- Go for Fresh, Natural, and Locally Produced Food
- Natural Farming Models
- Live Naturally in your Home
Part 1: Go for Fresh, Natural, and Locally Produced Food
It's not enough that we produce food. We must produce food that ensure good health, reduce risks to diseases and ailments, and prolong life. We must produce food that also insures the health of our environment and the stability of the ecological system.
Typical fruit stand, UP Diliman QC
While science and technology continue to explore new ways to increase food supply with genetic engineering, people are yearning for organic food – or naturally grown food.
Here are issues raised by the proponents of organic farming.
1. Many ailments and abnormalities are traced to the food we take. Cancer for instance, is often related to carcinogenic substances. High uric acid leads to kidney trouble. High cholesterol and high sugar levels are associated with high blood pressure and diabetes. Aftatoxin causes cirrhosis of the liver. Ulcers are food-related, so with many allergies.
2. Proper nutrition and balanced diet can be attained by eating the right kind and amount of natural food without fortification with vitamins and minerals, and other forms of altering food value. Thus there is no need to process food unless it is really necessary. Fresh foods – vegetables, fish, and the like – are still the best. And why modify the genetic composition of crops and animals? Leave that to nature. Nature knows best.
3. Taking excess foods rich in animal fat and protein, and foods high in calories foods has predisposed many people to overweight conditions. Gaining unnecessary weight leads obesity now an epidemic sweeping many countries today particularly in cities where there is a proliferation of fast foods and junk foods. Or simply there is too much of the “good life” – excess in food and pleasure. In the US today one out of five Americans is an obese, two are overweight.
4. There are natural substances that keep our body always alert to fend off stress due to overwork and diseases. They are known as probiotics. We get probiotics from fruits and vegetables. We also get them from seaweeds, mushrooms, yoghurt, algae such as Chlorella, and Cyanobacteria such as Spirulina. And there are many more sources that occur in nature. We are beginning to realize that eating foods rich in probiotics and antibiotics (substances that directly kill germs) makes us healthier and live longer.
These are the rules set by the advocates of organic farming.
1. It is always better to eat foods grown under natural conditions than those developed with the use of chemicals.
This statement can be captured with one term "natural food". All over the world this is a label found in food grown without chemicals. People are afraid of becoming ill because of chemicals introduced into the food. There are banned pesticides still in used such as methyl parathion, endosulfan, DDT, BHC, among others. These are also harmful to all living organisms and to the environment.
2. People are avoiding harmful residues of antibiotics and pesticides.
Poultry, hogs and cattle are given high levels of antibiotics to safeguard the animals from diseases. As a result, the antibiotics are passed on to the consumers. Unless we are ill, the body does not need supplemental antibiotics. We have adequate natural sources. Every time we eat commercial eggs, chicken, pork chop, steak, and the like, we are taking in antibiotics which accumulate in our body, shutting off our immune systems, punishing our kidney and liver. To many people, antibiotics cause allergic reactions.
3. People are getting scared of food contaminated by radiation. Nuclear reactors are being built in many countries as a fallback to fossil fuel.
With the recent nuclear plant meltdown in Fukoshima, Japan, the Chernobyl nuclear incident in Russia, and that of the Three-Miles Island nuclear plant in the US, people have become wary about the consequences of fallout. A trace of radiation can be absorbed by grass in the pasture, finds its way to milk, then to infants. Radiation can remain active for hundreds of years. People are still dying today in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, more than sixty years since the bombing of the two cities with the first atomic bomb.
4. People are becoming aware of the deleterious effects of toxic metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium.These find their way through the food chain and ultimately reach humans. They escape to the air and enter our lungs, as in the case of dusts from old paints. Since they are in soluble compounds, they are easily absorbed by plants and animals. Kangkong (Ipomea reptans) for example absorbs lead. Tuna has high mercury in its tissues and liver. Cadmium from batteries is absorbed by crops.
5. People are becoming more conscious of the nutritional value of food rather than its packaging and presentation.
More and more people are shunning away from junk foods, in spite of their attractive packaging. Soft drinks have taken the backseat, courtesy of fruit juices and mineral water. People have even learned that different plant varieties have different levels of food value. Beans grown on naturally fertile soil have higher calorie and protein content than those grown on poor soil, or with chemical fertilizers. This is also true with animals. Animals raised with proper nutrition give meat, milk and eggs with higher protein, minerals notwithstanding.
6. Freshness is the primordial rule in choosing a perishable food.
There is no substitute to freshness. While freshness is a function of efficient handling and marketing, the farmer must enhance farm-to-market freshness. By keeping his standing plants healthy, his produce will stay longer on the shelf life. Products that are free from pest and diseases also stay fresher and longer. Too much water or fertilizer reduces shelf life of the commodity.
Buko is a complete food
7. Food processing must be efficient and safe.
Food processing, such as drying, milling and manufacturing is key to higher profits. Whenever feasible, food must reach the table fresh. But processing is designed to extend the shelf life of perishable commodities. There are products that require processing before they are used. These food items include vanilla, coffee, cacao, wine and vinegar, soya, fish sauce and the like. Profits generated through processing are value-added to production.
8. Food must be free from pest and diseases.
By all means, food must be free from insects and pathogens. There are cases of food poisoning as a result of food deterioration, or contamination. Take salmonella and E. coli. Khapra beetle in grains may even cause death to animals. Weevils hasten the deterioration of the food.
9. Food preservation must ensure quality, and above all, safety.
Be aware of the fish that is stiff, yet looks fresh. It is easy to detect the odor of formalin. Salitre is harmful, so with vetsin or MSG (Monosodium glutamate). Too much salt (sodium) is not good to the body. Some puto makers add lye or sodium hydroxide to aid coagulation of the starch. We wary of sampaloc candies enticingly made red with shoe dye. The same diluted dye is used with ube manufacture to make it look like the real violet-colored tuber.
10. Beware of GMOs.
Many countries warn of the potential dangers of genetically modified food and food products, popularly called Frankenfood, after the novel Frankenstein, a mad scientist who created a monster. This move is not only to safeguard health, but also the environment. Genetically modified plants and animals – as well as bacteria, protists and even viruses – are now a threat to the natural gene pool, giving rise to a new kind of pollution - genetic pollution. Once a gene pool of a certain species is contaminated with a GMO genetic material, the genic pollutant cannot be eliminated, even in subsequent generations. Thus, it also disturbs natural evolution.
No GMO, please, for the sake of the children.
Next time you go to market, remember these guidelines. Why not convert that idle lot to raise food that is safe to your health and the environment? That little corner could be the start of a new green revolution.
Part 2: Natural Farming Models
The other name of natural farming is organic farming. In the United States and Europe, the trend now is for people to reach for organically grown food. In malls and large groceries, we find rice labeled "organically grown."
Mere substitution of fertilizer from chemical to organic is not enough. The organic fertilizer must be free from pathogens, toxic waste and metals.
The crops and animals must not be products of genetic engineering, meaning they should come from natural gene pools.
Natural farming also requires the absence of chemical spraying. If it cannot be avoided, the spray must be biodegradable, using botanical derivatives like derris, neem and chrysanthemum.
Here are scenarios of natural farming in the country.
1. Payatak method (Samar) - This is a local version of zero tillage. No plowing, no harrowing is done. A herd of carabaos trample over the soil until it turns into puddle, then the one-month old rice seedlings are transplanted. There are no sprays or fertilizers. This is natural farming in the marginal sense, a carryover of age-old tradition.
2. Mixed orchard (Zambales) – This is a stand of several kinds of trees, where orchard, firewood trees and forest trees grow together. These trees follow a natural pattern of arrangement. They have no common pest and need soil fertility differentially. The trees have their own niche and grow into layers resembling storeys. Management is simple and practical.
3. Multiple cropping model (Sta. Maria. Bulacan) - The farmer engages in the production of three commodities. A two-hectare farm may produce fruits, vegetables and rice, plus several heads of carabao and cattle. A pond supplies irrigation and produces tilapia and hito.
Why three commodities? It is because these commodities are closely integrated. First, the animals produce, other than meat and milk, manure for the plants. The plants produce food for the family and market. Plant residues are made into animal feeds and compost. The pond is source of irrigation. It is a waterhole for wildlife conservation, too. Because of its integrated structure and management the farm becomes a balanced system. This is the key to sustainable agriculture, otherwise known as ecological farming.
4. Sloping agricultural land technology or (SALT in Bohol). Call this natural farming even if the farm is a logged over area. The idea is for the farmer to revert the land to its natural state as much as possible. How does he do it? If one sees the model, the land has a slope of around 20 degrees. The steeper the grade the more difficult it is to apply the system. It does not work for slopes above 30 degrees.
In SALT, the contour of the slope is marked and outlined. The contours are spaced uniformly, and the rows that follow the contour are planted at intervals with annual and permanent crops. The idea is for the permanent crops (like fruit trees and firewood trees) to be sandwiched with annual crops (like peanut, rice, corn, and vegetable). The ipil-ipil herbage is used as organic fertilizer. The Neem tree is used for pesticide, while Lantana (L. camara) is a natural pest repellant, so with Eucalyptus. Legume intercropping and crop rotation replenish the soil of Nitrogen and other elements.
5. 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. An equally important aspect of successful farming is cleanliness. This means effective weed removal, trimmed waterways, properly disposed of farm wastes, efficient drainage, well arranged rows, and properly scheduled farming activities. All these activities require low technologies that are also affordable. Together they contribute to good health for both the producer and consumer - and the environment.
As more people go for organically-grown food, agriculture becomes more environment-friendly, which is the essence of ecological farming.
Part 3: Live Naturally in your Home
Rustic scene of peace, a respite from city life,
1. Aesthetic beauty – Beauty and function must go hand on hand. There is a saying, “useless each without the other.” In science, morphology (form) enhances physiology (function), and vice versa. Maganda na, napapakinabangan pa. You need the sensitivity of an artist, and the green thumb of a gardener.
2. Food Security – It is having food grown in our garden, and processed in our kitchen. The concept of food security is in our hands, and in anticipation to our needs. All year round you can plan out what to plant and process, as how many times you can raise these products. Consult the planting calendar, practice effective techniques such as crop rotation, intercropping, and storey cropping. Plant those known to be best adapted in the area.
3. Livelihood – What you produce more than yourself and your family, you sell to the community and to the market, if the volume warrantees. These are produced directly from the garden – vegetables, fruits, fish, meat and eggs. Or these are products of cottage processing like salted eggs, patis and bagoong, wine and vinegar, toge, pickles, jam, jelly and the like.
4. Ecological Sanctuary – Offer a home for the homeless - the orphans and the endangered organisms which humans have driven or displaced. Make your home their sanctuary, maybe their last bastion. Your home is an extension of the wildlife, of a ecosystem, or a natural park, so that if the whole community adopts the same concept, we would in effect create a contiguous areas large enough to be considered a prototype ecosystem.
5. Buffer Zone – Keep your home free of dusts and unburnt carbon, and obnoxious gases mainly CO2, CO and S02. Trees and other plants serve as buffer to direct light and ultraviolet rays. They also buffer sound waves, reducing the extreme decibels generated by traffic and electronics.
6. Mini climate – A garden surrounding a home does not only reduce temperature, buy moderates its extremes and sudden changes. They generate of O2 , while absorb CO2 which they need for photosynthesis. Relative humidity is regulated, and deadly rays such as those emitted by communication transmission towers are reduced to a safe level.
7. Sense of Permanence – The home offer a permanent abode, opposite to transience, rootlessness, and impermanence. People tend to move from place to place – a neo-nomadic trend today. We establish our genetic and cultural “roots” not only of one generation but of the next and future – if we have a home we really call home. It reminds me of the beautiful poem and song, Home Sweet Home. I remember my dad who planted seedlings of trees when he was already very old. These trees, he said, will be for you and my grandchildren, his eyes twinkling with a sense of pride. Can you imagine an old, old mango or mabolo tree in your backyard? How many passersby have found comfort under its shade? How many tenants did it serve – in its roots to its leaves?
8. Recreating a Lost Garden – A recreation of Paradise Lost, the foundation of many faiths, is a key to attain spirituality. It is in the loss of a once beautiful world that challenges us – whatever our religion is – to be able not only to survive without it, but to be inspired and guided to rebuild it. It is yet the greatest prayer we can offer to that Higher Principle.
9. Family Unity – A family that lives together in unity and harmony with Nature stays together. This has a basis found in biology and ecology. Only when the members of a system know their roles and respect each other can we really find peace and unity.
10. Community Involvement – No man is an island. In the city we can live without even knowing our neighbors. Condominiums are but multiple compartments. There is no sense of neighborhood or community. Each to his own. And we do not know if the occupant of one compartment will be the same next week.
American bungalow, most copied home design
Sketch on a bond, an aerial view of a home garden you have in mind, and if there is one
that already exists, study and analyze which aspects are applicable in your particular situation. Definitely the house and the garden should be contiguous in the sense that, like the concept of the American bungalow, “one step is in the garden while the other is in the house.”
How aptly stated; the imagery needs little explanation. The level of the floor is the level of the garden. Not necessarily. It means, you have but one lifestyle whether you are in the house or in its surroundings. Better said, you are at home whichever part of your home you are in. Of course some people would like their house to be treated apart of the surroundings, but if you adopt the Bahay Kubo concept and adjust it to fit into the basic amenities of living today, then our model is like the American bungalow but Filipino style.~