Meetings In Manila and Homeward Bound

While all of my trips to the Philippines feel short this has been the shortest trip in a number of years. It was jam packed with successful planning meeting’s with Karen and our core farmers and great connections with potential new partners and like-minded organizations throughout the country. We are in a very exciting place as an organization having spent the last two years forming our model and seeing it work in Benguet Province. We are thrilled that organizations and communities around the Philippines are finding us and wanting us to bring our Seed Saving knowledge and expertise to their communities and programs. We are truly ready to see our initial seeds planted in Benguet germinate around the Philippines!

Saturday was jam-packed with meetings in Manila. Typically, I try to avoid much time in a city I fondly refer to as, “The Big Smoke,” but as our organization is growing it is essential we make connections with other likeminded organizations and eventually local funding opportunities. I first met for lunch with a dynamic young Filipino Entrepreneur Cherrie Atilano, the founder of Agrea. Cherrie grew up as a farmer and has always seen the value and importance of farming for her country. Three years ago, she Founded Agrea with the mission to help eradicate poverty for farming and fishing families, to alleviate the effects of climate change and to help establish food security in the Philippines. They are piloting their “One-Island Economy” model on Marinduque Island, which is often referred to as the heart of the Philippines (as the island is shaped like a heart). They have a model farm on the island that serves as a training center for new organic practitioners, they are primarily focused on rice farming using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) which is helping restore diversity to the islands rice production, and they have a vibrant school garden program teaching the next generation the value and deep importance of farming. It was wonderful to connect with such a mission aligned organization and we look forward to continuing to discuss how we might be able to help Agrea incorporate seed saving into their efforts and develop a seed library on Marinduqe stocked with locally grown open-pollinated seeds!

I also met with another dynamic young Filipino farmer leader Enzo Pinga of Earthbeat Farms in Laguna. Enzo attended the Seed School we held at Kai Farms in June and it was great to meet with him and get his feedback about the program, as it was our first time teaching outside of Benguet Province. Enzo, like many of the growing young farmers and foodies in Metro Manila and the surrounding areas, discovered farming out of passion and a deep understanding of the need for greater food security and sustainability. It is so inspiring to talk with these young farming leaders who are committed to building a more food secure Philippines not just in words but also by getting their hands dirty on the farm! Earthbeat is a 1,000 sq meter farm managed and worked by Enzo and a small team of about 7, mainly growing organic vegetables for restaurants and hotels in the greater Metro Manila area. We had a great conversation about the need for seeds to be the central element to restoring food diversity and security in the Philippines. We also talked at length about the next generation of farmers in the Philippines like Enzo, since the average age of most Filipino Farmers is 57, a key element to building food security and ensuring a vibrant agricultural system continues is supporting and encouraging young farmers like to stay in faming!! Learn more about the great work Enzo is doing here!

My last meeting was with Padma and Efren the Global Seed Savers-Philippines Board President and Treasurer. I am so thankful to get to work with such a strong local Board full of passionate people all committed to our collective work! We had wonderful conversations about our ambitious program plans for the year including; hosting at least four Seed Schools with new partners, hosting one Seed Forum for the entire Province of Benguet, and helping co-create at least one new Seed Library in 2018 (to name only a few of our indented programs for 2018)! We also discussed the projected local budget for the year, and talked at length about the need for the local board to start to fundraise locally to support our growing work. I am excited to have the Philippines Board take the lead to organize a fundraising screening of SEED: The Untold Story film and official launch of Global Seed Savers-Philippines sometime in early 2018 in Manila. Many of our local board members are very well connected in Metro Manila and I have no doubt this event will be a great success and opportunity to share about our work with a wider audience.

Padma, Efren and I at CTC 2017
Meeting with Philippines Board Members Padma and Efren.

I left Manila a few hours ago and am safe to the Taipei Airport where I have about a 6- hour wait for my flight to Seattle. While it is always hard to leave the Philippines after a fantastic last few weeks with our farmers and meeting so many other like minded and mission aligned partners, I am more inspired than ever to continue on with our good work of ensuring that all communities are hunger free with access to sustainable farmer produced food and seeds.

Thank you all for helping make this work a reality and as the busy season of holiday’s approaches please remember Global Seed Saves in your, year-end giving. We are kicking off our year-end campaign next week on #GivingTuesday, November 28th! Mark your calendars and visit our website to make a donation and support our growing impact in the Philippines. Our year-end goal is to raise $2,500 by December 31st! Help us get there and ensure the next generation of farmers has the technical training and access to locally produced open-pollinated seeds they need to feed their country and replenish the land!

Thank you for your generous support and wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones!!

 

 

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New Partner Development Is Underway

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!!

Farm Visits and Successful Planning Session with BASS Members

On Monday we woke early and headed to Tublay to meet the BASS Members and conduct field visits to some of the new members farms. The farmers’ commitment, energy, and excitement about their collective work is truly infectious and it was wonderful to be greeted with big smiles and hugs by all when we arrived! We visited four farms in total and each has their own unique story and beauty. Many of the new farms are quite isolated from neighbors, which makes for wonderful growing conditions for both seeds and vegetables. I was particularly impressed with Ma’am Anita and Sir Jornald’s 1,000 sq meter farm located in Daclan, Tublay. They have a rich diversity of crops ranging from beans, turmeric, legumes, and various fruit trees. Anita shared that in 2008 she and her husband attended a seminar about organic farming held at the Municipal Hall and after attending this program they were inspired to go organic and began farming their land. Anita is a new member of BASS but is already proving to be a leader of the group and will be co-teaching one of our up-coming Seed Schools in a new region of the country next year!

Field visits have become a core component of our programming and it is always so inspiring to return and see these famers hard work in action. The field visits also foster a strong sense of group unity and identity amongst the BASS members. They often trade seeds and plants and are constantly sharing ideas about how to improve their organic farming and seed saving practices. We always share a meal together during our meetings, which is another way we are fostering a sense of family amongst the BASS Members. This shows because our conversations move easily between laughter and jokes and seed saving and organic farming realities in the country. These farmers know how to work hard and play hard!!

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BASS Members pose for a photo after visiting the Boaz Family Farm in Atok!

On Tuesday we all met again for a full day of planning and reflections with the BASS Members about the successes and challenges (opportunities) from this year and their plans and goals for 2018. It was amazing to make a list all of the things we accomplished this year including the following highlights:

  • More than doubled membership of BASS.
  • Registered BASS as official Association.
  • Held Training of Trainers Program for 30 Farmers. Preparing BASS Members to teach Seed Schools.
  • Held 2 Seed Schools with new partner communities in the Philippines. Co-facilitated by BASS Farmers.
  • Opened 1st of its kind collaborative Seed Library in Tublay. Currently the Seed Library has over 20 different varieties of seeds all produced by BASS Members.
  • 11 BASS Members completed a 3-Day Computer Training Course.

Wow, what an honor is has been to help make each of these successes a reality!

The BASS Members developed some fantastic goals for 2018 as well including:

  • By the end of 2018, BASS Members will have at least doubled the diversity of varieties available in the Seed Library.
  • By the end of 2018, BASS Membership will have increased by at least 50%.
  • By May, FY 2018: BASS will host a Provincial Wide Seed Forum and 1st Annual Seed Swap.

We are so excited to help these goals become a reality in the coming year!

We ended the meeting with a seed exchange where farmers got to select seeds they want to trial for viability here in the Philippines. Special shout out to our friends and partners at Seeds Trust for donating so many seed packets to our efforts! We look forward to sharing our second seed saving trial results with you in the coming months!

We are also thrilled to share the news, that as of October 25th, Global Seed Savers-Philippines is an officially registered Philippine NGO!! I am so excited to see where this continues to take us and looking forward to investing in building our continued local capacity as we mature and grow as local NGO. Many thanks to the connections of our local Philippine Board of Directors I will be having some meetings in Manila before I leave with potential funding and programmatic partners locally. We are thrilled to see our focus on seeds resonate with so many and excited to continue to see our organization germinate and grow!

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Karen and I with the official SEC NGO Registration Certificate.

 

 

Visiting Kai Farms and Connecting with our Growing Seed Family

The thick humidity and warm air always fill me with a rush of excitement and intensity upon arrival to Metro Manila! My landing on Thursday afternoon was no different. It is a familiar intensity that I look forward to each time I return to my second home of the Philippines. After a quick night in Manila complete with a delicious veggie Kare-Kareng (Peanut Stew) at one of my “safe places” in Manila, Corner Tree Café and a lovely breakfast at Wildflour with our Program Manager Karen who met me in Manila on Thursday, we were off to our partners at Kai Farms.

Kai Farms is a 20-hectare farm in Silang, Cavite about two hours south of Manila. We connected with them last year and are so thankful for our partnership with these fellow seed savers and seed stewards. The farm is privately owned and they employ nearly 30 local community members and are actively organically farming, saving and selling seeds, and building our collective healed and whole earth! The vision of this sacred land is held and created by Karla and Amena the dynamic duo of soul earth sisters making Kai Farms a reality!

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L-R- Karla of Kai Farms, Sherry GSS, Amena Kai Farms, and Karen GSS. Pose for a photo after a great tour of the farm on Friday.

This last June we held a one-day Seed School with their farmers and other community members. This was the first seed school that two of our core farmers from the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS) facilitated and our meetings last weekend were to brainstorm and make plans for our collective work restoring seed saving, organic sustainable agriculture, and ensuring that all people have access to healthy and sustainably produced food and seeds!

On Friday we toured the farm and got to visit with the Earth Worker/Earth Leaders (what they call their farmers) and tour the beautiful grounds. Each Earth Worker tends their own garden at the farm complete with beautiful names such as Gratitude, Kapayapaan (Peace), and Freedom. Each garden has a multitude of crops and they are practicing permaculture and each garden is also saving seeds. In addition to the tour and a lovely farm lunch Karen ended up giving an impromptu germination test lesson to the farmers and staff!

 

On Saturday, Kai Farms was kind enough to organize a beautiful community lunch for members of the Silang community, friends from Metro Manila, local restaurant owners, University Professors, and even the Vice Mayor and Municipal Agriculture Officer from Silang joined. We shared delicious organic food, our seed stories, and held a community discussion about our work and how we might continue to partner with Kai Farms and the greater Silang Community to continue to share our knowledge of seed saving and work together to ensure all communities have access to affordable and locally sustainably produced food and seeds.

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It was inspiring to be with so many like-minded people all committed to a similar vision. I was particularly impressed with the young and dynamic Vice Mayor of Silang. He is probably no older than 35 and shared a compelling message of the great work Silang is doing to preserve their agriculture traditions and ensure the next generation of farmers stays engaged in these practices. They have declared themselves an agricultural Municipality and have also opened the first Agricultural High School in the Philippines. In addition the Local Government Unit (LGU) offers scholarships to deserving students that want to attend college to study agriculture. Each of these steps are innovative and will ensure that the next generation of farmers see the value in farming as opposed to turning away from this critically important livelihood.

 

 

 

We are very excited to partner with the LGU of Silang and Kai Farms to bring another Seed School to this community in 2018. We are also continuing to brainstorm ways Kai and Global Seed Savers can raise awareness about our shared work in 2018, likely starting with hosting a screening of SEED: The Untold Story in Metro Manila to raise awareness and funds about this movement and engage the urban support of Manila. We are so thankful for our growing collaborations with Kai Farms and look forward to seeing how our paths and work continue to grow together.

 

 

 

 

Planting Local Seeds and Leadership is the Key to Our Success

In less than 24 hours I leave for my annual trip to the Philippines. Each year these trips are filled with different objectives, momentum, and excitement and this year’s is full of all of these emotions and more. We have had a big year as an organization: raising more revenue to date then ever before, opening our first Seed Library with our partner farmers, expanding our Seed School Technical Training Programs to new partners, and more. We have also had a very busy and big last few weeks coming off of another successful Nourish Event and announcing our new name…Global Seed Savers to better reflect our expanded mission and impact as we move into our next phase of work as an organization.

A key to our success in the last few years and moving forward is the local ownership and management of our mission, vision, and programs in the Philippines. As many of you know two years ago we hired our first Filipino Staff member and Karen, our Program Manager has been a dynamic, hard working, creative, and essential partner to the growth, broader impact, and expanding mission we are undertaking in the Philippines. We have also formed a truly counterpart Philippine NGO, Global Seed Savers-Philippines to ensure that the local management, governance, fundraising, and ownership of our continued success is in the hands of our partners. We have identified and formed a dynamic Philippine Board of Directors and we were honored to have our Philippine Board President, Padma Perez join us in Denver two weeks ago for our 7th Annual Nourish Event.

Padma and I at Nourish
Pictured during Nourish with Padma (right) to view more Nourish Photos thanks to Callen Blackburn please click here.

Padma delivered a compelling and passionate keynote during Nourish about the reality of food security in the Philippines. She compassionately described a common practice by many called pag-pag when families dumpster dive and then shake off and re-heat food scraps that have been discarded and then sell these for around 20 cents to their neighbors and community. This is the reality of hunger in the Philippines and while there is a growing demand for healthy and organically produced food, this is still only accessible to a small upper class minority in the Philippines. Our vision is that all people have access to healthy and sustainably produced food and seeds. This is a big task but like Wes Jackson the Founder of the Land Institute says and Padma shared during her compelling talk:

“ If your life work can be accomplished in your lifetime, then you are not thinking big enough.” -Wes Jackson, The Land Institute 

The challenges we face our real and ever present; three major agri-chemical companies own the majority of the worlds seeds and input markets, land development and “modernization” continue to threaten farmers land rights, and the next generations desire to leave farming and move to the cities for “better” opportunities is ever present in our country and the Philippines. However, we know at Global Seed Savers we are slowly, one farmer, and community at a time building our own collective future one that is rooted in the land, in the soil, and in the seed! I am honored to get to work with such talented and passionate partners in the Philippines and together we are ensuring a more food and climate secure world by returning to the historical practice of saving and sharing regionally adapted and affordable organic seeds!

Please stay tuned for more updates from the field as I am hitting the ground running upon arrival in Manila on Thursday. We will be meeting with our new partners at Kai Farms where we held a Seed School earlier this year and brainstorming about our future collaborations and participating in a community lunch with other seed and food advocates near Metro Manila. Thank you for your support and passion for this work and I am looking forward to sharing this up-coming trip with you all!

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Members of the Benguet Association of Seed Savers pose for a photo after a recent monthly meeting in Tublay, Benguet.

Mountain West Seed Summit: Lessons from the Past to Guide our Future

Part 1: Indigenous Communities and Their Innate Resilience

        I was honored to attend and have the opportunity to moderate and speak on a panel during the recent Mountain West Seed Summit hosted by our collaborators and friends at the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The panel was titled, “Working With Traditional Communities,” which was a theme of the entire Summit. The other panelists were Lynda Prim, a seasoned anthropologist that has been working with SW native peoples for over 30 years helping restore seed saving and ecological agricultural practices, to Lorraine Gray, a Mowhawk woman and Executive Director of The Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute. She works to reconnect her people with the land, permaculture, and ecologically sound practices. Brett Baker, currently an organic certifier for the State of New Mexico with years of experience collecting and saving seeds throughout the SW Region. As well as, Heather DeLong the Director of DeLaney Community Farm in Aurora, Colorado which has recently transitioned into an all refugee farm. Heather joined us in the Philippines last November to help facilitate the Seed School and Farmer Capacity Building Seminar.

A theme we all shared during our presentations was that indigenous communities have had and will continue to have the knowledge, skills, and wisdom to build resilient and ecologically sound communities. When you look at history, it is indigenous peoples around the globe, be it our Ibaloi and Kankana-ey farmers in the Philippines, or the Pueblo and Native American populations we had the opportunity to learn from during the Summit, it is their traditions and history of resiliency, stewardship of the land, and perhaps most importantly connection to seed as the root of all life and key element to our sustenance and survival. This is what we must learn from in a “modern world,” perhaps now more than ever!

For me, the Mountain West Seed Summit was a reminder of the resiliency of our indigenous peoples and that our food and seed have a sacred connection to culture, one that is too important to be forgotten and lost.

 

Farmers Progress and Unexpected Connections in the City

Spending my last day in Tublay on Tuesday visiting our core farmers was the perfect way to cap off an incredibly busy and productive annual trip! Each of our core Seed Savers are kind, funny, dedicated organic farmers, and community leaders all working to help make this world a better place. I am honored to get to work with and learn from each of them. A few weeks ago we distributed the last allotment of infrastructure project funds to 5 of the core farmers. Prior to receiving the funds each farmer submitted plans for their projects with drawings of the greenhouse repairs and composting facilities and projected budgets (that had to include a local counterpart). I am happy to report that almost all the farmers have started their projects and they will all be finished by February. It is wonderful to see their commitment and appreciation of this support and ability to get right to work to make these improvements a reality. Another wonderful aspect of our monthly field visits is observing the camaraderie that the core group of farmers has built over the last year. These farmers, who used to work alone, have now built a community of support and shared knowledge and understanding. Whether, they are trading seeds, livestock, or best practices in organic farming and seed saving this core group of farmers is committed to seeing each other and their fellow farmers excel.

I typically spend very few days in Manila during my annual trips but I was there the last few days which ended up being an enchanted time of connecting with people I normally only see in the North, and making new connections to seed saving initiatives throughout the country. My dear friend Siegird and her fellow potter Tessie (from Sagada) had a pottery exhibit at the Ayala Museum on Saturday. It was so fun to see them in the chaos of Manila and get to support their involvement in such a special show of SE Asian potters. I also had the good fortune, through many wonderful friends and supporters of our work to connect with Amena of Kai Farms.

Kai Farms is an organic farm located in Cavite (about 2 hours from Manila). Amena, like me is a foreigner (though she is Indian) but has lived in the Philippines for almost 15 years and considers it her true home. She and her friend and business partner Karla Delgado (a mutual friend of many wonderful supporters of our work) opened Kai Farm two years ago to serve as a truly sustainable organic farm, education space, and livelihood development center for the community. Amena and I shared a wonderful lunch yesterday and talked all things seeds, farming, the environment, spirituality and more! Kai farms is planning to build a seed temple and they are excited to connect with our programs and exchange and share seeds, host a seed school and more! They are also excited about our potential 2018 Philippines Seed Summit.

This has by far been my post productive trip to the Philippines and while it is always sad to leave I am more excited then ever to be building a team of people locally that are committed to moving this work forward with each seed we sow. Like our collaborator and dear friend Bill McDorman says, “Seed people are some of the most interesting people in the world.” It is gratifying to know we are moving in the right direction and because of our focus on seeds we are connecting with and identifying truly amazing partners and setting big visions for the coming year. Thank you for your continued support of this critically important work and sending you all peaceful wishes for the up-coming holiday season and start to 2017.

 

Momentum, Planning, and Continued Collaborations

It has been an incredibly busy 10 days in Tublay/Baguio since I returned from Sagada on November 23rd. Complete with presenting awards at the local Mr. and Mrs. Tublay pageant, attending the opening of the new Food and Coffee Processing Center in Tublay (where our seed library will be housed), setting goals with our core seed savers for the coming year, and more! On Wednesday, Karen (our local Program Manager) and I met with the core Seed Savers in Tublay. This was the first time I had seen the group since our seminar last month and it was great to reconnect with these dedicated farmers. We de-briefed the seminar and each of them said that it was a huge learning opportunity and they loved being able to share with and learn from the farmers from other regions of the Philippines. It helped them realize how blessed they are in Benguet to have fertile land and supportive government and partners. One of the farmers said that helping our newfound farmer friends should be the Seed Savers largest advocacy! Each of these Seed Savers is ready to teach and we are excited to make this happen in 2017.

Karen has been telling me all year what a great group our core seed savers are, and I now know what she meant. Each of these dedicated farmers is committed to helping restore seed saving to their community and setting a true example of leadership and commitment to making this happen. In addition to de-briefing the seminar we also discussed the groups goals for the coming year. They have decided to form a Seed Savers Association by the end of Quarter 1 and each member will be inviting one dedicated farmer to join the association, as you need 15 to officially register. We will be assisting them with the formation of this association in the coming months and are excited to expand the seed saving trials with more farmers. We also distributed the second half of the infrastructure project funds each Seed Saver submitted proposals for in July. Thanks to the generosity of our donors during our June Global Giving Campaign, 5 of our core group will soon have new composting and greenhouse facilities at their farms to support their continued seed saving and organic farming efforts. I will be visiting the farms before I leave to check in on the progress of these projects and am excited to see the results in the coming months!

Yesterday, Karen and I were invited to give the final talk at Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary (where we held our seminar) climate conference. We are so thankful to have identified Maryknoll as a partner and collaborator as our missions are very similar and the staff and sisters there are very excited to get more involved in our seed saving efforts. The audience was filled with a diverse room of urban gardener’s, local officials, and others. Karen and I shared about the success of our seed saving trials and education and training programs this last year. In fact, one year ago yesterday was when we held the first Seed School in Tublay! Karen and I marvel at all we have built and accomplished since that first seminar one year ago. None of this success has been possible alone and I am daily thankful for Karen and her hard work, passion, and vision for this work. Thankful to our partners at home and here in the Philippines, and thankful to each of you for believing in this work and supporting it in the many diverse ways you do.

Each time we share about our seed saving efforts and the reality of the current state of seeds in the Philippines (all treated with chemicals) and around the world people light up and are making the important connections between seed and healthy food and ensuring our continued resiliency in light of the large challenges we face. This work is not easy, but after all, anything that is worth doing is often not, and I am inspired, empowered, and committed to seeing this movement grow in the Philippines with each farmer we empower to return to the important historical practice of saving their own seeds for themselves and their community!!

Seed School Success and Adventures in Sagada

It is hard to believe that after well over a year of planning and preparations our much anticipated 3-Day Seed School and Farmer Capacity Building Seminar is over and our guest facilitators are off to their next destinations! I cannot begin to express my deep gratitude to Bill McDorman and Belle Starr of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, and Heather DeLong from DeLaney Community Farm at Denver Urban Gardens for jumping head first into this adventure and sharing their knowledge, love, and heart with our farmers and all they encountered during their time in the Philippines. You each made the 3 day seminar the great success that it was by adapting your curriculum to our local context, helping each participant realize they are a critical part of a global movement, and most importantly sharing your heart and knowledge with all you encountered during your time here.

The largest success of the seminar was the fact that it was like nothing any of us had ever done before (facilitators and farmers alike). To have a room full of 50 farmers that traveled from 6 different Provinces in the Philippines (many required 2 days of travel to reach the venue in Baguio City) and create a space for farmers to learn not only from our guest facilitators but also from each other was incredibly powerful! While their challenges might be different in their respective communities as the seminar unfolded it was clear that all of the farmers have something to learn and teach each other. Friends of ENCA Farm is very excited to continue this momentum starting with our core Seed Savers from Benguet Province to step up and become trainers as we continue to work with our new found collaborators across the country. That is the true success of this work when it is fully taught and run by the farmers that are actively restoring seed saving to their communities. Each participant left the seminar with hands on knowledge of how to save seeds, a new found connection to the global landscape of seed saving, we held an impromptu seed swap where farmers got to exchange seeds amongst themselves, and each participant left with a tangible plan of how they will implement their new found seed saving knowledge at their farms and within their communities. We have ignited a powerful group of dedicated farmers and community leaders that I have no doubt will change their communities for the better with each seed they sow, save, and share!

We have spent that last three days in Sagada one of my beloved pockets of the world. High up in the mountains about 6 hours north of Baguio City nestled amongst pine forest and limestone cliffs sits this beautiful mountain town. While each time I return the startling influx of domestic tourism is visible with new hotels popping up everywhere, I so am thankful to have wonderful local friends to stay with and experience the “real Sagada” through. Siegird, my dear friend and talented local potter and her husband Steve (former Peace Corps) always open their home to me and our guest felt the same hospitality. We went on an epic 5-hour hike up Mt. Ampacao two days ago. As we climbed up steep road and trail it was worth each step to reach the top where there was wide-open grassland and amazing views of neighboring villages and mountains complete with a delightful breeze. This was the perfect place to end our impactful time together to hike, reflect, and eat delicious food and homemade bread that is ever abundant at Siegird’s since her mother runs a bakery out of the house.

I am looking forward to spending a few more solo days here in Sagada to continue to reflect, plan, and prepare for all the follow up work we have with the farmers from the seminar and planning for 2017. We will be finalizing our Seed Library Space and small office at the Municipal Hall in Tublay next week when they officially open the new food-processing terminal in town.

Once again I would like to send a huge thank you to our guest facilitators and The Posner Center for International Development, International Collaboration Fund Grant that made this program possible. We have launched a dynamic community changing movement with 50 farmers and are incredibly excited to watch the seeds we have germinated grow in the coming months and year!

 

 

 

We Need This Work Now More Than Ever: Successful Day 1 of Seed School

I have had the distinct honor of working and living with Filipinos for over a decade. Each time I return to my adopted homeland my connections and the great need for our collective work gain further strength and momentum. In light of the shock that rippled throughout the world on Tuesday I know now more than ever how critically important this work is and am incredibly honored to have the ability to channel my tears, frustration, and most importantly passions into something so productive in this time of confusion and uncertainty.

Today was the first day of our 3-Day Seed Saving and Farmer Capacity Building Seminar in Baguio City. As the seminar room filled with 50 farmers and participants representing 6 different Provinces throughout the country, my heart was filled with joy and excitement for all that lies ahead for this collective of farmers. Many of the participants traveled multiple days to attend this training but still arrived with smiles on their faces and eagerness to absorb the information. While each of the participants may come from different regions and produce many varieties of vegetables and rice we are all united in the fundamental understanding that the ability to build sustainable communities starts with each of us!! Not with government (local or foreign) and not with East-West Seeds the largest seed dealer in the Philippines continuing to promote hybrid seeds that leave farmers dependent on purchasing seeds after each planting. But this room full of farmers, waking up to the reality that they can grow their own seeds to sustain their families, communities and the world!!

Today more than ever I am re-empowered to continue this good work and honored to be here putting my energy and love into something so meaningful during this seemingly precarious moment in time. These dedicated farmers are the best example of working to build and be the change we want to see in the world. Wendell Berry once said, “ The threat to precious things will be our advantage. It clarifies our duty.” This is the time that we live in and Friends of ENCA Farm is energized with our new clarified duty and desire to empower Filipino Farmers to Seed and Farmer Up!!