By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao 

Various studies have noted how shifting to a healthier lifestyle can improve one’s health and lessen the likelihood of being afflicted by various diseases. Most importantly, living a healthier lifestyle can increase the number of years a person has to live. 

This kind of lifestyle is what Maya Guilatco, part-time farmer and owner of Sunnystalks Farm, an urban farm located in Metro Manila, aims to promote. 

“Sunnystalks Farm was created in February 2017. It was an eye-opener to share with others green, leafy vegetables that can give the best impact on someone’s health. Its goal is to grow for life,” Guilatco said.

Sunnystalks Farm was established in 2017 and is dedicated to growing superfood vegetables.

Aside from being a part-time farmer, Guilatco works full-time as the head of the human resources department of a large corporation. 

How the urban farm began 

Guilatco’s interest in urban farming began when she started growing herbs at home.

When she first began growing food at home, Guilatco saw the many health benefits of eating vegetables.

“I would use the herbs for various tea concoctions and give it to my kids when they have cough, colds, or fever. I evolved to growing simple vegetables–eggplant and pechay. It was such a rewarding feeling to tell your family that you grew them with lots of love and attention,” she said. 

To augment her knowledge in growing food, Guilatco read a lot about herbs and superfood vegetables, watched videos, attended an urban farming course under the Department of Agriculture and seminars under local farms in the Philippines. 

“This is when I realized that what you eat creates this certain harmony inside your body. Your body welcomes the good food through happiness and positivity; and when the bad enters your body, there is an expensive long-term sickness effect,” she said. 

Growing superfoods

After realizing what eating healthy can do to the body, Guilatco started planting on her urban farm. Currently, she grows kale, spinach, swiss chard, and lettuce.

One of the crops growing on the urban farm is kale.

“The nutrient of each vegetable is packed with vitamins and minerals that can offer numerous health benefits and reduce risk of diseases,” she said. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Guilatco’s clients were mostly expatriates located in key areas within Manila because they were the ones with experience and knowledge about kale as a result of living in other countries than the Philippines. 

But during the pandemic, the part-time urban farmer’s clientele shifted to senior citizens, those with comorbidities or the presence of two or more diseases in the same person, and health buffs. 

“Knowing the pandemic situation, I knew I had to be flexible and changed the pricing but at the same time, help others in their medical condition. I do not consider, at this point, to be profitable. Human life is what we need to preserve at this time, Gualitco said.

Guilatco says that her decision to grow superfood vegetables was not driven by profit, rather the idea of promoting life.

She added that she grows superfood vegetables to encourage people to eat healthy because of the positive effects it brings to the body and the help it brings to those who are sick. 

Caring for her crops 

During the hot months, Gualitco maintains her crops by watering them early in the morning, before 9 AM, and again in the late afternoon. 

“When we have cooler temperatures, once a day, but the soil is what I check often, it needs to be damped,” she said. 

She also looks at every leaf to see if there are any unusual colors or ants so she can easily mitigate any pest or disease that could affect her crops. 

“Birds and small insects can be good and bad. The birds eat the insects and help in the growth process but they can also pick on your vegetable leaves until it dies,” Gualitco said, emphasizing the need to constantly check on her plants to make sure they grow ideally. 

Through part-time urban farming, Gualitco gets to feed her family fresh and healthy produce. It has also enabled her to promote her noble cause of healthy eating to her fellow Filipinos by considering their health. 

For more information, visit Sunnystalks Farm on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of Maya Guilatco.