Moving to our farm in 3rd class municipality of Batangas, from away from the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, was not easy. But it was made much easier because of the genuine concern shown by the people who helped us settle into the local farming community. That community has become a great source of support and inspiration. We are now full members of that community and when we have problems on the farm, our “farm family” has been just a phone call, or at times, a Facebook post away.
The tragedy created by Typhoon Haiyan is depressing at times. While we had minimal damage to our farm compared to farms in Leyte, it might be easy to ignore this tragedy, criticize the efficiency of the government’s relief efforts, and move on with our lives. But tragedies are not meant to be ignored—we have no right to ignore them. They are not meant for criticism; we are more capable than that. I don’t know if it is the Catholic upbringing, but despite the many natural calamities Filipinos go through, year in and year out, their resiliency and ability to smile in the midst of hardship is a unique trademark of their culture.
While assuring our friends and family of our safety on Facebook, the posting by a farmer friend regarding his typhoon damage caught my attention. Except for the destruction of tons of fresh papaya and other produce, he was very grateful that the damage to his farm was minimal in comparison. That posting was not meant to create sympathy, and to my local farm family it was inspirational. Opportunities are placed before us to help each other and, hopefully, inspire others as well. That Facebook post was our opportunity.
Our local farm family brought produce from this farmer, particularly the green papaya from storm-damaged trees, and made it to pickled papaya. Also known as achara in the Philippines, this popular condiment is made by preserving unripe papaya with ginger root, carrots, raisins, peppers, and other ingredients using a pickling technique. Often a side dish for grilled and fried food, achara is an important part of a traditional Filipino meal. Our local farm family set up a pickling day, fondly called, Operation: Papaya for Haiyan. We produced many jars of achara to be sold with all proceeds providing medical supplies for victims of Haiyan! This get-together also provided a learning opportunity—a realization that our food system can be made better by utilizing tried and true food preservation techniques. The day not only ended with delicious and lovingly prepared pickled papaya but a promise to conduct food preservation classes as well. Time to use my Master Food Preserver training and put it into good use! More unique farm products coming soon, but that is another story.
Gigi Pontejos-Morris is an entrepreneur, designer, and farmer in The Philippines.