More and More People are Going for Natural FoodNatural farming then is important as a way of farming. It is also important in sustaining economic production, and above all, the continuity of our ecosystems that we have placed in our hands. Given these premises the farmer today faces a new challenge worthy of the title, "the backbone of the nation."
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Good health and good food go together, doctors all over the world tell us. Even our children quite often explain to us the importance of proper nutrition, balanced diet, fortification with vitamins and minerals. They tell us to take high protein food, or ask us if we are taking adequate calories. Lately such terms, beta-carotene and good cholesterol have come into the picture.
Now I hear a new term, probiotics. The way I under-stand these substances is that they keep our body always on the alert to fend off stress as a result of overwork and diseases. They are front liners and act as defense shield, Now if probiotics and antibiotics (substances that directly kill germs) work together, can we then say we can have better health and longer life?
Apparently yes, confirmed a balikbayan United Nations official who is working on a new food source from cyanobacterla or blue green algae. Again, this is a revolution in food and agriculture by the fact itself that we are now taking unconventional food such as Spirulina, an ancient organism probably the first kind of living thing that appeared on earth.
Going back to the main topic, I would like to see the other side of the fence. There are many reported ailments and abnormalities, which are traced to the food we take, and it is not only for the lack of intake. Cancer for instance, is often related to food. So with high uric acid which leads to kidney trouble. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, high sugar level. Aftatoxin causes cirrhosis of the liver. Ulcers are food related. So with many allergies.
Given these premises, I would like to discuss a new frontier of agriculture which I believe4 is also the concern of other sectors of the food industry. It is not only that we must produce enough food. We must be able to produce quality food, which ensures good health, reduces risks to diseases and ailments, and prolongs life. This is the topic that I would like to take up with you in this special occasion, the 25th year or silver anniversary of NFA that I was once a part. I am going to talk about food, which should contribute to good health, long life, enjoyment, and peace of mind.
Here then are seven postulates to address this challenge to present day agriculture. We reckon the Green Revolution in the sixties which ushered production gains from improved varieties and techniques, followed by another wave in the seventies and eighties which was responsible in opening the fields of mariculture (farming the sea), and conversion of wastelands into farmlands. We soon realized that there is need “to go back to basics". Thus ecological farming was born. It is also farming with a moral cause: the enhancement of quality life, good health and long life on one hand, and the maintenance of an ecologically balance environment.
1. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO EAT FOOD GROWN UNDER NATURAL CONDITION THAN FOOD GROWN WITH CHEMICALS. This statement can be captured with one term "natural food". All over the world this is a label is found on food grown without chemicals. People are afraid of becoming sick because of the chemicals introduced into food. They know that chemical fertilizers and pesticides go with the crops and are passed on to the body destroying our organs and systems.
No artificial additives, please.
Additives such as food colorings and fillers are looked upon with suspicion.
2. PEOPLE ARE AVOIDING HARMFUL RESIDUES AND ARTIFICIAL ADDITIVES IN FOOD. A trace of certain farm chemicals is enough to condemn a whole shipment under the rules of the US Food and Drug Administration. One kind of residue that people are avoiding is antibiotics. Poultry and hog farms maintain high antibiotic levels to safeguard the animals from diseases. In so doing the antibiotics is passed on to the consumers. In the first place our body does not need antibiotics. But every time we eat eggs, chicken1 pork chop, steak, and the like, we are taking in cumulatively antibiotics. This makes our immune system idle. This punishes certain organs like the kidney and liver. To others, antibiotics cause allergy.
Another culprit is radiation. Traces of radiation can be hazardous. Many countries immediately took drastic action to avoid contamination following the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident ten years ago. Then we have toxic metals emitted from manufacturing and from vehicles. These are mercury, cadmium, and lead, to name the most common pollutants in our waters today.
3. PEOPLE ARE BECOMING MORE CONSCIOUS OF THE NUTRITION VALUE OF FOOD RATHER THAN ITS PACKAGING AND PRESENTATION. Many people now reject junk foods, even if their packaging is attractive. Softdrinks have taken the backseat, courtesy of fruit juices and mineral water. People have even learned that plant varieties have different levels of food value even if they belong to the same species. To a lesser extent this is also true among the different breeds of an animal species.
4. FRESHNESS IS THE FIRST CHOICE CRITERION FOR PERISABLE FOOD. Indeed there is no substitute to fresh-ness, a function of handling and marketing. The farmer has the first and direct hand in enhancing this quality. If he keeps his plant; healthy, their products will 'have longer shelf life. Products free from pest and diseases stay fresh longer.
5. FOOD PROCESSING MUST BE APPROPRIATE AND SAFE.
Processing such as drying, milling and manufacturing, is key to higher profit. The profit that is generated from it is referred to as value-added to production. Economists tell us that there is money in postproduction and marketing.
6. FOOD MUST BE FREE FROM PEST AND DISEASES.
It is shocking to find certain pest in food. So with the possibility that food is a carrier of disease organisms. Reports about infested NFA rice needs serious attention. Poor rice is an insult to the Filipino whatever is his economic status.
There has been news of food poisoning too, as a result of food deterioration, or contamination. Remember the Seven Eleven Store mass food poisoning? For a reputable establishment, such an accident deserves something to look deeper. What is the truth behind image building and advertisement?
7. FOOD PRESERVATION MUST ENSURE QUALITY, AND ABOVE ALL, SAFETY. Be aware of the fish that is stiff yet looks fresh. Be keen with formalin odor. Salitre is harmful, so with vetsin. Too much salt is not good to the body. I saw a puto maker use lye or sodium hydroxide to help in the coagulation of the starch. Sampaloc candles are made bright red with shoe dye. So with ube to look life real ube.
Now I am going to discuss in details each postulate as it applies to the farmer, and the condition of his farm. I will try to relate the issue with actual practices so that we can draw up innovations to improve them, as we explore technologies that would settle certain issues.
NATURAL FARMINGThe other name of natural farming as we all know is organic farming, that is the use of organic fertilizers instead of chemical fertilizer such as urea and NPK or complete fertilizer. In the US and Europe, people go for organically grown food. Lately in malls and big groceries, we find rice in package or bag labeled "organically grown rice". Let me point out that the use of organic fertilizer must be complemented by other factors.
First, the organic fertilizer must be free from pathogen that causes diseases. Second, it must not carry toxic waste or metal as this kind of fertilizer is manufactured from waste materials.
And third, It must go hand in hand with no spraying, or if it can not be helped, at least the spray used is biodegradable, such as substances that are of botanical derivatives like derris, neem and chrysanthemum.
Let me give you scenarios of natural farming.
1. Payatak method (Samar) - This is a local version of zero tillage. No plowing, no harrowing. A herd of carabaos trample of the soil until it turns puddle, then the one-month old seedlings are transplanted. No spray, no fertilizer. This is natural farming in the marginal sense, a carryover of traditional farming.
3. Multiple cropping model (Sta. Maria. Bulacan) - Here the farmer engages in the production of three commodities. For Narciso Santiago, national outstanding farmer, his 2.5-ha farm produces frults, vegetables and rice. He has several heads of carabao and cattle grown on homelot, pastured between the orchard trees. A pond supplies irrigation, as it produces tilapia and mudfish. Why three commodities? It is because they are closely integrated. This is the key to natural farming where there are a number of products to be desired. First the animals produce, other than meat and milk, manure for the plants, the plants produce food for the family and market, and they together with their residues give feeds to the animals. The pond is source of irrigation for the plants, principally rice and vegetables. It is a waterhole for wildlife for biological control. Because of its integrated structure and management. the farm itself becomes a balanced system. This is the key to sustainable production. This is ecological. farming.
4. Sloping agricultural land technology or SALT (Bohol) Call this natural farming even if the farm is a logged area. Precisely the idea is for the farmer to return the land to its natural state as much as possible. How does he do it? If one sees the model, the land has a grade of 20 to 40 degrees. The steeper the grade the more difficult it is to apply the system. Over and above 45 degrees the model may not work at all.) Here the contour of the slope is marked and outlined so that the sole of the plow, so to speak, will be level at all times. The contours are spaced uniformly, and the rows which follow the contour are planted at interval of annual and permanent crops.Mushroom growing: Pleurotus, Auricularia
5. The idea is for the permanent crops like fruit trees and firewood trees to sandwich the annual crops like peanut, rice, corn vegetable. The herbage of, say ipil-ipil, is used as organic fertilizer. Neem tree is used for pesticide. Lantana is a natural pest repellant, so with Eucalyptus. Legume intercropping and crop rotation replenish the soil of Nitrogen.
6. Modified models (rice and corn areas). Rice farming can be modified to suit the conditions of natural farming. There are farms today that rely entirely on homemade or commercial organic fertilizers. These are contracted farms to supply organically grown rice.
An equally important aspect of successful farming is cleanliness. This means no weeds, trimmed waterways, properly disposed farm wastes, efficient drainage, well arranged rows, properly scheduled farming activities, and the like. All this requires but low technology that is also affordable, and contributes to good health to both producer and consumer, and the whole community.
Genetically resistant varieties are chosen. Proper time of planting and harvesting is needed. We should know that clean farms, healthy plants and good management, are basic. What we are saying is that the use of chemicals is dispensable. To a single farmer, this is easier said than done. There is a need for collective and community effort, in which case farming , especially if it intends to shift to organic, likewise becomes more efficient as cost of production can be brought down.
Coconut farms (Southern Tagalog and Bicol). Seldom do we hear of coconut cultivation that follows the agronomic practices of other major crops like sugar cane or corn. Perhaps there is no plant more resistant than coconut. It is because it perfectly fits our soil, climate and latitude. It is indigenous to us. In fact it evolved with our islands and our culture. Evolutionarily and historically what I am saying is that natural farming is not new. And more importantly, it is a product of long years of development. It is not just acclimatization. It is co-evolution.
The message is that let us explore the richness of our biodiversity and our culture as a people to be able to understand the working of nature. Nature shows us the way. Nature, the way our ancestors knew then, is the nature we know today, except that we have embraced many changes in farming as well as in life style. Many of these changes had not passed the test of time.
In Laguna and Quezon, coconut is the dominant species of an ecosystem. The presence of man in the ecosystem has modified it to suit to his needs. For example, he has chosen only the trees and plants that grow between the coconut trees. Unknowingly he raises animals, which reduce the richness of plant species diversity.
We still see around well-established, stable coconut areas where man's intervention is kept low, but my fear is the current practice of logging old coconut trees for lumber.
Natural farming then is important as a way of farming. It is also important in sustaining economic production, and above all, the continuity of our ecosystems that we have placed in our hands. Given these premises the farmer today faces a new challenge worthy of the title, "the backbone of the nation." ~