It’s everyday pinakbet in Ilocos! You could say the Ilocanos are long-established organic farmers.
Influenced by the green thumb and entrepreneurial savvy of Ilocos Norte’s pioneer dragon fruit grower, Manang Editha Dacuycuy, another lady, Manang Agnes Asuncion, a mother and former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Barangay Pias, Norte Currimao, nurtures a handful of potted dragon fruit cuttings (in 2008), strengthens her knack for gardening by undergoing agri trainings from several government agencies and Manang Editha herself, and then grows her vegetable and fruit garden into a farm, with 180 dragon fruit trees to date. The trees are now able to provide for her dragon fruit soap making home business.
Through the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) “Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program”, Manang Agnes was rewarded a financial grant, which has helped her purchase tools and materials to enhance her handmade soap business.
Dragon fruit is regarded for its antioxidant properties. Being a dragon fruit fiend myself, the fruit’s potent cleansing effect on me is remarkable. I have yet to try the soap made from stems, however.
Currently, her soaps bearing her name can reach as far as Manila and the Visayas. Repeat buyers use the soaps (dragon cactus-cococut oil, dragon cactus-olive oil, dragon cactus-mint variants) for various purposes such as skin whitening, disinfecting and relief for bruises, excessive sweating, itching, fungal problems, psoriasis, etc..
Manang Agnes is able to produce 250 pieces per week, with a little help from her teenage children. Her gracious daughters, Edita Loraine and Gretchen Barbara, showed me around her work space. They intimated that their mom’s flourishing business is able to augment the family income.
Agnes Asuncion Brgy. Pias, Currimao, Ilocos Norte CP #: (0921) 273 4515
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2012
It’s been more than a year since I visited Manang Edita Dacuycuy of REFMAD Farms in Brgy. Paayas, Burgos. Manang Edita is the original Ilocano grower of this wonder fruit called saniata in Ilocos, more popularly known worldwide as dragon fruit. A befitting name for the fruit, saniata is Ilocano for blooming, progressive and promising. Manang Edita, who heads the group of 54 dragon fruit growers all over Ilocos Norte, has big dreams of making the province the dragon fruit capital of the Philippines. Why not?
The 5-hectare farm looks a lot different from the last time I went with Martine and Ericke. Spacing visits longer makes it more thrilling.
(Read my first news feature about REFMAD Farms and the King of Fruits posted last year via the LEAD Movement blog)
Dragon fruit cactus is known to aid several illnesses. You might want to check this out (here)
REFMAD Farms dragon fruit bi-products
Nothing is wasted. Dried dragon fruit flowers are made into lumpia, empanadita, dumplings and burger patties and served at the café. They also have farm-baked cupcakes and cookies… and surprise, ice cream!
Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Old-style farming is considered to be modern again. The growing environmental concern in relation to unnatural farming practices such as genetic modification and the use of artificial chemicals has led many farmers worldwide to revert to quaint agricultural practices.
54-year old Nestor Acosta, a native of the town of Bacarra and a farmer for 34 years now, has gone back to the basics in regard to his farming methods. The year 2000 was a turning point in his life as a farmer. The words of a certain public servant — “Agpaili koma ti saba, ngem tattan isumetten itti agpaaway. Awan kadin itti daga itti away? (Bananas should be sent to the city, but now they are sent to the countryside. Are there no more lands in the countryside?)” — were like thunder to him. He took the public servant’s words as a challenge. He worked up a plan, leased additional pieces of land, and went back to natural farming techniques.
He uses only chicken manure fertilizer in his 10-hectare veritable organic vegetable and fruit farm. Through integrated farming, he is able to yield more high quality, better tasting gourd, bittermelon, papaya and long green beans which he and his family sell at their vegetable stall in the Bacarra public market. To date, he has 230 cinta and red lady papaya trees. His younger guapple trees are nearing maturity.
Manong Nestor has earned several awards for his outstanding efforts in sustainable agriculture. Four years in a row, from 1990-1993, he was awarded an Outstanding Farmer in Region I. He is also a Gawad Saka awardee for converting a wasteland into a year-round green integrated farm. In 2008, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Foresty, and Natural Resources Research and Development – Department of Science and Technology (PCARRD-DOST) sent him to Korea for a study-visit. “I learned much from that visit. It was an exchange of organic farming ideas between the Philippines, which I represented, and Korea,” he said.
“The whole town of Bacarra, as well as the entire nation, should adopt organic farming practices for better health and longer life,” Manong Nestor said when I asked him what he wanted to tell his fellow Ilocano farmers.