Reducing plastic use from farm to packaging
BACOLOD CITY—Farmers and food vendors in Silay City in Negros Occidental province are taking the lead to minimize the use of plastics and consider more environment-friendly alternatives in packing or presenting their products.
Through the Slow Food Earth Market (SFEM) in Silay, both producers and consumers are made aware of the need to start using less plastic and nonbiodegradable materials as a way to help save the planet from the threats of climate change. According to Reena Gamboa, spokesperson for the Slow Food community in Negros, the convenience of plastic comes at a steep environmental price.
“Slow Food Negros and its Earth Market advocate the need to keep the environment clean and the earth healthy by promoting the use of biodegradable materials and veering away from chemicals, preservatives and pesticides to grow crops,” she told the Inquirer.
“That is why we promote the use of paper, banana leaves, and anything natural and biodegradable to wrap the produce farmers sell at the Earth Market. We need to stop using plastics if we want to help save the Earth,” she added.
Fresh local produce
She said some participating vendors still use plastics, but organizers had been constantly discouraging them to shift to alternative packaging materials.“Look at the stomachs of several animals that die. There are plastics inside. And not only that, these plastic materials also block waterways. Practically, plastics destroy what we do as farmers,” she said. Once a month, farmers gather on Rizal Street, at Barangay 5 in Silay City, more than 27 kilometers north of the capital city of Bacolod, to sell their homegrown, freshly picked produce.
From fruits and vegetables to mushrooms, eggs, dairy, honey, rice, coconut oil, vinegar and coffee, they sell them all directly to consumersThe latest farmers’ market which follows “Slow Food” principles is the first in the Philippines. It was launched on May 27 and will open every last Saturday of the month.
Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. The movement now involves members from over 160 countries.
According to Gamboa, Earth Markets aim to give people access to a food supply chain which are local, seasonal and made with respect for the environment and workers’ rights.
“Through Earth Markets, consumers are able to learn from farmers the various uses of their crops and how to cook them. The farmers, on the other hand, are able to explain to consumers the different crops available in their communities,” she said.
“Our mindsets are influenced by Western ideas so we look for broccoli and cauliflower that are not natural to the Philippines instead of crops that are endemic to the locality. It is not only cost-efficient to grow what is natural to us but it also preserves our cultural heritage,” Gamboa said. Since its inception, the program has been coordinated with the Silay City government, the provincial governor’s office, Provincial Tourism Office, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Tourism. SFEM in Silay City is being financed by Negros Occidental Rep. Francisco Benitez, who represents the province’s third congressional district in the House of Representatives.
Expected customers of the program include housewives, chefs, restaurant owners and communities from the neighboring cities of Bacolod, Bago, Talisay and Victorias, as well as the town of EB Magalona.
“It’s through them (farmers) that we can all learn what is endemic to our community, and the Earth Market will allow the community to deal straight with the farmers and to pay them the fair price they’re due. By doing so, we value our local food sources and appreciate its importance—not only for our physical health but also for our Filipino soul,” Gamboa said.
The Slow Food community, she said, has been active in mapping food sources, ingredients and dishes in the province’s third district.
Aside from its well-preserved old houses, Silay also has a wide variety of native delicacies.
According to Gamboa, there is a need to continue this advocacy to raise awareness about the “fragile gastronomic heritage” of Negros to protect and sustain it.
“[For instance], Silay City’s gastronomic delicacies are still homemade by families who continue to use recipes handed down from generation to generation,” she said.
The city’s most iconic dishes include “lumpia,” “empanada,” “panara,” “pionono,” “piaya,” “lubid-lubid” and “butong-butong,” among others
“Promoting and preserving our traditional food is of utmost importance if we are to cultivate and continue Filipino culture to our future generations. We believe that the best way to do this is to talk to our main protagonists—the small farmers,” Gamboa said. INQ