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July 21, 2016

Farmers are Part of Slow Food

Yes, it’s not just consumers and diners and chefs. It all starts with the farmer.

Slow Food is about enjoining farmers to keep planting our old heirloom varieties of food. And we have just the event cooked up (pardon the pun) for it on August 6 as our volunteer chef Margarita Fores (Asia’s Best female chef) shares her famous Grace Park restaurant menu with our farmers, yes real farmers that you the reader will help feed on this special day, this special lunch. We will finally break bread with the people who really feed us—the farmers.

Chit Juan, Farmers are Part of Slow Food, poster, 2016July22

As we were planning our third WOFEX event, we know that the public is really interested in helping preserve traditional cooking, heirloom varieties of rice and cacao and souring agents. What better way to cement the relationship between farmer and consumer but to have them come face-to-face. Just like people who have never touched soil, nor planted anything, many consumers have never met a farmer.

So we thought a special meal with a farmer may be a life-changing experience for both consumer and farm guy. The consumer knows about organic and slow food, but the farmers simply plants and reaps. We need to be on the same page. Plant old varieties. Use heirloom seeds. Practice natural farming. Nothing artificial. Use soil instead of other media. (That’s what Earthbeat Farms did. They shifted from hydro to soil).

Chit Juan, Young and Slow, Earthbeat Farms, 2016July8

Earthbeat Farms

And on August  6, we will be able to also talk to the farmers and ask why they do or do not yet grow our traditional varieties—like Siling Labuyo, Batwan, Sua, Tabon Tabon, and why they stopped growing heirloom rice varieties. It will be a fun lunch talking about the same ingredients our grandmothers used but maybe some farmers do not know anymore. It may be that they think there is no market for these “old varieties”. Not everything is about newer choices, higher yields, and seeds that are nowhere to be found (check out the prominence of seedless fruits now). It used to be that our mothers planted the very seeds in our fruits at the table in our backyards. Today, mothers are proud to find fruits that are happily seedless without thinking of its effects on farming and sustainability.

Siling Labuyo

Siling Labuyo

A naturopath doctor I know even recommends biting into seeds of a calamansi, for example, to get your daily “bitter pill”—she believes we all have to get our sweet, salty, sour and bitter tastes everyday so our immunity will always be at an even keel. But what if seeds disappear from fruits? How do we plant for the future? This is why we want fruits with real seeds, the way Nature intended them to be. Eat a fruit, plant the seed, grow the fruit again. Sustainability was designed by Mother Nature. But we, of course, mess with it and produce “seedless” anything for convenience we first think…but in the long run, it has killed our local varieties of fruits! You will need to keep buying seeds and this costs the farmer a lot of money rather than sowing his own seeds.

But our lunch is not just about seeds and endangered species. Our lunch will be a beautiful tribute to the farmer and to our Philippine culinary culture. It will open our eyes to what we should be eating everyday. It will remind us of lunches or parties at our grandmother’s house—where everything is made fresh and nothing is canned or processed. That is traditional Filipino cooking, which is actually starting to disappear if we do not act now.

Chit Juan, Looking For More Chefs, More Farmers, Gaita Fores, Aug15

And what is a people without a culture? What is a people who cannot talk about the traditional ingredients grown and harvested by their ancestors? Heirloom Mountain rice as we call it. Kamias in Kinilaw. Aratiles and Macopa as fruits for dessert. Duhat for summer eating. Suman and Pinikpikan. These are our traditional food  which we may lose if the farmer stops planting because we have stopped cooking.

Let’s meet the farmers and share our food stories with them. Come to our Ark of Taste lunch at SMX (within WOFEX) on August 6. A ticket will feed you and a farmer. He has been feeding us so it’s our turn to feed him or her, just this once, so he can continue to grow food for us. Thanks to Margarita Fores for saying yes to this benefit lunch.

See you there at WOFEX, albeit slowly.


Tickets can be bought at the gate. Donations start at P1,500 to feed yourself and a farmer. Call 0917-8001899 for reservations.

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