Some 91 farmers in Batangas towns were trained to grow high-value organic vegetables under SM Foundation Inc.’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KsK) livelihood training program.
SMFI, Belle Kaagapay and Harbest taught the 111st batch of KSK trainees to plant organic lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, squash, upo, Taiwan gourd, cherry tomato, bell pepper, red, green and yellow pepper, corn, papaya, water melon, malunggay and many more for the high-end restaurants of the Tagaytay Highlands Club.
The Highlands offered 5,000 square meters in its fully developed Midlands for the program.
The surplus will be sold by the farmer-cooperative organized by the provincial agriculturist to SM groceries in their province, explained Cristie Angeles, SM Foundation executive director for livelihood.
Belle Kaagapay, the CSR arm of Belle Corp., owner and developer of Tagaytay Highlands, is allotting another 10,000 square meters for the organic farming program, the fruits of which shall be harvested by some 7,000 Club members and their families at the Pick & Pay weekend market of Tagaytay Highlands.
This batch of farmer-graduates had a taste of organic vegetables during a cooking contest at the Harvest Festival on August 30. Their graduation rites were held at SM Lipa on August 31.
The training took 12 Fridays when farmers were ferried by local government vehicles to the Greenland gate of Tagaytay Highlands, a walk of less than a hundred meters to the sloping farm. They were given lectures by Harbest president Toto Barcelona.
Highlands has developed 800 hectares and will develop another 800 hectares in the future. The area being planted is a developed area and is part of the Pick & Pay Bistro Saratoga, so the vegetables will be picked fresh for its diners. Whatever revenues are generated will be used to pay for water and manpower and to buy organic fertilizers and seedlings.
City Agriculturist Renato Cunanan is grouping the farmers into cooperatives and clusters that plant different crops for continuous delivery to the intended markets of Tagaytay Highlands and SM malls and supermarkets. “I will supply them the seeds, organic fertilizers [or vermicast] to use in the highlands and in their own farms, so they could become propagators of organic farming,” Cunanan said.
Belle’s Michelle Hernandez, vice president for governance and corporate affairs, said the company and its developer, Belle Prime, wanted a sustainable CSR program for the communities around Highlands.
Deborah Sy, vice president in charge of SM Foundation, said since the launch of KsK 10 years ago in Bacolod, the program has been undertaken in 123 provinces and produced 111 batches of graduates, many of them successful agro-entrepreneurs now.