By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
GreenMinds Inc., or GreenMinds Agricultural Consultancies, is a people-oriented and self-sustaining non-government organization that’s committed to the preservation as well as the protection of the environment. It also aims to promote innovative and appropriate ecological farming technologies.
For the past 20 years, it has been helping farmers, schools, and indigenous communities both local and overseas to establish their own organic farms as well as setting them up to reach an enterprise level.
It was established in 2000 by three friends: Reynaldo Gil Lomarda, Eric Dimacali, and Jepoy Villamante.
They are the minds behind two learning and earning sites: Umanika Eco-Cultural Farm and Balay Kinaiyahan.
‘Uma ni Kalinaw ug Kalipay’
Located in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Umanika Eco-Cultural Farm is an organic farm measuring 8,200 square meters.
According to Lomarda, who is also known as “Datu Makadingding,” Umanika means “to harvest” in Tagalog and “to come here” in Bisaya. However, the true meaning of the farm’s name is a homage to his two daughters.
‘Kalinaw’ means peace after his eldest and ‘kalipay’ means joy for his youngest. So, technically it translates to ‘Farm of Peace and Joy.’
“The idea came from me and my wife since we wanted our kids to grow up experiencing and have a strong appreciation and love agriculture,” Lomarda said.
He added that Umanika was supposed to be a personal farm as 3,200 square meters of their total farmland was gifted to him by his mother-in-law in order to fulfill their dream of introducing the farming life to their daughters.
Being one of the founders of GreenMinds Inc. and its president for 20 years, however, made Lomarda, who is also an agriculture graduate, a credible person when it comes to farm consultations.
As a result, when people learned that he and his wife were the owners of Umanika, excursionists, farmers, environmentalists, and learners flocked to the farm to learn what they can about farming.
In order to fully accommodate their visitors, Lomarda had Umanika become an Accredited Learning Site of the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute in Region X (DA-ATI Region X).
The farm is also organic certified, halal certified, and good agricultural practice (GAP) certified.
Incorporating indigenous practices with modern ideas
“We test, practice and promote Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSP) in Umanika,” Lomarda said.
He explained that these are the information that’s often considered superstitious in modern settings so Umanika aims to explain it in a balanced mix of science and culture.
The farm offers tours as well as training in organic agriculture, herb production and utilization, vermiculture, sloping agricultural land technology, and more.
“We offer these since we believe that it helps in putting ‘culture’ back in ‘agriculture’ and it
cuts across our organizational vision of giving indigenous people and rural communities a chance against the mainstream,” Lomarda said.
In addition to teaching indigenous knowledge, Umanika Eco-Cultural Farm is also managed by a father and daughter team who are from the Matigsalug-Manobo tribe of Bukidnon.
“They make their own work plans and are encouraged to be in a ‘recommendatory state of mind’ instead of waiting for orders. Also we have our own internal control system to follow and guide operations,” Lomarda said.
He added that in managing an eco-cultural farm, you have to be proud of your culture, love what you’re doing and do it with the people you love, and prioritize the people and the planet before thinking of profit.
To date, Umanika has hosted trainees and visitors from various provinces in the Philippines as well as guests from the Republic of Vanuatu, New Zealand, Mongolia, and the United States.
Other than the farm tour and training, Umanika also produces peanuts, herbs, indigenous trees, fruits, and vegetables.
The herbs are sold to the market as flavor enhancers and as a product that Umanika calls “herby chips.” In the meantime, the peanuts are also packaged and sold as a snack.
Aside from Umanika Eco-Cultural Farm, GreenMinds Inc. also has another learning and earning site: Balay Kinaiyahan.
If Umanika is an organic farm that practices and teaches indigenous techniques, Balay Kinaiyahan is an eco-friendly residence located in a subdivision at the heart of Cagayan De Oro that serves as a model for green living in an urban area.
The farm’s name translates to “nature home” since it applies the 4Rs–Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, in its premises.
Presently, the eco-friendly farm has hosted about 1,460 visitors which includes indigenous people, non-government organizations, people’s organizations, students, and marginalized farmers.
Balay Kinaiyahan also houses the main office of GreenMinds Inc. and the processing facility for organic peanuts.
According to Lomarda, establishing these two farms helps in creating an earth-caring mindset for the next generation among other things.
“By literally being [in] contact with the earth and experiencing how food that is grown from seed to fruit is enough reason to protect, preserve and be proud of our cultural identity. We cannot go further if our foundation and identity which is the soil is not taken care of,” he said.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s July to August 2020 issue.