PH’s top veggie-growing town prods local farmers to go organic

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BUGUIAS, BENGUET – The Buguias town government and its Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) are persuading vegetable farmers to shift from conventional to organic vegetable farming.

The municipal executives said such shift is not only to save the farms from the side effects of commercial chemical fertilizers and pesticides, but also to produce non-synthetic or organic vegetable, which at present has a high marketability.

MAO Chief Delfin Rufino said that farmers here are more on conventional farming. This is to meet the vegetable demand in the market.

Buguias town produces 65 percent of all vegetables in the province. It is also the home of conventional farmers, as 80 percent of its 43,000 population are farmers. Their main products are cabbage, lettuce, Chinese pechay, potatoes, and carrots – or the ‘chopsuey’ ingredients.

Rufino said the high use of commercial pesticides, fertilizers, and other synthetic chemicals are affecting the normal condition of the soil in the town, making the soil acidic and prone to different pests.

He said the soil is being ‘abused’ when its acidity is raised, which, he said, is bad for the farmers and the farming industry in the end.

He said while they are promoting organic production, the shift is very slow.

“It’s not easy to convince these farmers to go organic because their income would be affected. But we want to save our farms from the negative side effects of synthetic chemicals,” Rufino said, adding organic vegetables are now globally competitive and could reap higher income for the local farmers.

The town official said the town’s government began the gradual shift in the farming style of the locals in 2013, when the farmers were organized into six smaller groups to systematically adopt good agricultural practices (GAP) and organic farming.

He said the GAP is their first step in convincing the farmers to go organic. Under the GAP, farmers should follow the proper dosage of chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides. They need also to have a wash area, including a comfort room within their farms. He added the farmers are also encouraged to produce organic fertilizers by composting the garden refuse left on the farm after harvest.

“We admit that it will take us a long time to convince at least half of our farmers, but we are envisioning a time when our municipality would become the land where organic vegetables come from,” Rufino said.

Buguias Mayor Ruben Tindaan said in the town’s week-long second ‘albubo’ and vegetable festival, the townsfolk did not only bake a giant carrot cake for 1,600 people, but they also exhibited their cooking prowess in viand-cooking tilts, using locally produced vegetables.

One of the viands served during the contest was ‘vegetables with pancit’, not ‘pancit with vegetables’ – to highlight that the town produces the bulk of the highland vegetables. DIONISIO DENNIS JR., PNA / ABN