By Vina Medenilla
Every April, the Philippines celebrates Filipino Food Month (FFM) or Buwan ng Kalutong Pilipino not just to preserve, promote, and support Filipino cuisine and culinary heritage, but also to give thanks to our local food producers.
This year’s celebration is spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Tourism (DOT), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM), with the theme “Pagkaing Pilipino, Susi sa Pag-unlad at Pagbabago.” (Filipino food, the key to development and change)
Among many events happening this month is KainCon, short for Kain Conference, which includes a series of webinars, cookfest, and culinary films.
NCCA and PCHM, together with Slow Food Youth Network Philippines (SFYN), bring KainCon webinars to everyone, which will be live-streamed via the Filipino Food Month’s Facebook page every Tuesday and Thursday from April 7-28, 2022.
It aims to gather “Filipino farmers, culinary historians, chefs, and gastronomic experts from the local food industry to discuss how we can influence local food cultivation and establish preservation initiatives that can transform the eating landscape.”
For the first KainCon webinar session, Al Linsangan, the owner of Coron Natural Farms in Palawan, discussed the importance of growing your own food.
During his talk, Linsangan admitted that before farming, he thought that vegetables in stores are the best ones due to their green, healthy-looking appearance.
Farming taught him that a perfect-looking leafy vegetable (one that is shiny and free of holes) does not always imply that it is of the highest quality. Rather, it is how the vegetable is cultivated that matters.
In some cases, shiny, flawless vegetables may also indicate that they are sprayed with chemicals, which are harmful when consumed.
On the other hand, veggies with holes in their leaves may also mean that they are organically grown. This is because dealing with pests naturally can be difficult since the usage of chemical pesticides is avoided.
“This is why it is important to know where your food is coming from. They must be fresh, green, healthy, and organically farmed,” said Linsangan.
Linsangan later understood that raising food organically is the healthiest option. Coron Natural Farms grows food naturally, which simply means that no chemicals are used to grow the crops.
“You know what you are eating, you know what’s getting inside your body, [and you’ll be sure] that this is fresh, good, healthy, and fair food,” Linsangan said on the benefits of growing food the organic way.
He went on to say that people sometimes think they are eating healthy when they eat greens, but they won’t realize it if they don’t know how their food is processed or produced.
As a father of two kids, Linsangan mentioned that cultivating crops also allows him to provide safe, nutritious, and high-quality food for his family.
Relay cropping = harvest continuously
Coron Natural Farm does not only boast growing crops naturally, but it also harvests crops continuously by practicing relay cropping. It is a multi-cropping strategy in which one crop is sown into an existing crop to ensure uninterrupted crop harvest.
He explained that other farmers can grow food without gaps in the food cycle by observing proper timing and planting appropriate crops per season, just like what he did with relay cropping.
When it comes to choosing the “right crop” to grow, Linsangan believes that growers should cultivate what they want to eat.
Growing food, for this farmer, should be a daily celebration. He added, “The more we use the soil properly, the richer and more productive it becomes, providing us with higher yields. A reason for you to celebrate life and harvest every day.”
The health crisis all the more underlined the importance of food for safety, survival, and livelihood. Therefore, growing your own food at home and making purposeful efforts to achieve self-sufficiency is crucial, especially since we are still in the grip of a pandemic.