Blessed are the farmers

Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II

Sheryl (not her real name) is a new grandma, a housewife, mother, farmer, and student all rolled into one. She was selling bunches of unsoy and spicy adobo peanuts one fine Saturday afternoon in Bendita, Magallanes, Cavite. I was told she was doing the extra work to augment her income while studying to get her senior high school diploma. Of course, she has children and a grandchild to take care of, a household to run, and a small business to manage.

A few kilometers from where Sheryl was selling her produce, right in front of the municipal hall, stood the business owners’ cooperative where the farmers, many of them women, deliver their goods and products for selling. One can find packets of locally grown coffee, sikwate, tea, muscovado sugar, whole peppers, banana chips, along with bottles of tomato pickles, homemade vinegar, chutney, and other food items. The mayor, Hon. Jasmin Bautista, fully supports the farmers and their cooperative by patronizing the products and produce whenever the municipal office gives out tokens for guests and visitors. The physical store is, of course, open to the public.

The Magallanes farmers have also organized a Pick and Pay system where customers can pick vegetables from the farm and pay for their fresh pickings before leaving. Produce that are not bought are turned into various food items like tomato powder, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato pickles, tea, and many more. I was told that private corporations that buy produce from the farmers usually impose strict quality standards—e.g., a certain size for potatoes and tomatoes—that sometimes good produce that don’t quite measure up to these guidelines are discarded. To avoid wastage, the farmers process them into various food items that they can sell via the cooperative and the Pick and Pay outlet.

As one can see in the illustrations above, hard work and resourcefulness are admirable qualities not just of the Magallanes farmers, but also of Filipino farmers, in general. They support one another, are generous and cheerful as they work, and are open to learning new technology and upgrading their skills to be able to cope with national and global developments. While they are self-reliant, they are likewise grateful for the support coming from the government, private partners, the general public, and even international partners. I was also informed that Canadian partners are currently working with the Magallanes farmers on capacity-building programs.

We really must be grateful for what is being done by the government for our agricultural sector and continue to rally behind our farmers in negotiating for better policies and programs to support their livelihood and the sector as a whole. While there are obviously numerous issues that need to be resolved at the moment—the skyrocketing prices of onions among them, obviously—it is also true that agriculture is, indeed, one of our country’s greatest resources that should be nourished better, prioritized, and given more attention.


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