Blooming urban farming in Angeles City, one of the pandemic’s benefits

“FARMERS SHOULD be held with the same respect as doctors for they both keep us alive and healthy” – Will Allen, the godfather of urban farming. With much of the world locked down to prevent the spread of COVID19, it has reduced pollution and revealed again the beauty of nature free from traffic and noise and most of us are  craving for any good news we can get. Global air and water pollution has plummeted in many places. Even wildlife seems to be bouncing back. But let’s face it, these developments likely won’t last long once we venture in the outdoors again. Now, with the gradual resumption of business activities, we should all be more responsible for looking after our environment as our natural shelter.

A number of people growing their own food at home or collaborates with local farmers has surged in recent months. People, planners and governments should re-evaluate how land is used in cities particularly in Metro Manila and in the countryside. Urban farming improves food security and nutrition, cushions climate change impacts, and lower stress. If store shelves appear empty, don’t blame the farmers, traders, or maybe the PNP checkpoints. Blame the guy who loaded up three carts of produce because he figured it’s the end of the world. Yes, in times like these, panic buyers are the real threat to food security. Urban farming could be modest as a window slab, rooftop, old tires, and plastic bottles. And backyards aren’t off-limits either. Why waste all that sunlight on grass when you can have organic fruits and vegetables?

Angeles City is a city that never sleeps. Who would ever thought a first class highly urbanized city— landscaped dominantly with concrete edifices, vibrant with local and international culinary, entertainment, commercial and financial hub— coats a shining jewel in agri-tourism farming. Just a stone throw away from our home in Cutcut is Tibby’s farm. It’s an educational agri-tourism destination teaching visitors about the benefits of responsible and sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and authentic farm experience within the city. The farm was founded as a social entrepreneurship venture by Atty. Angelo Valencia and his family who believe that the future of the Philippines lies not in the cities, but in the countryside. The farm boasts of a 5-hectare lot, with a large portion of the farm dedicated to growing crops including fruits and vegetables. The fertilizer used for plants are all natural and organic, making use of animal waste. No pesticides or chemicals are used in spraying produce. Visitors are taught what kind of crops to plant, trained on how to make their crops sustainable and linked to possible customers and other resources.

During a family reunion, I bumped into a relative of mine who happens to be an agricultural technologist, Rea Dizon of the Angeles City agriculture office, claiming that urban farming is thriving in this city amid the pandemic. She attributed to Mayor Carmelo “Pogi” Lazatin’s food security program “Gulayan sa barangay at sa paaralan” which was widely practiced in target areas even before the COVID19 crisis.  It’s a natural organic farming under the urban agriculture and greening program for the city’s 33 barangays. It was launched in agricultural barangays  particularly Cuayan, Sapangbato and Pulung Maragul. Village officials and residents are now well-equipped with technical know-how and capability to provide seminars and trainings. Furthermore, trainors’ training for housewives, out-of-school youth and booming farmers were also held in Sto.Domingo, Pandan, Cutud, Margot, and Anunas to augment local instructors in various villages. On top of that, Executive Assistant IV Reina Manuel explained that Lazatin’s sustainability program addresses the impact of the pandemic because urban farming maximizes food production and encourages every household to make their own vegetable garden and produce that is safe, healthy and nutritious. It’s also an income opportunity to farmers and making Angeles City a smart and green city. Manuel added that Lazatin’s “Lingap Lugud” relief operations include distribution of vegetable seedlings (okra “ladies’ fingers or ochro”,  talong “eggplant”, sili “chili”, kalabasa “squash”, pechay “cabbage”, ampalaya “bitter gourd”, upo “bottle gourd”, mustasa “mustard leaves”) to propagate organic food in the city.

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FEEDBACK: (Column entitled, “Virus research center to rise in Clark?”)

Bro. Miguel Morales, senior pastor, Maui Evangelical Church, Hawaii, USA“Very encouraging article. I for one will be praying and hoping that this research center will become a reality not only to find treatment and cure for Covid-19 but for future viral threats as well. I also hope that many sectors will step up to support this project, particularly the business sector. Mark AC Sison You’re doing a great job bro! I enjoy and learn from your writings. Keep it up! God bless you too! Smarter, better, stronger together! God bless the Philippines!”