By Vina Medenilla
Many Filipino families have a knack for food production. Farming skills and practices of old family members are passed down to younger generations by default.
Adele Eisma Woodward is a 54-year-old Filipina who adopted her family’s love for farming.
One of her motivations for growing a garden is to honor her late father who taught her the “power of seed.”
“Power of seed is when you release your hand to sow the seeds in good ground, watch it grow, and just look up and wait because you will reap what you sow in abundance! Seed is the foundation of good harvest,” Woodward explained.
Her affinity for plants grew beyond Philippine borders when she began raising her favorite veggies in her family’s South Carolina residence in the United States.
“The vegetables that I love to eat were very hard to find in my area, so my husband and I started to use our barren land for agriculture,” said Woodward.
Keeping a four-season garden
Woodward’s two-hectare backyard farm contains a variety of crops that change every growing season.
In spring, the farm is planted with Asian leafy greens like pechay, mustasa, heirloom rat-tail radish (Raphanus caudatus), bok choy, komatsuna or Japanese mustard spinach (Brassica rapa var. perviridis), mizuna or Japanese mustard greens (Brassica rapa var. nipposinica), and Egyptian walking onion (Allium × proliferum).
Every summer, Woodward gets to plant vegetables mentioned in the Filipino folk song ‘Bahay Kubo’ as well as other crops commonly found in the Philippines, such as ampalaya, patola, luya, saluyot, okra, kamote, sayote, kangkong, patatas, katuray, kadyos beans, turmeric, kamoteng kahoy, taro, lemongrass, malunggay, as well as herbs like oregano, basil, and mint.
Rare varieties of chili and tomato are also grown in Woodward’s garden during this period.
Guava, calamansi, lemon, pomelo, kamyas or bilimbi, kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix), jujube (Ziziphus), fig, tamarind, banana, langka, different berries, ginkgo or maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba), and longan are among the fruit-bearing trees in her backyard that flourish in the summertime, too.
During autumn, her farm is abundant in saffron spice that is harvested from the saffron crocus plant (Crocus sativus).
Woodward grows vegetables from spring to fall. Since she and her husband started the construction of their greenhouse, they will soon be able to cultivate more heirloom vegetables all year round.
When choosing plants to grow, Woodward says, “I always look for something rare and extinct. I love preserving those seeds for the next generations. We cannot rely on GMOs and become dependent on them year after year.”
She maximizes various organic materials on her farm like decaying leaves, animal dung (cow, chicken, goat, and rabbit), and worm castings for fertilizer.
In addition, she uses comfrey (Symphytum officinale) fertilizer tea, which she says is comparable to 10-10-10 fertilizer.
Every summer, the Woodwards irrigate the whole farm using a deep well due to infrequent rain.
Companion planting is also employed to save space and water. Growing plants that can naturally repel insects also protects crops from any infestation.
Deers, rabbits, and squirrels are the usual garden culprits. They’ve put up fences to shield their vegetables from any possible attacks.
Growing plants, according to the Filipina farmer, involves understanding the US’ planting zone to determine when to plant, what to plant, and what flourishes in certain areas.
Woodward, who works as a jewelry designer and geography and history teacher, is also known as a trusty seller of heirloom seeds among the Filipino gardening community in the US.
“As a Pinoy heirloom seed supplier here in the US, I make sure that our heirloom seeds are clean, unbleached, freshly harvested from the last crop, and US-grown for higher germination rate!”
She adds, “I individually pack them in thick small Ziploc or seed envelopes before they are shipped to different states to ensure it is moisture-free during transit delays due to ongoing pandemic.”
The years she spent living in America have not made her forget her Filipino roots. Thanks to farming, she was able to continue the legacy of her father.
Photos courtesy of Adele Eisma Woodward
For more information, visit Woodwards’ Asian Produce