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 fronting the town hall of La Trinidad, 246 kms. north of Manila, every Wednesdays and Fridays.
The organic market kicked off May 27 offering a healthy complementation to the La Trinidad Organic Producers (LATOP).
The fortnightly organic market is located right at the heart of the business and school areas 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 away from the town hall and the 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. 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 as 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 (BIGS) would ensure that the products at the organic market are truly organic, according to Solimen.
“BIGS is patterned from 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 neighbours,” Solimen told the press.
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 have 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-cooperatives 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. (Northern Dispatch/Posted by (Bulatlat.com))