Last week I traveled six hours north of Baguio City to the beautiful town of Sagada in Mt. Province like I have many times before. Sagada is a peaceful mountain community that I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time in and have dear friends there. While the influx of domestic tourism from Manila has filled the town with Inn after Inn, the quiet beauty of this town surrounded by rice terraces and mountain views as far as the eye can see are always a joy to return too. My dear friend and host Siegrid, is a talented local potter and it was wonderful to spend time at the pottery studio helping direct droves of Manila tourists. Siegrid is also working on making seed storage jars for our seed library in Tublay. Clay jars create the perfect conditions for seed storage: Cool, Dark, and Dry!
A number of months ago Layog Country Farm located in Tadian, Mt. Province (about two hours from Sagada) reached out to us and expressed their interest in collaborating to bring Seed Saving Technical Training to their farm and the surrounding community. On Friday last week, I traveled to their beautiful 28-hectare family farm. The property is immaculately managed with an office, seminar venue, and lodging for trainings. The majority of the farm is protected forestland and they are cultivating about 1 hectare of the land with vegetables and a number of hectares are dedicated to dragon fruit production. The third generation to manage the farm is continuing their Grand Fathers legacy and vision for the space. They are a registered Organic Farming Field School under the Agriculture Training Institute- ATI, they have a vibrant volunteer program at the farm through various work-away programs, and they share our vision of helping farmers return to the historical practice of saving seeds and ending their dependence on purchasing chemically treated seeds from the farm supply stores and working to restore diversity and food security. We discussed the logistics of hosting a Seed School Training at the Farm sometime early in Quarter 2 next year and we are looking forward to finalizing these details and expanding our work to Mt. Province in the coming months.
I also had a great meeting with a representative from the Provincial Agriculture Office of Mt. Province (who also happens to be Siegrid’s Aunt). Auntie Hazel is very excited to bring our technical training programs to farmers throughout Mt. Province and would love to see a Seed Library put up at the Province (similar to our first Seed Library located in Tublay). We are thankful to have identified a supportive Provincial Government Officer and the combination of a great venue at Layog Farm and our expertise in Seed Saving should make for a wonderful team to expand our critically important work to Mt. Province next year!!
Yesterday, I had a final meeting with the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS) before I head to Manila on Friday and fly out on Monday. It was wonderful to see these farmers smiling faces again! We started the gathering with another round of seed distribution. It is always so wonderful to witness their excitement about seeds and eagerness to learn about new crop varieties. This round Artichoke made quite the sensation, I was showing the farmers pictures of artichoke on the web and we pulled out our educational materials at the seed library so they could learn more about how to propagate artichoke for seeds. The BASS members enthusiasm for learning is contagious and I feel so very honored to work with this dedicated group of farmers and seed savers that truly are our hope!!
The farmers organized our meeting yesterday so they could generously present me with a beautiful Tapis, locally woven traditional outfit complete with all the jewelry!! It was so sweet of them to give me this generous gift and was a reminder that we truly are a partnership in this work and they are incredibly thankful for the support we have generated and confidence we help instill. Farming is not an easy job but little by little all of us at Global Seed Savers are helping the farmers gain not only the technical skills they need to be successful but also restore the value of this hopeful profession for generations to come. I am thankful to know and call our dedicated BASS members friends and family!!