Tag Archives: organic farming

hydroponic setup in Hotel Kimberly

this weekend, we had an unexpected rendezvous with hydroponics…

Long-time readers of this blog would know that we started our farming venture using a hydroponics system. Turo trained in the SNAP Hydroponics technology from the Institute of Plant Breeding in UP Los Banos. SNAP stands for Simple Nutrient Addition Program, and is a low-cost, low-maintenance, non-circulating hydroponics system. Our first commercial venture into growing lettuce and herbs used this system, was successful at first, but encountered so many problems once we tried to scale up.

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Fast forward to the present, we are now implementing organic production practices for growing vegetables. We have fully replaced our hydroponic setup and converted into an organic farm. While more labor-intensive, organic farming requires less inputs, produces better quality vegetables, and is more adaptive to weather and seasonal changes.

Just this weekend, however, we had an unexpected rendezvous with hydroponics.

We were in Tagaytay for the weekend to celebrate my father’s 56th We stayed overnight in Hotel Kimberly, a nice hotel quite secluded from the busy Tagaytay restaurant scene. We, and the kids especially, enjoyed our short, sweet stay here. In the morning we were eating breakfast at the buffet, and noticed that part of the buffet spread was a tray of leafy greens, stems on, roots intact, held together by a tiny bottlecap-sized plug. This looked all too familiar to us, we knew these were hydroponically grown.

After breakfast, we asked around in the kitchen where they get the lettuce plants being served at the buffet. This was Tagaytay, and we knew many farms growing these types abound in the area. To our surprise, the source of the lettuce plugs was a mini-hydroponic facility housed in the hotel itself!

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The hotel staff was kind enough to take us on a tour of their organic farm. Apparently, the organic farm is part of the hotel’s attractions. There were farm animals that guests can feed, ponies that kids could ride. We, of course, headed straight for the greenhouse once we saw it. It was tiny, about 50 sq.m. And it grew ALL the salad greens and herbs the hotel uses for its daily buffet! Now that is sustainable.

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The farm staff told us they were using SNAP, the very same hydroponic system we used before, but failed. But here, in this tiny greenhouse, the SNAP system seemed to work really well. The difference, we soon found out, is aeration. With the addition of an aquarium-type pump circulating the SNAP nutrient solution through the system, nutrient absorption increased. Consequently, well-nourished plants are healthy, disease-free and had a very good eating quality.

To be honest, were very impressed (almost envious) with the hotel’s hydroponic facility. They grew lettuces, rocket arugula, microgreens, and various herbs like basil, parsley and even rosemary.

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It felt serendipitous, actually, to be there, see a very efficient hydroponic system in place, providing fresh greens to a hotel kitchen, nonetheless. That tiny organic farm tour in a quaint hotel tucked away in Tagaytay roused our sleeping hydroponic bones in a totally unexpected way. It looks like Hydroponics 2.0 is going to be part of our present scheme of things.

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organic for a cause

we’re rooting for local organic farmers (ourselves included), and we get a basketful of veggies in return. sweet.

Today we received our first farm “share” of locally produced organic vegetables. We subscribed to a community-shared agriculture (CSA) scheme where we paid 4 weeks’ worth of seasonal, organic produce from farmers organized by Good Food Community. GoodFoodCo. is based in Quezon City, but recently, a group of young, organic farmers (including us!) from where we live here in Los Banos, thought of replicating this CSA scheme here.

What is CSA and how does it work?

Community Shared/Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. A farmer, or an organized group of farmers, offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Interested consumers purchase a “share” or “membership” or a “subscription”, which is a lump sum amount paid in advance, and in return receive a box/bag/basket of seasonal produce every week throughout the farming season. This arrangement benefits farmers because they get a sure market for their produce and they receive payment at the start of the planting season, which helps to have a stable farm cash flow.

our weekly CSA farm share delivered to our doorstep
our weekly CSA farm share delivered to our doorstep

In the GoodFoodCo. CSA scheme, each share can be one of 3 options: a bayong pambahay (roughly 3.5 kg of cooking vegetables good for a family of 4), a salad pack (roughly 500g of salad greens and herbs, with occasional fruit in season), and a juice pack (a choice mix of juicing vegetables good for approx. 500ml). We are currently subscribed to the juice pack, and this week our basket included celery, cilantro, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, lemons and ginger–all for PhP 370/week!

our veggie smoothie
our veggie smoothie

Nothing beats fresh, organic vegetables, pureed with bananas, papayas and yogurt. That’s our recipe for a high-fiber smoothie, which we usually have for breakfast or afternoon snack. And for less than 400 bucks a week, Turo and I can have this every day, plus a few sips each for our little boys.

Joining a CSA makes getting a variety of freshly harvested, organic produce super duper easy. No need to go to a farmers’ market as you get your veggie load delivered right to your doorstep. It’s also a great way to pack more vegetables into meal planning. Since we’re now only subscribed to the juice pack, next month we’ll subscribe to the bayong pambahay so we can also have fresh organic veggies to cook with. Really, this has simplified our dilemma of eating organic exclusively at a price we can comfortably afford. And soon enough, our farm will be part of this CSA program as we’ll be providing organic lettuce for the salad packs!

Read more about how we transformed the way that we eat and our healthy lifestyle choices from these posts:

The local food project

The food that we eat

Conscious consumption

Small and sustainable

the life we live daily: small and sustainable

the farm is our constant source of encouragement and inspiration. seeds sprouting, leaves turning green. life and nature are such marvels, things we’d never get tired of watching and anticipating.

AGFA POCKET CAMCORDEROur hydroponic farm is picking up on its pace. We see continuous increase in productivity since we resumed operations after the summer. We are very close to optimizing production capacity in our 100-square meter greenhouse. And when we do, which I know will happen very soon, we’ll be adding up the numbers (the right numbers this time) and we’ll be ready to replicate.

AGFA POCKET CAMCORDER

Imagine, our successful, small-scale, sustainable farming model could be brought to any location and environmental condition, to bring farm-fresh, affordable, safe and natural produce to every ordinary household. That’s our big, big dream, and we are inching closer.

AGFA POCKET CAMCORDER

As I keep saying over and over, “organic” and “sustainable” are not mere concepts. They are a way of life. Nothing that you can learn overnight. And the whole process is likely to be bittersweet. But such is the way that we choose to live ours. Pains, gains and all.