The month of August, Costales Nature Farms, and a merry mix of young ones

At least in our part of the country, folklore has it that August is a month when people are advised to be particularly cautious. It's the month, it is said, when animals are particularly vicious and accidents happen.

Recent events tended to bolster this superstitious belief. The country lost Secretary Jesse Robredo and his pilots as the plane they were riding tragically and inexplicably plunged into sea, the habagat floods wrought damage to life and property in Metro Manila, snakes disturbed by the floods strike on unsuspecting people, leptospirosis and dengue abound in the metropolis and other parts of the country, two-in-a-row typhoons glided past north Luzon, and typhoon Igme threatened to revisit the northern provinces.

Thank God for the Costales Nature Farms.

A brief stay at the Costales Nature Farms in Majayjay, Laguna and the company of young and fun persons are the best antidote for any illogical foreboding. Quite the contrary, it puts outside events in their proper perspective. Compact and producing certified organic produce, Costales Nature Farms drives home important lessons on the survival of the human species.

Lesson One: Nurture nature

High-value vegetables such as lettuce and cauliflower grow alongside everyday lowland types such as okra and sitaw. Herbs and spices such as tarragon and sweet basil dot the area. Botanical pesticides such as cosmos and marigold grow prettily along nurseries and vegetable plots. Areas not suited for vegetables grow fertilizer-free forage for livestock and poultry.

Plants grow on garden plots, plots in open fields, plots in greenhouses... on bamboos poles, earthen pots, makeshift “plots” made from fine-meshed nets anchored on elevated metal bars.

Every square meter produces vegetables, herbs and spices, or organic livestock. African Night Crawlers (ANC), grown in vermibeds and beneath the rabbits' cages, feed on farm and animal wastes. ANC transforms organic matter into vermicast which enriches the soil.

The Costales Nature Farms nurtures life. Obviously, the organic produce brings health to consumers. Its healthy way of producing food gives those who tend the farms safe and satisfying occupations. The sustainable farming practices nurtures the beneficial living organisms in the soil, which enriches it and enables it to produce bountiful harvest.

All the greenery you see at the farm makes you realize that nature nurtures life. It has often been said: “Take care of nature, and nature takes care of you.”

Well, for so long conventional “green revolution” farming took nature for granted, even destroying in the guise of producing food for the multitudes. It was after much damage had been done when people realized the results – health problems, polluted waters, acidic soil, depleted resources, global warming.

Costales Nature Farms chooses to turn the tide. As their brochure says, they aim to “promote sustainable agriculture, healthy lifestyle, and environmental biodiversity through integrated natural farming.”

This is no lip service. The air is kept cool and fresh although the rooms have no air conditioning units, a sign of their commitment to take care of nature. Mosquitoes are controlled the natural way – keeping the area clean and using plants and plant-based as insect repellants.

Lesson Two: Share

As the saying goes, shared joys are doubled joys; shared sorrows are halved sorrows.

The joys of healthy farming is shared to a multitude of people. On-the-job trainees, well-trained workers, visitors eager to learn, consumers who seek health-supportive foods.

The farm even offers opportunities for investors. People who have the capital fund the construction of greenhouses at the farm.

Whatever the reason may be for being at Costales Nature Farms, one inevitably feel blessed that this little piece of heaven on earth exists.

Lesson Three: Live

A few hours' visit to nearby falls in Majayjay nurtures one's spirituality. The gushing waters attests to God's goodness and nature's bounty.

Sometimes labels help. Sometimes they don't. In the case of organic farming, both seem to be true.

Some people have understood that going organic is a way of healing, to undo harm that has been done. However, some misunderstood it as mere fad or fancy.

A brief stay at the Costales Nature Farms with a group of young and youngish people makes me realize (once more) that life is meant to be lived. The best way to do that? Be healthy!

(Another plus for the month of August: DA's Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) marked the 26th National Coconut week and 11th Coconut Festival in three focal points nationwide – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. In Luzon, the PCA's main office at Diliman, Quezon City showcased various coconut products and by-products. Much interest focused on healthy or organically produced low glycemic index sugar from coco sap. Another reason to salute coconut, the tree of life.)

ATI Today

Extension services continue to evolve. With the challenges that extension workers and farmers face, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) continues to explore various strategies to improve its efforts as the extension and training arm of the Department of Agriculture. In over 30 years, the ATI has celebrated various successes and learned from the lessons during hard times. Nonetheless, we are proud to be standing the test of time through the support of our partners and the clientele themselves. This is the ATI Today, more committed to bring you extension services beyond boundaries.