Monday, August 01, 2005

Green Homes, Anyone? by Gigi Felizar

Speech No. 2 Speak with Sincerity
TM Gigi Fellizar Team I

Have you ever tasted vegetables cooked right after they’re picked? If so,how often? Can you remember how sweet and yummy it tasted? I tell you, nothing comes close to the natural, sweet and fresh taste especially when they’re cooked just right.

Are you aware how exorbitant our food costs nowadays? Most city dwellers complain about how expensive they are. With rising costs of food items, it is hard to stick on our budget. At the same time, since most vegetables travel from far-off provinces before they reached Metro Manila, the natural taste and sweetness of fresh vegetables suffer. The long travel time from the farm to the city, many of its nutrients have been lost. So, city dwellers are indeed getting a bad deal when it comes to fresh produce.

Add to that, because vegetables need to stay fresh when they reach the market, some vendors resort to different kinds of gimmicks or tricks like putting some chemicals to the vegetables so that they still look fresh even after a few days on the rack. And if you have been frequenting the market, especially during delivery hours, many vegetables just lie there in the streets and they just wash them with dirty water.

Have you heard incidents where tomatoes are being wiped clean with rags dipped in kerosene? Or these jackfruits, string beans and eggplants soaked in formalin solutions? It’s scary, right? Imagine, they’re already expensive and they even put our health at stake!

Maybe you will agree with me that food tastes better in provinces. That’s because our vegetables need not travel far aside from the fact that they’re cheaper. We can pick them fresh from our backyards few minutes before cooking. In my front yard, I have ampalaya that taste less bitter. I have cucumber, eggplant, some bell peppers, okra and sweet potatoes. I have also some herbs like dills, oregano, black pepper and a few varieties of basils.

Lower cost of living, fresh food, fresh air are among the reasons I moved to the province and enjoys my stay there until now. I am not here to convince you to move to the province, but as a city dweller you can still enjoy fresh vegetables because you can grow them yourself!

Have you heard about Container Farming? Container or Receptacle Farming is a type of farming where we use recycled containers to hold our growing medium to grow our vegetables. For many urban areas, most spaces have been concreted or if there are land spaces, they are not anymore suitable to farming, so container farming maybe done. For as long as there is sufficient sunlight and air, we can grow fruits and vegetables.

Container Farming has many benefits or plus factors aside from saving money because you are now the one growing your own vegetables. Imagine if you are spending P1,000 a month for vegetables alone, compute that for 12 months, you’ll have P12T as savings! Not to mention than planting or gardening is therapeutic especially after a day’s work where we are all stressed out. We can even do that during weekends or just before we report to work in the mornings. Am sure you will all agree with me that looking at green plants relaxes your eyes and your mood. It is ironic that many city dwellers would even prefer to have nicely landscaped yards than having vegetables planted instead. And then they pay handsome money buying organic vegetables! Or those vegetables from the market where they are not sure how much pesticide were sprayed on that it looked very beautiful and attractive to consumers. Growing our own vegetables is also assuring our families that they get the right nutrients free from chemicals normally used by farmers doing large scale farming.

Having our container farm around our empty or idle spaces in our backyards or gardens, we can help green the city and reduce air pollution. It can prevent haphazard disposal of containers and reduce the volume of garbage. We can use our biodegradable household garbage as organic fertilizers. We can turn them into compost which can become the fertilizer for the plants. As we do our container farm, we can also implement basic principles of solid waste management. As you know, one of the greatest problems of Metro Manila is garbage. If we can turn our own household garbage into compost or recycle them, then we are doing our turn in helping our community and preserve our environment.

When we do Container or Receptacle Farming in our own homes, we can help minimize garbage. Our biodegradable kitchen waste can be placed in pots where they can become compost. The milk cans, oil cans or any recyclable containers even those tetrapaks can become our containers to grow our vegetables. We can arrange them in a way they can be our landscape instead of paying huge sum of money to landscapists for plants we cannot eat. That means also another savings. Ampalayas and cucumbers can be planted near the fence so they can climb on them or even in our window grills. Isn’t it so nice to just pick herbs and leaves you need for cooking just from your window sills and you know that they have not been sprayed with chemicals that may endanger ours and our family’s health? As one put it, what is the use of your money if you do not have good health?

We can convert empty or idle lots into a container farm. Instead of our neighbors throw garbage in those lots, we can make use of them as our ‘container farm’ and that can add beauty in the neighborhood. You can even have a small business by selling the surplus or those that you and your family or household cannot consume. In so doing, we are also teaching our children and family members many values; the importance of farming, the value of hard work, how we get our vegetables, and the importance of vegetables in our daily meals. Many children nowadays do not know how to eat vegetables. Showing them how to grow vegetables is one way of teaching them the value of the nutrients they can get from eating these vegetables. My eldest son now eats mongo because he had experience how to grow mongo. I used to have a hard time making him eat vegetables. He now eats a few types of vegetables but not ampalaya yet.

Extensive urbanization has given rise to many urban problems. And for our children’s future and the generation after them, we need to take care of our environment. In the recent Kamayan Para sa Kalikasan Forum, I was invited to be one of the panelists on the topic Urban Agriculture. The forum had been going on for the past 15 years, meeting every third Friday of the month sponsored by Kamayan Restaurant in EDSA. I am happy to see many individuals and groups so concerned with our environment.

In closing, I’d like to encourage you all to start showing your concern to our environment by making your homes green. Start one pot at a time. Gardening as I mentioned earlier, relieves stress. It’s a good feeling to see a seed grow into plants and these plants later on can become our food. If you do not know how to start, you may join our egroup: Urban, where you can be guided by experts and enthusiasts who simply want to eat fresh food and vegetables. Good evening.

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