DILIMAN, Quezon City–The Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) graces another ‘feast’ to cap off a productive cropping season. For this year, the Harvest Festival and Field Day celebration is as vivid as the intention of the Institute to shed light on the value of urban and peri-urban agriculture in ensuring a food-secure cityscape.
The activity was highlighted by four major parts: the launching and turnover of the Edible Landscape Demonstration Garden; ceremonial harvest of some produce at the ATI Central Office’s Urban Agriculture (UA) Garden; awarding of Best Integrated UA Garden from Quezon City and Caloocan City; and a seminar on edible landscaping, and best practices in UA in a Learning Site for Agriculture (LSA) setting.
Edible landscaping: Celebrating form, function, and food security
The four-part fest commenced with the launching and turnover of the Edible Landscape Demonstration Garden, which materialised through the partnership among ATI, Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR), and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Edible Landscaping Team. The demonstration garden was established as part of the Edible Landscaping: Magtanim ng Gulay Para sa Isang Masagana, Malusog, at Makulay na Buhay Project to promote edible landscaping in urban communities. This project, funded by the DA-BAR), aims to bolster the Plant, Plant, Plant Program of the Department of Agriculure (DA).
ATI Director Rosana P, Mula, Ph.D. formally welcomed the guests, partners, and stakeholders to the program. In her message, she reiterated that learning-by-doing and experiential and lifelong learning are key to becoming well-capacitated with agricultural technologies–which shall be enjoyed by everyone. She further extended her gratitude to the partner agencies for choosing the Institute to further showcase the science and art of edible landscaping, just in time for the celebration.
On behalf of DA-BAR Director Dr. Junel B. Soriano, Dr. Anthony B. Obligado, the Head of the Research Coordination Division, emphasized that the DA-BAR is fully-committed to ensuring the continual promotion and support to the brainchild of the UPLB Edible Landscaping Team, headed by Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr.
On the other hand, Dr. Sanchez shared a glimpse of the practice and the promotion of edible landscaping in the country. He further shared that the ATI demo garden was the third established demonstration garden within the DA family, following the sites developed at the DA-BAR Compound and at the DA Central Office. After which, the edible landscape demonstration garden was formally launched through a ribbon-cutting and unveiling of the site marker.
Ceremonial Harvesting and Planting: Celebrating bounty and continuity
After the launch and turnover of the edible landscape demonstration garden, the program proceeded to the Harvest Festival proper and showcased the produce of the UA gardens at the ATI compound. The ATIng Gulayan ng DA, the UA demonstration garden developed by a team from the ATI’s National Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture Program (NUPAP) was showcased to the guests and partners, allowing everyone to pick as much fresh vegetables as they could. ATI NUPAP focal person and Agriculturist Jomar Tabor invites the guests, “Lahat po ng makikita ninyo ay pwede ninyong anihin.”
Guests and partners were given baskets and harvesting scissors to gather the organically-grown crops such as eggplant, pechay, and mustard, okra, chili, and upland kangkong. Other herbs and leafy vegetables like basil, jute leaves or saluyot, and talinum were also available to anyone. Notably, there are signages around the garden that highlight the health benefits, and other economic value of the cultivated crops.
After the ceremonial harvesting activity, the VIPs and distinguished guests are invited at the ceremonial planting activity that symbolizes their utmost support to the conduct of the program, and as a mark of sustainability of urban gardening at the Institute.
Celebrating the Best community-based urban agriculture gardens in the metro
This portion in the Harvest Festival and Field Day awarded the Best Integrated UA Garden from Quezon City and Caloocan City. On May 25, 2022, a search was spearheaded by the ATI NUPAP Team, covering the overall performance of the UA garden sites from January to April 2022. Further, the gardens were evaluated based on production and sales (volume of production per square meter, monetary value of production per square meter, and cost of production per square meter), aesthetic value (overall arrangement of the plant and non-plant components,) number of technologies showcased, records management, number of individuals reached, and community involvement (participation of stakeholders, level of technology transfer, and the use of garden for social causes).
After evaluating a total of thirty entries from community gardens, and Gulayan sa Paaralan (GPP) beneficiaries, the top five qualifiers were shortlisted and were invited to participate at the awarding ceremony. Maligaya Elementary School (MES) of Quezon City bagged the 1st place (95.67%), followed by the Camarin Elementary School in Caloocan City (95.16%), and the Aurora A. Quezon Elementary School in Quezon City (85.67%). The other Top 5 qualifiers are the Doña Juana Elementary School in Quezon City (84.33%), and the Caloocan City Jail (84.00%).
Mr. Marlo Isidro, the UA Coordinator of the MES stressed that it is their school’s long-time dream for their accomplished GPP to be recognized and awarded for their hard work. As a consistent winner of the Brigada Eskwela, they ensure that their UA component is productively and sustainably maintained.
The winners of Best Integrated UA Garden shall serve as model gardens in urban and peri-urban areas in communities where other existing and aspiring gardeners can benchmark from.
Seminar on Agricultural Technologies: Celebrating Lifelong Learning
The fourth and last portion of the activity was devoted to lifelong learning, and knowledge-sharing. Two topicsedible landscaping, and best practices in urban agriculture in a Learning Site for Agriculture (LSA) setting–were featured in a two-hour seminar.
Mr. John Bryan Lawas and Ms. Ma. Charito Balladares of the UPLB Landscaping Team provided substantial practical information about the concepts and components of edible landscaping, including the three stages of establishing a sustainable edible landscaping project: the design, implementation, and maintenance stages.
After which, Dr. Silverio Estorco, the Principal and the lead coordinator of the LSA of San Diego Elementary School (SDES), presented the best practices of San Diego Agri-cool-ture. The SDES LSA management is firm in its commitment to “promote food security in the school and the community, through self-help food production activities and values among the learners, and appreciation of agriculture as a life support system.”
According to one of the participants, Ms. Bernadette Beltran of the Green Thumb Association in Quezon City, she is grateful for being part of the celebration, “I really enjoy the [whole] time! I have experienced harvesting, I’m so proud of it,” says Beltran.
On the other hand, Ms. Mary Cheryl Mayapis, the urban agriculture coordinator of the Doña Juana Elementary School, is thankful that there are these kinds of initiatives. “Rest assured that we will do our best to continue to practice urban agriculture and to transfer the learnings and skills to our stakeholders.”
The 2022 Harvest Festival and Field Day was conducted on May 27, 2022 as a component activity of the Institute for the Farmers and Fisherfolks Month Celebration.