By Vina Medenilla
Agroecology is a sustainable farming approach that refers to the use of natural resources without damaging them. During the MIMAROPA leg of AgriTalk 2020, Jonjon Sarmiento, proprietor of Kuatro Marias’ AgroEcology Farm, discussed agroecology farming and used his farm as an example.
Principles of an agroecology farm
Kuatro Marias’ AgroEcology Farm sits on a 400sqm piece of land in San Narciso, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. As a way to protect biodiversity, the farm has been implementing natural methods and does not use harmful synthetic chemicals since it was established in 1998. Sarmiento talked about the following dimensions or principles involved in agroecology:
Economic. Before establishing the farm, they made sure to strengthen their family’s financial stability to keep the business running despite the hurdles. The farm has been able to handle and overcome countless natural disasters and crises, including the current health emergency brought about by COVID-19. Sarmiento said in Tagalog, “Through the farm components, it provided us with livelihood and a source of safe and nutritious food that’s not only for us, but also for the community.”
Culture and technology. From preparing the soil to managing pests, the use of technology on the farm isn’t limited to a piece of equipment or machinery alone. They use different processes and technologies that are efficient and right for animals, crops, and humans.
Political. Sarmiento emphasized that they also got rid of unjust farm practices such as the use of chemicals. In the production of crops and chicken and pork meat, the farm ensures that they sustainably help the environment while producing safe and good food for the consumers.
Natural sciences. The farm runs in accordance with science. Sarmiento mentioned that they follow a biodynamic calendar and that they believe and apply the method of planting by the moon and stars, which relates to the lunar cycle that affects plant growth. They also use fermented kakawate leaves and charcoal for controlling pests like black bugs.
Supporting community. Through farming, they promote inclusivity. Roles of women, parents, children, and neighbors are also considered part of this practice that contributes to bettering the village and environment.
Design. The placement of each farm element also plays a part in the productivity of a farmer. Proper positioning of plants and other components can help them efficiently move around the area and plan their activities in an orderly manner.
At Kuatro Marias’ AgroEcology Farm, there’s a pond where tilapia, hito, and paitan fishes are grown. Chickens and hogs are fed the same kinds of naturally grown feed. Their favorite is salu-saluyotan leaves. Having the same animal feed makes it easy to provide daily nourishment for the animals. Adjacent to their hog houses is the feed garden where they grow and produce plants for the animals’ feed.
In less than a hectare, the farm is also a food forest filled with various trees and crops like ube and cinnamon. This forest, according to Sarmiento, is their way of combating climate change. It is also where trees such as tibig trees (Ficus Nota) are grown and planted for certain purposes. Sarmiento speeds up the multiplication of trees with the help of tree planting activities offered to every farm guest. Trees in the forest serve their own purpose. For a tibig tree, its leaves aren’t only food for the goats, but its fruits can also be fed to pigs or can be used as fertilizer.
The farm also maintains a seed bank where seeds remain attached to their fruit. Sarmiento does not buy the seeds that are already packed in the market, but buys fruits, veggies, and flowers so he can freshly obtain the seeds from them. This also alleviates the use of plastic waste. He collects seeds of Bahay Kubo crops, flowers, and more.
The farm serves as a learning venue where Sarmiento and his co-farmers study and learn about their own farm experiences. For example, if Sarmiento encounters black bug infestation on his farm, he invites his co-farmers and discusses their observations and possible solutions for it so they would know how to deal with it when they, in turn, encounter the same issue on their respective farms.
Agroecology is like having insurance. No matter what happens, you have something to lean on, said Sarmiento. Apart from food and livelihood, his agroecology farm has been providing them wood that serves as their natural source of energy, especially during storms. “In planting wood, do not just look at its economic value, but also for its ecological services,” Sarmiento added.