Farmers of Hope
To date, we have been working with four Farmers of Hope communities. These are farming communities which we support in any way we can. The San Carlos Farmers of Hope is one of these communities. They are a group of 60 indigenous farmers with an ancestral domain of 100 acres in the highlands of Negros Occidental. Members of this group come from the Bukidnon (mountain dweller in the vernacular) Organic Farmers Association (BOFA) and the Iliran Tribal Council. The group regularly supplies us with some of the ingredients for Mingo. In addition to that, we help the farmers find buyers for their other crops. Unfortunately, for a very long time, these farmers had only tilled half of their land. We have been working with this group since 2016 and our goal is to help them make the best use of all their land.
The story of our partnership with the San Carlos Farmers of Hope would not be complete without Merco’s story. In 2015, Merco’s home and everything in it burned to the ground. Read more about this here. His farmer’s group and the LGU came to his aid. They gave him a temporary home and some money to buy necessities. He bought some clothes for his family, basic farming tools and what he needed for a crop of squash. He put all his hopes and dreams into that crop.
Harvest time came and Merco had a beautiful crop! He eagerly anticipated his earnings. Unfortunately, he could not find any buyers. He was ready to give up and head to the big city in search of a greener pastures.
At about the same time, we received an order for dehydrated vegetables, including dehydrated squash, from Stop Hunger Now. At that time, we did not have a squash supplier. Fortunately, a common friend, the late Marivic Rio, put us in touch with Merco and he became our regular squash supplier. Merco stayed on at the farm and we began working with the rest of the BOFA farmers.
Many Small Blessings
With the help of friends, we began to assist the farmers. We secured better tools for them and helped them venture into some high-value crops such as adlai. We helped them find new groups to sell their produce to and we facilitated the delivery and marketing of goods to these groups. The group received a mongo thresher and adlai mill, as well as training from the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist of Negros Occidental.
Together with the farmers, we truly appreciated all this assistance. However, we continued to dream of bigger things for these farmers. As with many dreams, it took some time before they started to come true. Our big dream was to put up an on-site production plant that would allow the community to pre-process some of ingredients for our Mingo Meals and also create some value-added products from what they grow.
We peddled this dream for several years but alas, there were not takers.
A Small Dream That Grew
Then in October 2021, things finally began to fall into place. We thank Sunlife Canada for helping the future of the farmers shine brighter. Through Sunlife Foundation Philippines they provided us with the provision to start making plans for a small processing plant. In this plant, they will be able to handle the pre-processing of raw materials for #MingoMeals. They will also churn out value-added products made from what they grow on site. This will increase combined family income, empower women, and bring economic activity to the community. The plant will be run by the women of the community.
Planting a New Seed
Merco has come a long way since we bought his crop of squash. He is now the leader of the farming community and has been thinking of ways to help the group prosper. We decided to give him a bit of inspiration.
In late May 2022, he joined us on a tour of Penalosa Farms headed by Mon Peñalosa. Mon is an agripreneur who has successfully transformed family properties into exciting destinations where naturally grown multi-crops and livestock flourish. More importantly, he has offered his full support to NVC’s food sustainability projects.
Thanksgiving for Blessings Received
On April 28, we headed to the mountains of San Carlos for a celebration with the Bukidnon Organic Farmers Association (BOFA). We reached out to a group of priests to send someone to say mass to kick off the event. One priest would have sufficed but Bishop Gerry Alminaza showed up with Rev. Fathers Julius Montaño, Johnrey Jakosalem and Angeles Gidayawan, as well as their seminarians and choir! To us, the number of religious personnel who graced us with their presence that day was symbolic of all the blessings of the farmers.
The women of the community worked hard to prepare for this event. They made the flower arrangements that decorated the altar area and they cooked delicious food for the 200 or so attendees.
After the mass, we turned over farming equipment including a power tiller as well as equipment for the food processing plant that is currently being built. The priests blessed the equipment and we prayed that the community will use these blessings well. The funds for the power tiller came from a dentist whose gift of love surely put a smile on our farmers’ faces.
Expanding the Farm
For a long time, these farmers had only tilled half of the land that they owned. But that all changed thanks to the generosity of a donor who has regularly been supporting our Project Joseph. She made it possible for us to turn over a power tiller 0n April 28 (see Thanksgiving for Blessings Received). With this piece of equipment, the farmers have now begun tilling new ground.