Urban Farming: Sowing Seeds of Hope amidst Pandemic

Actress and host Angel Locsin learns urban gardening from Rev. Fr. Eduardo Vasquez, Jr.

CALOOCAN CITY, Metro Manila – A few months back, there was a looming fear of food insecurity as the spread of novel coronavirus disease posed threats to the country’s food supply chain. Inflation of food prices and volatility of income imply an increasing number of families who have to slash food quantity and quality in their consumption. As such, the Department of Agriculture (DA) intensified its call for communities and households to start their own vegetable garden to ensure available and nutritious food for all, particularly for city dwellers.

Since its call, more communities in Metro Manila have joined the initiative in mainstreaming urban-grown food production. One of the notable community gardens assisted and established by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) is the GRACE Urban Agriculture Demonstration Farm in the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace Parish in this city. The demo farm was featured on the latest episode of Iba Yan! streamed over ABS-CBN online channels last October 11, 2020.

During the show, Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Eduardo “Ponpon” Vasquez, Jr. – the demo farm manager – told actress and host Angel Locsin that the parish’s garden was instrumental in easing the adversity faced by the poor communities they assist in this pandemic. “Before the pandemic, we only serve hot meals to impoverished families in the Diocese. Now, we are teaching them to grow food crops in limited spaces in their respective homes,” he said.

According to Fr. Ponpon, he teaches urban agriculture practices, and technologies like aquaponics and organic fertilizer production, among others. Some community members are already reaping the fruits of their labor as two participants of the seminars shared stories of hope brought about by urban farming.

Vilma Aguillon, a 57-year-old single parent, has to peddle snacks to earn a living for her family. Since the lockdown, her livelihood was interrupted by quarantine measures pressed by authorities. When she heard that the Diocese is conducting a seminar on urban agriculture, she immediately responded and participated in the activity. Now she has a flourishing vertical garden outside their house, and is certain that her family is eating safe and chemical-free food.

Moreover, few weeks after attending the seminar, 16-year-old Mc Emil Tatel is immersed in tending his container garden at home. He shared that aside from food availability, he turned to gardening to overcome his depression and anxiety. This young lad also imparts his acquired knowledge on urban farming to his fellow youth, aiming to motivate them to take up the practice in their households.

Ms. Locsin thanked them for sharing their stories of inspiration. The Iba Yan! team likewise extended help to the two urban farmers by giving them small business package, and other essentials for their family’s needs. They also provided additional seeds from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI) to the GRACE Urban Agriculture Demonstration Farm, as well as 100 urban agriculture starter kits from ATI.

The DA and ATI support the urban agriculture project of the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace Parish as they recognize the role of the religious sector in assisting communities and transforming lives.

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.