By Yvette Tan

The Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) Region X launched two new books last week in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte. Both of them celebrate the fruits of agriculture in the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Camiguin, and Lanao del Norte, but in very different, albeit equally interesting ways.

From field to fork

Gastronomica features recipes from different ATI learning sites—partner farms where people can learn the basics of running a farm as a business or update their knowledge on the latest organic and farm tourism practices, including value-added products and services, as well as promotion.

“We felt that we have to showcase the farm to plate approach of the learning site partners in the region (by) showcasing the food, the farm produce, and the packaged goods they’re known for, and at the same time encourage patrons to come to their farms and enjoy good food,” says Gastronomica Editor-in-Chief Vic Thor Palarca, Media Specialist, ATI Training Center, Northern Mindanao.

Recipes include palapa, a popular Maranao condiment made from native onion called sakurab, ginger, chilies, and toasted coconut meat; traditional snacks like binaki, or steamed sweet corn rolls wrapped in corn husks; and updates dishes that use local ingredients like shrimp with paco, eggplant, and coconut milk.

An alarming number of people don’t realize the correlation between food and agriculture—that without farmers to grow crops and livestock, we would have nothing to eat. Every dish whose photo we post on Instagram is made from ingredients grown by a farmer. Gastronomica reminds us of this link, featuring both popular recipes and the Region X farms where they are served. “The story of the farmers themselves, their toils and tilling the land and coming up with good food to keep us well-fed, I think that’s a big giveaway that we should appreciate their efforts,” Palarca says. “They keep us well-fed and they keep us nourished.”

The ATI works with many partner farms, a majority of them with specialty dishes that helped put them on the farm tourism map in Region X alone. “We’ll be coming up with a next book with another batch of learning site partners,” Palarca shares. “We already have a title, actually. It’s Gastronomica: Second Helping.”

Farming instead of fighting

Meanwhile, From Arms to Farms is “a collection of inspiring stories from former rebels—MILF, MNLF, and NPA—who gave up their arms to farm” says Noemi Beth Macario, OIC Assistant Center Director, ATI RTC X.

“We were there to assist them in the technical expertise, to hone their capabilities and give a little financial assistance. We exposed them [by bringing] them to other farms to learn and then apply what they learned in their farms,” she adds.

Present at the launch were several leaders featured in the book. “We have very passionate farmers. I just think that they need the right push or they just need exposure to other farms for them to realize that they could develop their farm in a certain way,” Macario says.

The agency helps by providing training and exposure to other farms. Macario cited an example of Aga Dimakuta, a successful farm leader who, after seeing the way farms were run in places like Bacolod or Laguna, realized that he already had the land, and that if he put it to good use, he would be able to make money. “It’s the realization, the paradigm shift from mere tiller to really a farmer, an entrepreneur, a businessman,” she adds.

These two books show both the potential and benefits of going into agriculture, not just on one’s bank account, but also on one’s quality of life. It’s also proof that the industry continues to thrive in Northern Mindanao, a beautiful place that more people should visit.

The books are available for free at the ATI office.