Le Farm

Hello all! It’s Monday night here, so I’m doing my blog just like I said I would (hey, I never specified which Monday). We have two (2) weekends to talk about and an entire week, so buckle in!

Last last weekend me and L headed up to Enchanted Farms, the Gawad Kalinga (GK) farm where a lot of produce is grown and many a social enterprise begin. It is home to SEED, which you can read about here. Thursday night we stayed in Quezon City (which took us several hours to get to – traffic) with Ate Trina’s friends. I’m happy to say I finally got to try lambanog. Review: it was okay!

Friday morning we set off to the Human Nature flagship store and office (also in Quezon City) early, and stuck around until half a dozen other new employees arrived. I guess all Human Nature employees – or at least the ones that work in the office – get to visit the farms, which is pretty neat! We all ended up taking a van and drove first to a Gawad Kalinga community that was nearby. We didn’t stay for very long, but I got to see the colorfully painted concrete houses that I had heard (and read) so much about. The community was still very visibly poor, but at the very least the families living there had reliable, dry shelter, as opposed to dilapidated housing that is far too common elsewhere.

We arrived at Enchanted Farms around noon, and had a fantastic lunch (around 30% of every meal served there is sourced from the farms). I had some kind of tasty juice that was a cool blue color (I’m fairly certain it was turmeric but google images is showing an orange-colored juice) and put a little too much chili sauce on my fish and rice. After a brief introductory video that featured a few GK social entrepreneurs, we were off to tour the farm and surrounding facilities.

Our tour guide, Jojo(?) Lopez, was a little older than me and incredibly passionate about ending poverty in the Philippines. It was hard even for me to not be optimistic when he spoke about uplifting the poor. We found out Saturday night while singing videoke that he is also incredibly passionate about One Direction, as evidenced by his first name on Facebook being “Harrystyles”. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The many social enterprises associated with Gawad Kalinga

We ended up digging some plant beds in a kind of open greenhouse area, as well as touring the various social enterprises that are based on the farm, including Bayani Brew (specialty teasan beverages), First Harvest (various food spreads), Plush and Play (adorable plush toys), and Ambension Silk Enterprise (Eri silk products). After, the rest of the Human Nature crew headed back to the office, leaving me and L to spend the night, tragically sans wifi.

First time I’ve seen a pineapple growing

The following day was a bit underwhelming, as we didn’t actually have anything planned until 1pm, which we found out after waking up Jojo at his house around 9am after a delightful breakfast. So, I went swimming (there was a pool!) and walked around.

A small and harmless butterfly and flower….
…a large and harmless caribao (that was very weary of me!)

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Around lunchtime, I was i.ntroduced to some French interns that will be staying at the farms for a month, and had a wonderful mango fruit shake. I tried speaking some French to them, but it was a lot easier to communicate to all 5 of them in English. They were also admittedly not at all impressed by my French which I have learned exclusively from American teachers and professors – but I digress.

Coming from Illinois, I have a very singular view of what farming looks like – acres and acres of land perfectly plowed, growing corn or soy beans. This kind of farming, however, depends significantly on expensive and large machinery, huge subsidies from the government, access to a devastatingly large amount of fertilizer and water, and the continued use of corn syrup in literally everything. In contrast, the farms here were a lot smaller and relied on manual labor and organic fertilizer. I would get to experience that manual labor beginning at 1pm, an objectively god-awful time to begin farming. But farm we did! 4 hours later we had created 8 beds, two shallow trenches, and planted over 30 eggplant seeds, all by hand (and tool, of course).

I was, and remain, absolutely humbled by this brief experience. The absolute presence of the Earth reveals itself unapologetically through working the land with a hoe and a shovel. I don’t recall ever engaging in genuinely harder – nor more rewarding – work. What could have been done by machines in one hour was accomplished by two young adults in four.

I have been thinking for a while now about farming, and the destructive way in which we go about it in America. The growing – if not complete – separation between the land and the modern factory farmer. The exhaustion of water supplies. The use of toxic fertilizer. The degradation of soil. All of this, of course, in the name of production. Justified by claims of needing to “feed the world” despite the fact nearly half of all food produced in America is wasted, millions remain hungry and/or undernourished, and nearly a third of productive agricultural land is devoted to feeding livestock food they are not evolved to eat. It was genuinely fantastic to see farming done in a way that works with nature as opposed to against it.

Anyways, that night we all went out for some videoke, the Philippines’ version of karaoke, in which unrelated videos play on screen while the lyrics to the selected song run across. One of the French interns claimed The Eagles’ Hotel California was the best song ever, so that was something.

The next day Ate Trina took us out to lunch with her husband Justin and their two very young sons, whose names I regrettably forget. I tried lechon for the first time, and I have to admit, it was pretty great. While stuck in traffic heading back to the bus station, I got to play superheroes with the two kids involving a Lego minifigure, a folded piece of cardbord, and a large plush toy. It was wonderfully wholesome.

Well, I finished the weekend, and although I wanted to cover the following week and this past weekend, I am far too tired and it is pretty late. I promise I will catch up tomorrow! Unquestionably, unambiguously, without a doubt – more to come.

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