A Sustainable Beach Farm In Zambales Produces The Best Organic Lettuce—And More!
Organic has been all the rage nowadays, but what really goes behind all these chemical and pesticide-free produce? What makes an organic farm truly organic and sustainable?
Joel Binamira has been visiting the FTI/AANI Weekend Market in Taguig for years now, going after his usual suki stores for the freshest fruits and vegetables. One of his must-visit stalls in the weekend market is Mary’s stall, which brings down produce from Benguet and offers stuff you won’t usually see in markets and supermarkets like watercress, beets, and Korean radish.
But one fateful day, he stumbles into some fresh, beautiful, and organic lettuce that looks straight out of a magazine.
Lettuce likes cool temperature, and beautiful, crisp lettuce like these are hard to find. But imagine Joel’s surprise when he finds out that these lettuce are actually grown from a farm right next to a beach?
So we follow Joel for some five-hour drive from the metro to get to Sambali Beach Farm, an organic farm located in Botolan, Zambales that sits right next to the beach. The farm was started in 1999 by couple Ching and Philip Camara, who have been striving to produce organic produce at a minimal cost to the environment.
Ching says that they started Sambali mainly because she had a neuromuscular condition that demands her to eat cleanly. When they started, the land really was unhospitable and the planting conditions arid. But since Zambales is 70 percent mountains and 30 percent coastal and low lands, the land was still able to absorb the rain and keep it.
Looking around the farm, Joel finds the most beautiful lettuce that he have seen at the AANI Weekend Market, growing beautifully in over a 100-degree temperature.
He also finds some Chinese Kangkong, among many others, which are a variety of kangkong that grows on soil instead of water. The kangkong are even flowering, a rare sight and a sign that the plant is growing in perfect condition.
Lounging in the okra plants are beautiful bugs, sign that the produce are really chemical-free. These bugs are essential to keep the pests out of the plants in the absence of pesticide.
So what’s the secret really to this amazing beachfront farm that was able to turn the non-ideal conditions into something organic and fresh? Philip reveals that they use several biochar contraptions to turn natural waste into usable biochar.
Biochar is essentially a soil amendment that’s rich in carbon, and works to increase soil fertility of acidic soils, increase agricultural productivity, and provide protection against some foliar and soil-borne diseases. The biochar can also act as a heat repellant that helps cool down the soil, making it a great bed for the lettuce and the other produce.
Philip says that essentially anything bio mass can be biochar. That’s why they are able to turn waste like corn cobs, which farmers and people usually throw away, into effective biochar.
When it comes to fertilizer, they also have a huge area that houses over 30 tons of androgynous worms that are fed with a specific mix of feed. The waste then that comes from these worms are what makes the fertilizer used in the farm.
These kinds of processes are what really makes Sambali Beach Farm a sustainable, zero-waste farm with minimal carbon footprint and the best organic produce source. Joel notes that instead of focusing on the costliness of organic produce versus normal produce, supporting organic farms like Sambali is a way of being aware of the costs of food production to the environment, and encouraging more farms to follow these sustainable and zero-waste ways.
Get to know more about Joel Binamira’s trip to Sambali Beach Farm and the various markets that Chef JP Anglo will visit in the metro on Show Me the Market, airing on October 26, 8 p.m., on Metro Channel, channel 52 on Sky Cable and channel 174 on HD. Catch replays throughout the week.