“Take care of the land”, he said “and the land will take care of you”. That was our father talking to us, his children, about the farm he has laboured so hard to set up. We were kids then, just in the grades. In our very young minds, we did not see the wisdom of what he wanted us to do. We just listened not saying a word.
Spending the weekends and the long school breaks in helping toil the farm was hard work but to us then it was our own version of the computer games that kids today are so engrossed. It was our ticket away from boredom. But taking care of the land as we understood our father then was so far from our dreams. No one of us saw a place for the land in the kind of life we wanted to pursue ourselves.
When our father died so did the farm together with his dream to keep the spirit of the land permeates our lives. It was to be so for over thirty years.
Life was to bring our family to a diaspora. The farm was seldom brought up for discussions in times when we come together which too was seldom.
Perhaps dreams do not really die. It simply waits for its time to rise from the ashes like the Sphinx and come to life. Like the song of the siren, the song of the farm called on the living souls of the once young feet that used to walk its ground to come home and rediscover once more their kindred link with the spirit of the land which has been jaded by their search of the life they dreamed of.
The call was hard to ignore. It was time to take possession of the farm once more. Nature has taken back what it once gave us but have given it up. It would take lots of work and all the needed resources to once again have it back.
Getting the farm back to its old form and building a family cottage was the plan. The farm was to be a family retreat place.
The cottage was built. The farm was slowly getting back to its old form. As the work progressed, questions begging for answers started popping out. To which direction should we bring the farm was the most crucial of all. Should the farm go the Monsanto way as the stretches of vegetable farms carved out from the mountains that you would see as you travel to the farm from the city which farmers who have been introduced to the system claim to be the only profitable way? If that is not where we want to direct the farm, our only choice is to stick it out with the indigenous way as the farm used to do relying on the farming wisdom that our forefathers have relied on for hundreds of years. Clearly, the choice was to go profitable or sustainable.
Our father’s advice to take care of the land made the choice clear. Reflecting on our father’s admonition no longer as kids but as adults wizened by our long walk along life’s road made us realize that he did not mean for us to give up on our personal life dreams as we thought he did but to make “taking care of the land” a way of life for us no matter what life dreams we choose to live. Taking care of the land could find expression even in the ordinary things we do in life. Our mom’s greatest peeve was seeing us waste our food. “Remember the labour that went into producing that food and bringing it to your table” she would tell us constantly, “and the children that go to bed each night with their stomach empty” she never fails to add. We took heed of advice whenever she is around but we really never took it seriously. But it is not just us. Wasting food has become part of our culture. Go to any restaurant and see how much food goes to waste. Let those without anything to eat finish their plate we seem to think not of us who do not know what having no food to eat means. Now, we all know the many ill effects of wasteful consumption including its impact on the health of the earth. We are all guilty of helping kill the land that feeds us.
We are clear with the direction the farm would take but are we up to the challenge that comes with the choice. Responding to the task required someone from the family to take the lead. Our sister Lina was in the best position to take on that responsibility which she did.
On her hands, the farm, now known as the Layog Country Farm, slowly took the directions our dad has dreamt of. It was through her stewardship that the farm has come to be recognized as a force in the natural farming movement.
A volunteer program has been set up which brings in volunteers from all parts of the world to learn and experience how farming is done the way the indigenous farmers used to do coupled with newly developed natural farming technologies.
It was the first in the Cordilleras to be accredited by the Department of Tourism as an Organic Farm Tourism site.
It was also accredited by the Agricultural Training Institute of the Department of Agriculture as a training site for organic farming.
TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) has recently accredited it as a farm school and an assessment centre.
All these achievements have been thoroughly documented on the farm’s Facebook page.
In spite of its name, the farm has long ceased to be a family farm promoting family interest. Lina may still be at the helm but the way the farm is now, it has now turned to be a farm for the people. It has become a development agency stirred up by the principle, “Take care of the land and the land will take care of you” that our father so passionately espoused.
Suggestions have been floated to formalize the farm’s status as a development organization serving the people. The suggestion was vehemently opposed by Lina at the start. Understandably so. She has poured millions of pesos into the farm and to suggest that she relinquish control of the farm to an organization that is not part of the farm’s history was just asking too much.
“Egay tako met binmato” (we are not made of stones) as my mom would say. The farm would outlive all of us. How do we ensure that it would continue to go on the track with its vision, mission and goals when we are no longer there to provide the guidance? That was the question we have discussed over and over with Lina. Sustainability was an important consideration. Besides, the farm is no longer about It is all about the mission the farm has been vested to pursue. Formalizing the development organization status of the farm is inevitable.
The inevitable has finally seen its course. The farm has finally entered a new phase in its development. It is now a non-stock non-profit SEC registered corporation From hereon, the farm and all its programs and activities will be subsumed under the LCF Center for Sustainable Futures.
– by EKL