Atok opens own organic farm produce market
TOK, Benguet - One good deed leads to another! After La Trinidad, the town of Atok now has its own organic farm products organic market. That good news unfolded here last July 29.
With assistance from the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resources and Management (CHARM-2) Project, the municipal local government unit (LGU) of Atok organized local farmers who are engaged in “organic” agriculture into a production and marketing group called Atok Organic Practitioners Association(AtOPA).
Just like what the LGU of La Trinidad did in the 1990s, the LGU of Atok shall assist the organic farmer practitioners in terms of technical assistance and institutional development. AtOPA and the Atok LGU soft-launched their organic and natural products market at the Municipal LGU gym last July 29.
After the launching program, several organically produced vegetables, root crops and fruits were sold and bought by the locals like hot cakes. These include carrots, sugar beets, potato, sayote, pineapples, shitake mushroom, dulce, lettuce, red sticky rice, green onions, tomato, honey, watercress, cabbage, spinach, violet camote leaves, cauliflower, passion fruit tops, among others. Most of the products were almost sold out by afternoon.
A meeting of the association’s members was called by Atok municipal agriculturist Mr. Fred Rufino to review the group’s marketing operations during the soft launching. By the time they adjourned, they have already finalized their selling schedules to be undertaken every 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month at the municipal gym.
Angeline Datud, 65, and retired schoolteacher said she is glad that Atopa was organized and launched. She and her husband own some 500 square meters of land in sitio Bocao devoted to “organic” farming. Her husband Carlos was trained on organic farming under the Benguet State University’s organic farming certificate program. She just sold violet camote tops and a few kilos of lemon in the day’s AtOPA launching.
Datud envisions AtOPA to serve the Atok community primarily. “It must make the business of farming reclaim its true values in terms of providing healthy food products and making the land safe to man, livestock and migratory animals,” she said.
Another lady farmer who was trained on organic farming by the Plan International in 1988 said it would be a sacrifice initially for conventional farmers to convert to organic farming. It will take time, about three years, before their farms can yield produce that does not contain pesticide and chemical residues.
“What is important is that they must be committed to the care of the land and produce products that sustains and prolongs life,” she said.
Mayor Peter Alos, Vice Mayor Marson Lay-at, Councilor Paquito Calantas, chairman of the committee on agriculture were united in their support to the organization of AtOPA and the establishment of its temporary market at the municipal gym. The local “organic” market will soon be transferred to its permanent home once the construction of the municipal market in Sayangan, Atok will be completed sometime in December this year, they said.
Director Marilyn Sta. Catalina, reacting to the soft launching of the “organic” market in Atok said it is a good start. However, to protect the organic farmers and the market of organic farm products, “much still needs to be done” towards recognition and certification of “organic” products from Atok and elsewhere in the Cordillera.
The approval and expected implementation of a pesticide residue bioassay project proposed by the provincial government of Benguet should help consumers know if agricultural products are truly organically produced as claimed, Sta. Catalina said.
The DA investment to this project is P1.3 million. Meantime, Sta. Catalina in a management meeting last August 1, announced the DARFU-CAR is undertaking an inventory of organic farmers in the region. The inventory shall help identify genuine organic practitioners and those who are still in the process of transforming their farms and practices prior to certification as organic farmers and sources of organic farm products.
The full launching of the “organic” market in Atok is targeted to be done early next year. Meantime, the CHARM-2 Project and the LGU of Atok are expected to assist the AtOPA and its members achieve full recognition or become duly certified as a production and marketing association for organic farm products in compliance to Republic Act No. 10068 or Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.// Robert L. Domoguen