May 31, 2009 in Cordillera
By LYN V. RAMO
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Addressing the popular clamor for more outlets to get organic fruits and vegetables, 17 farmer-cooperators of the Benguet State University (BSU) will set up the organic market across the town hall Wednesdays and Fridays.
The organic market kicked off Wednesday offering a healthy complementation to the La Trinidad Organic Producers (LATOP), which is reportedly not meeting the growing market for organic vegetables and fruits.
The fortnightly organic market is located right at the heart of the business and school area between the BSU Open University and the Research and Extension building. It is along the way to Balili community and is just a stone’s throw from the town hall and the town’s busy urban center.
It will market organically produced fruits and vegetables; free-ranged chicken and other sources of protein from the three-hectare BSU farm in Balili.
Organically produced vegetables tend to be smaller than their inorganic counterparts are. This explains the much higher prices in the market said Dr. Julia Solimen, vice-president for research and extension. It also takes time before these are ready for the market.
“We are paying for our health,” she said of the pricing, which she considers fair.
The 600 BSU employees and faculty make up the captive market. “We have to patronize our farmers’ products,” Solimen said.
BSU Internal Guarantee Systems would ensure that the products at the organic market are truly organic, according to Solimen.
“BIGS is patterned after the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the Philippine National Standards for Organic Agriculture (PNSOA) and the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP) Here, it is mostly based on trust because we know the farmers who are bringing their produce to us. Most of them are our own neighbors,” Solimen told the press shortly after the mass that launched the organic market Wednesday morning.
Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on crop rotation, green manure, compost, biological pest control, and mechanical cultivation to maintain soil productivity and control pests, excluding or strictly limiting the use of synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides, plant growth regulators, livestock feed additives, and genetically modified organisms.
An organic farm has to maintain a three to five-meter buffer zone from a farm that does not use organic farming methods, according to the BIGS. During the first three years, farmers would reduce by at least half the use of red-label chemical inputs, shifting to green-label ones.
Solimen said, however, there are farmers who totally abandoned chemical inputs on the first cropping season, harnessing whatever residue was on the farms, while complementing these with organic materials.
Two farmer-scientists assist the farmer-cooperators with their field experiments.
“The organic farm has a little of everything not just to conserve biodiversity but also to provide the daily food needs of the family,” said Solimen. She added this would also do away from the mono-cropping practice that is not environment friendly.
Farmers now have chickens and goats roaming freely in the farm, according to Solimen.
Besides food, the organic market also includes agricultural supplies. # nordis.net