AN ACCIDENTAL FARMER: A PANDEMIC STORY
Written by: Kara
Lia, a business woman who resides in a small island town in the Philippines, makes a living through maintaining and stewarding ancestral lands. She runs a hot spot for tourism - quite literally, because the place is a beautiful and unique saltwater hot spring!
Lia is a dear friend, mentor, and adopted "fairy god-mother" to me. During my visits to her home, we would talk about permaculture practices, what growing food meant for the island, and how we could create more sustainable and regenerative models to tame the beast that tourism creates in small island towns. We talked about growing vegetables in her garden, how to maintain her bamboo clump, and what plans she might have for the land.
At the dawn of 2020, the pandemic outbreak created a wave of upheaval and uncertainty for many of us. For an island that was dependent on tourism, it became apparent that the immediate impact would be loss of income and employment. Her first reaction was to reassure her employees that their families would not grow hungry. What came next was something unexpected, yet wonderful.
One day, she surprised me with photos of her abundant produce, grown on a small area of their farm. She took the bull by the horns, employed an agriculturist to advise on soil health and compost, planted a range of small crops of organic* cassava, capsicum, aubergines (eggplants), pakchoi, local varieties of pumpkin and squash. She distributed this produce to her employees, gave baskets to friends, and sold the excess.
Christmas time was busy - her late-night baking sessions were rewarded when she made a windfall from selling a well-loved Filipino dessert called pichi-pichi, the main ingredient was cassava root grown in her own farm.
This story shows a level of resiliency that a diversified business model offers. If it is linked to land stewarship and building community, it can have a resonating effect on wellbeing and health for those involved in the project, and more importantly, for the surrounding communities and wildlife.
Lia and I are in touch once again to design a bamboo shelter for her venue and to advise on future Permaculture practices for her farmed land.
*Unofficial organic farming standards. In this respect, "organic" simply means no use of artificial or chemical fertilisers.
Image: Lia and her green tomatoes, grown on an island in the Philippines