Many people are hesitant to switch to organic produce because it is typically more expensive. But if you consider the potential gains, you’ll see that it’s worth it: According to some research, switching to organic means you avoid harmful pesticide residue and genetically modified organisms, and potentially get more nutrients.
Another advantage goes beyond personal health: By going organic, you help protect the environment and support local farmers and their communities. After all, producing organic food means using more sustainable farming methods that help preserve soil health, retain biodiversity, reduce surface run-off, and retain the air and water quality of the surrounding communities. Purchasing locally grown food also reduces your carbon footprint as it takes less resources and energy to deliver the goods compared to imported produce.
But while organic farming is well and good for the land, the communities, and the consumers, many small-scale farmers are still hesitant to make the switch.
Supporting Small-Scale Farmers
According to a paper entitled “Sustainable Land Management Adoption and Implementation Constraints,” there are a number of barriers that keep farmers from adopting more sustainable methods:
- the knowledge it requires, especially since farmers are used to more conventional methods like using chemical pesticides and fertilizers (sometimes passed on from previous generations)
- the amount of work involved, as preparing organic fertilizers can be labor-intensive and time-consuming
- the expense, as materials for organic fertilizers may be more expensive than mass-produced chemical fertilizers
- the yield, as crops protected by chemicals tend to produce more
- the cost of certification
Small-scale farmers must thus be given the knowledge and the means to make sustainable farming a viable option.
Enter Our Farmers’ Haven Federation (OFH), a non-profit, non-stock, non-political network of organic agriculture practitioners committed to helping small organic farmers. It was organized by members of the Diocese of Baguio-Benguet in Northern Luzon, in line with the Diocese’s advocacy of establishing a social action program that aims to address poverty, education, wellness, and the care for the natural environment.
OFH’s organic program, which started in 2016, ticks all these boxes, giving farmers the knowledge to help them earn more while protecting the soil and the health of both consumers and communities.
The program was initially established to assist small-scale organic farmers in marketing their products. This was because Rev. Fr. Bede Lee, K.M.S.; a Korean Catholic Missionary Priest, believed that more systematic and effective marketing of organic products is necessary for farmers and consumers alike.
Three years later, the small-scale farmers of OFH have become stewards of sustainable farming. Some of their practices include:
- multi-cropping, which means growing two or more crops on one piece of land to sustain and promote biodiversity
- crop rotation, which means growing different crops per season to preserve soil health, as well as intercropping
- using Oriental Herb Nutrient as an alternative to synthetic pesticides to keep harmful pests away
- using natural fertilizers and nutrient plant supplements such as Fermented Plant Juice, Fermented Fruit Juice, and Fermented Amino Acid, which they make themselves
Farmers also enrich the soil using compost that is rich in organic matter, grass clippings, and other natural components. They have also erected makeshift greenhouses for some of the crops and have gained the necessary knowledge to grow beautiful, nutritious, and natural fruits and vegetables for the consumers.
“Our organic method of farming has now gained recognition from my family. When my children come home from school they immediately run to our organic farm and enjoy helping me and my wife manage some simple tasks. This is totally different from their previous routine of running to the internet shop when we still practiced conventional farming” Quoted from Mr. Marty Toyaoan of Guebang Organic Farms in Lo, Buguias.
“Organic farming helped me incorporate the vegetables I plant into our meals at home. Before organic farming, we never tasted what we planted because we knew we had used some synthetic chemicals to grow them.” Quoted from Christ the King Parishioners of Tublay Demo Farm in Daclan, Tublay. Benguet.
It can be challenging to grow organic produce but OFH’s small-scale farmers are committed to using honest, sustainable practices. You can show your support by purchasing their produce from Healthy Options. Not only do you get to do something good for your health, but you get to help other people and the environment, too.