Focolare Eco Farm (Progress Report)
The Focolare Eco Farm started in full swing with the generous grant from the CHARIS Singapore! This is a concise Progress Report to outline what we have done so far, particularly through the pictures that speak louder than words.
Our Focus has been on the two big areas for cultivation. The land is fully cultivated, with regular harvests and quality improvement.
At present, we are cultivating a variety of 24 kinds of vegetables, including herbs and fruit trees. We take advantage of small plots for cultivation as well, to ensure no land is idle. The following pictures show these small plots or hilly spaces being utilized.
We have 4 regular employees (local farmers who
need a job to provide food for their families) and
a good number of farmers-on-call, all receive new knowledge and scientific skills in farming.
Left: young papaya trees
We introduced Italian vegetable Arugula, quite new here, which is appreciated. A couple of doctors are using it for their herbal treatment.
There are 4 youth who are at our Formation Center for their formation in the spirituality of the Focolare Movement. Manual work is part of their human formation. Now their job is to work in the Farm, learning a new skill, through lessons of our resource speakers and on-the-job training!
Four Focolarinos are working alongside with them.
While the production goes on, marketing is one area that calls our particular attention.
Besides giving job to some farmers who really need it and training them and some youth in professional farming, the first beneficiaries are those who receive help from our Pag-asa Social Center, some 200 families and 300 children. It holds true for those of Bukas Palad Social Center as well.
The food packs they receive now include fresh vegetables, besides rice and canned goods.
NEXT STEP IN OUR IMMEDIATE NEEDS
With the help of our Jewish friend, we will build the automatic irrigation system. For now we do it manually (see right).
We are designing a rain water collection system for irrigation, a costly undertaking not in our budget, which will render our Project even more ecological.
Our first customers are our friends and those who come to attend our daily Mass in our Chapel. The participants are more now as the health protocols due to the Pandemic are relaxing. Obviously, this is a limited market.
Among our regular customers are three restaurants in Tagaytay and one in Manila. Their consumption is increasing after the “lockdown” is lifted. We are in negotiation with a couple of others and exploring other outlets where we can sell.
CHALLENGES AND SUSTAINABILITY
At this moment, we are sort of “breakeven”, meaning the income is just sufficient to pay the wages of our workers (which is not covered by the Charis grant).
We expect the production to become more efficient and we need a stable “market”, which, with time, is improving. From our experience, we hope to produce the kind of vegetables and the quantity the market needs. The other areas of cultivation which we will develop will be for fruit trees and coffee plants.
At this moment we are happy that we provide livelihood for some farmers and fresh vegetables to the beneficiaries of our Social Centers. We are hopeful that the Eco-Farm will become sustainable in due time.