-gate prices of palay, or unhusked rice, to as low as P7 a kilo, causing an uproar among rice farmers.
Talking with a farmer from Narra who refused to be named shared his insights on the farmers’ situation today. He spoke of the unfair market mechanics and how farming, lately, has been reduced to subsistence farming and is a wilting profession.
“We lead to subsistence farming because of the unfair market mechanics,” he said. “We have a conflicting target. People want a low cost of food, which will kill the economic viability of farming as a profession. If the demand goes down, there’s a surplus. The farmer will cut the price to they can sell.
“The farming sector needs to continually expand the market through export. But we can’t compete with our ASEAN neighbors, may it be because of technology, government support, or natural calamities. Instead, they bring their surplus to us,” he said.
He spoke of farming as a losing profession.
“Income wise, the farmer is losing as he can’t dictate the game. But the farmer continues to plant because what else to do? Maybe look for another job? He’s lucky if he has other skills.”
Lim spoke of the importance of laws and programs supporting our farmers.
“As this world progresses and the need to feed people increase, we also need to push for legislation and programs to support the men and women who feed us,” she said.
Most anywhere in the world, the farmer has become our unsung heroes. People who are in the position to help should do so, however big, however small.
After all, they are only the ones that feed us.