BY BENJAMIN SARONDO
East-West Seed (EWS) Philippines launched Vegetable Farmers Month on August 15, 2023, in Balai Mirasol Farm and Leisure, Caingin, San Rafael, Bulacan.
“EWS declares August 2023, for the first time in 40 years, as Vegetable Farmers Month to pay tribute, as thanksgiving, and in celebration of Filipino farmers for their contribution to food security in the Philippines,” Patricia Yu, EWS Consumer and Marketing Activations Manager, said. “Our goal is to improve the lives of smallholder farmers, and we assure you that in everything we do, we have the farmer at its core.”
Farmers from different areas of Bulacan and digital participants from around the world attended this three-part celebration.
The theme of the celebration is Bida Magsasaka, where EWS will showcase the heroic and inspiring stories of the vegetable farmers thriving in the field of agriculture despite the adversities they encounter.
Janice Leal, EWS Head of Marketing, emphasized that the farmers are the star of this celebration. And the company hopes to celebrate Vegetable Farmers Month every August, annually, to recognize Filipino farmers, who are the source of stability, food, and nutrition in the country.
The highlight of the program was the presentation of the Bida Magsasaka award to Johnny Gatuz from Bulacan and Eden Arquero from Nueva Vizcaya. Both shared their story of hard work, resilience, and passion for vegetable farming.
Eden Aroquero and Johnny Gatuz receive certificates from EWS Heads in recognition for sharing their inspirational vegetable farming stories. (Benjamin Sarondo)
Johnny Gatuz is a former Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) who worked as a construction worker and came back to the Philippines to venture into vegetable farming. “I went home to do the thing I love, which is farming, and later on I became more passionate about it because it gives me income, and I can say that my heart belongs to it,” Gatuz said in Tagalog.
Gatuz is also a YouTube influencer with more than a hundred thousand followers who shares his knowledge about vegetable farming and inspires other people to also have an interest through his channel, “Tatay Johnny TV.” Most of his viewers are OFWs who want to come back to the Philippines and start farming.
Another Bida Magsasaka is Eden Araquero, who started farming just for her family’s consumption and later turned it into a business. Araquero shared that she committed to vegetable farming when her husband retired from military duty. From a small backyard, she now manages her 5-hectare farm in Nueva Vizcaya.
Araquero said, “I can recall one time when our child needed to complete a school form that asked for the parent’s occupation; their father said put farmer, but they insisted why not just indicate retired AFP?” But now, Araquero said, her child’s perception of farmers changed, and became proud of them. And some days they join them and do tasks on their farm.
Vegetable Farmers Month Overview
EWS also kicked-off of its social media campaign #BidaMagsasaka which will highlight the experiences of Filipino vegetable farmers. They can share their stories online until August 27, 2023, to inspire other people. The company will select three outstanding stories that will also receive cash prizes and be featured by EWS.
And throughout August, EWS will also be giving P1,000 worth of discount coupons to farmers during their nationwide caravans, which can be used to buy seeds of sweet pepper, corn, pumpkin, yard-long bean, tomato, hot pepper, eggplant, watermelon, bitter gourd, and cucumber.
VeggiQuick Food Tasting and Guided Vegetable Farm Tour
The attendees had a chance to taste the products from the harvested vegetables at the VeggiQuck Food Tasting, such as kalabasa turon, Sugar Baby Max cupcakes, veggie burger sliders, eggplant meatballs, and many more.
At the Vegetable Farmers Month launch and media day, attendees tried different products from the harvested vegetables. (Benjamin Sarondo)
The last part of the program for Vegetable Farmers Month’s launching day was “Be a Farmer for a Day!”
Johnny Gatuz, a Bida Magsasaka, gave the attendees a tour of his 3.5-hectare vegetable farm, located at the back of Balai Mirasol Farm and Leisure. He shared his knowledge and skills with the attendees on the process of farming, from seed sowing to transplanting and harvesting.
Attendees experienced seed sowing and other farming activities such as plant transplanting and harvesting. (Benjamin Sarondo)
He also answered the questions of the attendees and gave tips and techniques on how to effectively complete the process of farming for a consistent harvest. He then showcased all the harvested vegetables from his farm and explained how they were different from other vegetables available in the public market and online.
Johnny Gatuz introduced the attendees to his eggplant area and allowed them to harvest their own. (Benjamin Sarondo)
East West Seed’s Vegetable Farmers Month 2023 runs from August 15 until the first week of September.
Photo courtesy of Benjamin Sarondo