With an emerging food market in Bohol that caters to organic products, the first-ever Organic Agricultural Festival turns the spotlight on local Boholano organic farmers, creating opportunities for organic farming to widen its reach in Bohol.

The first ever in Central Visayas, the “Organic Agriculture Festival” is a 3-day event from November 16 to November 18, 2022, at the Tagbilaran Culture Center, creating an avenue for local organic farmers to promote and sell their products to Boholanos. With the support from the Provincial Government of Bohol, the Kapunungan sa Bol-anong Organikong Mag-uuma (KBOOM) organized the event to raise awareness of sustainable farming practices that enrich Bohol’s environment and promote healthy eating habits to Boholanos. The theme for this year is “Display of Organically and Naturally Grown Local Products.” From artisanal delicacies to fresh produce displayed, the 3-day festival gives opportunities to local organic producers to market their goods to customers and cultivate product loyalty with them, especially after the economic losses caused by Typhoon Odette and the COVID-19 pandemic to their businesses.

In this article, The Provincial Information and Media Office of Bohol interviewed five establishments from the festival to know their thoughts on sustainability and environmentally-conscious food consumption and their mission to empower local farmers through selling Bohol-grown agriproducts. When asked why Bohol should invest in organic farming, these are their answers:

1. The FRMCY, Dimiao, Bohol (@the.farmcy on IG)
With the tagline: “Let Food & Nature thy be medicine,” The FRMCY, a farm-to-table establishment located in Dimiao, Bohol, dwells on wellness by encouraging visitors to eat organic meals. FRMCY offers artisanal food, such as blue pea bread, hibiscus jam, and mushroom empanada, for customers interested in unique products. When asked to be a part of the first organic agricultural festival, Maggie Aguilar, the chef of the FRMCY, was ecstatic to have an opportunity to promote their farm.

” We are very excited. We hope this will be a regular thing yearly because it is an opportunity to promote organic farming in the province,” Aguilar said.

When asked why Bohol should invest in Organic Farming:

“Because it is sustainable,” Aguilar said. Aguilar mentioned that organic farming lessens pesticide use which causes
staggering damage to the environment through soil contamination. They added that the damages Typhoon Odette caused to Bohol in 2021 is a good reason why Bohol should switch to alternative farming methods that lessen environmental degradation.

“We could not farm for three months after the typhoon, as it took us until March 2022 to operate again. If there are better ways to farm without destroying the environment, then we should invest in that,” Aguilar said.

2. SS Mushroom Farm, Ubay, Bohol (FB: http://bitly.ws/wPI4)

Located at Purok 1, Ubay, this establishment focuses on fungiculture or mushroom cultivation and farming. The SS Mushroom Farm is run by Silvia Mendez, who used to work at the Central Azucarera de Tarlac as a microbiologist. She packed her bags from Tarlac to Ubay, Bohol, to create a business that sells assorted mushroom-based products. From chili flakes to herbal tea, everything that you get from the SS Mushroom Farm is all organic. Mendez stated how excited she was for KBOOM to include her business as part of the 28 exhibitors for the first organic agricultural festival in Central Visayas. She shared how the pandemic and Typhoon Odette took a toll on her finances.

“Our mushrooms require indoor farming. We were so devastated that our building collapsed during typhoon Odette. The damages took a chunk of our budget,” Mendez said.

Mendez says she is optimistic about her business as she often gets regular customers, especially from the local Seventh Day Adventist Church, who are regular customers of her mushroom products. She added that she is grateful for the support she has been getting from Ubay locals despite not being originally from Bohol.

When asked about organic farming, Mendez focused on the health benefits that Boholanos can get from eating organic food.

“A lot of pesticides are carcinogenic. They cause different diseases, such as cancer in the human body.” Mendez said.

Mendez added that pesticide-free mushrooms have healthier benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and building a healthy immune system.

3. Egays Farm, Dauis, Bohol (FB: http://bitly.ws/wPJX)

Egays Farm is an ATI R7 agricultural learning site that also offers a farm-to-table experience for customers interested in visiting. Located in Purok 2B, Tinago-Bingag Rd., Bingag, Dauis, the site is already ten years old and TESDA-accredited, teaching students how to farm and process organic food. Recently, the establishment became a part of Bohol Provincial Tourism’s Office 4F tour stops (Food, Farming, Fiesta, Faith). When asked about the situation of the farm after typhoon Odette and the COVID-19 pandemic, Milagros Ararao, a worker of the establishment’s restaurant, replied that it affected them financially as they had to halt certain activities on their farm. Ararao expressed her appreciation that Egays became a part of the 3-day exhibit at the Bohol Cultural Center, as this is an opportunity for them to promote organic farming to Boholanos.

“We are excited because our work revolves around. It is an opportunity for us to to promote organic farming because it is healthy to consume organic food,” Ararao said.

Ararao added that this is also an opportunity for them to advertise their products, such as organic juices and tea leaves, created by their learning site students.

“We really encourage everyone to involve themselves in organic farming,” Ararao said.

4. Bohol Purple Women, Tagbilaran City

The Bohol Purple Women is a province-wide Non-government Organization focusing on marketing Ube to Boholanos and empowering local women farmers. This organization wants to create an active ube industry in the province that helps create opportunities for local Ube farmers. Created by Marilou Meneses, Reyna Perez, Dr. Caroline Dacquio, and Gay Bernaldes, the Bohol Purple Women is a social enterprise development with a mission to uplift Boholana Farmers. They created the organization on July 2022, with over 40 members from 20 Bohol Municipalities.

“We want to empower them (local ube farmers). There are so many opportunities for Ube products to prosper in Bohol, especially as a pasalubong product for tourists who visit our island,” said Marilou Meneses, one of the four founders of Bohol Purple Women. Meneses added that ube has a lot of health benefits, such as antioxidants found in the root crop due to its anthocyanins.

“Ube is a healthy alternative for snacking. A lot of ube products are popular in the US, which means there’s an existing market for it,” Meneses said.

Meneses added that they want PGBh to invest more in organic agriculture because it gives more opportunities for small farmers to generate profit.

“Investing in organic farming will widen the opportunities, especially the women farmers we support through our organization,” Meneses answered.

Meneses hopes their organization can serve as a bridge of opportunities for women ube farmers to thrive in the coming years.

5.. Lasang Farm and Camp, Maribojoc (FB: http://bitly.ws/wPNr)

The Lasang Farm and Camp is an organic agricultural farm in Tinibgan, Maribojoc, Bohol. The establishment offers fresh fruits, vegetables, and processed products such as bago chips. Currently, they are focusing on cultivating cacao and creating more bean supply for the province. Its owner, Ernesto Macabenta, the current president of the Association of Bohol Cacao Producers, expressed that the island lacks cacao beans supply for cacao processors.

“We can only generate a few beans a year compared to Mindanao because we lack the knowledge in growing them,” Macabenta said.

He ad
ded that he hopes the Provincial Government will invest in organic farming to help create more supply in the next 3-5 years. Macabenta also mentioned that more agricultural trainings, such as JADAM farming methods, are needed to cultivate more farming methods for Boholano organic farmers.

When asked why Bohol should invest more in organic farming, Macabenta touched on the importance of a healthy ecosystem free from harmful chemicals.

“If farmers do not want insects, they can choose an alternative like organic pesticides that do not pollute our environment,” Macabenta said.

The exhibitors believe organic agriculture can play a vital role in agricultural production and nature conservation. By investing in alternative farming methods and promoting pesticide-free production, they believe Bohol can create a more sustainable agriculture that protects its ecosystem and the health of its people. They hope PGBh and KBOOM can hold more activities that showcase organic agriculture to Boholanos in the following years. (GMC)