If you were living in the city, no space nor land, how can you grow your own food?

By Sandy and Doc Rey
(Merging ideas of a natural farmer and a vet)

The photos of the vertical garden posted by Architect Daryl Subito Balmoria-Garcia on Facebook are always motivating and inspiring. I remember when she was first messaging us as she was starting out. Watching her grow her garden as the months passed was like seeing a baby crawl and walk. Now she was talking about vegetable juices and smoothies.

When we had the opportunity to visit Cebu recently, we took up Architect Balmoria-Garcia on her offer to visit her garden. She gladly picked us up for the short trip to Mandaue.

“We produce 30 liters of smoothies a day,” Balmoria-Garcia said. I noted that earlier, she said that she sold the smaller containers for Php100 each. After I quickly did the math, I blurted, “You sell Php9,000 worth of smoothies per day!” She then stopped and kept quiet; though she never computed it, yes, it was a good income from smoothies!

Here’s my computation. Balmoria-Garcia said that she sells each smoothie serving for Php100, and that each liter represents four of those smoothies. She uses recycled materials for her containers, does her own composting for her planting medium, and saves up seeds for planting. Watering and taking care of the area is a family affair, as is the preparation and delivery of juices, which they do themselves. Yes, they source some fruits, and this is why I computed her profits at Php300 per liter. Thus if 30 liters are sold per day, they make about Php9,000 from 20 square meters.

The moment we parked, we knew we would be led to an urban paradise. First, we were served smoothies. Varied flavors were brought out. Either they were very considerate, taking into account that we had different tastes, or the limitations of having a small space made it difficult for them to have volume production, or both. But one thing was for sure; the smoothies were good, and come to think of it now, it was a surprise to see the variety of what a 20-square meter area can produce!

Balmoria-Garcia’s husband Jose is connected with the Philippine National Police, and is the real farmer here. Daryl may do the design and the planning for small space utilization and be in charge of the aesthetics, but it is Jose who takes care of the planting and nurturing.

It is easy to go around the garden; you see everything by just turning your head from left to right and looking up a bit to the roof garden. Yes, it will also entail a lot of work to plant in small recycled containers and to water them individually. It takes Jose 3 hours a day to water them after he gets off his day job.

Hanging grape vines provide partial shade to this urban garden.

What are the benefits of planting your own food? He is able to give his family clean, safe, and healthy food. Just compute, and you will see the savings you can get. Add to that the now profitable business of selling the Sexy Greens smoothies. Now, people have also started visiting them. That is another profitable social endeavor they can look into: the urban agri-tourism sector. The story of how they got started is heartwarming.

Daryl’s mother fell ill and had been told by her doctor to accept the fact that she was just ‘waiting to go’. The family turned to other options and started juicing malunggay. In a few days, Mrs. Balmoria started getting better. There was no turning back on the juicing and learning how to be self sufficient in what they needed to grow clean and safe food. What better way to learn than growing your own?

Balmoria-Garcia was encouraged by our group to join the Organic Agripreneur Market being set up in Ayala Cebu. She was wary because she had never sold her smoothies at a mall, so it was a good thing that she allowed herself to be prodded into it, as their juices sold out fast. We wre honored to be asked to sit with a group for a round table discussion to make recommendations for the crafting of the Urban Agriculture Bill.

There’s more to it than just growing food in small spaces, if we want to take care of the environment and ensure food security and safe produce. So many things should be taken into consideration:

1) How do we encourage the owners of idle land to allow planting to take place on their lots?

2)What should be planted?

3) Where should we plant?

4) Should animals be allowed on urban farms?

5) What about zoning?

6) How can we ensure the support of government?

7) How do we educate consumers?

8) How do we disseminate information about this on the household and community levels?

During the public consultation for Urban Agriculture Bill that we attended at the Batasang
Pambansa, we were happy that there were a good number of congresspersons who attended and were interested in this sector of food security.

The concept of ‘urban’ sounds small, but think of where the majority of our people live: in the
cities. If we can convert their lifestyles to include growing their own food, even for some of us, it
will spell URBAN AGRI well.

Email spreadorganicagriculture@yahoo.com. Join Spread Organic Agriculture in the Philippines
(SOAP) on Facebook at https://www.facebook. com/groups/ spreadorganicagriculture/ and log on
to see the schedules of the free seminars.

This appreaded in Agriculture Monthly’s July 2014 issue.