How are you doing? Last Monday, we marked the beginning of the third week of the lockdown with a delivery, a minor miracle.
As local governments impose their own quarantine rules, expanding and becoming more stringent, the transport of essential goods continues to be a challenge, especially for a small company like ours working with smallholders in remote areas who themselves have very limited resources. Some of us have started to adjust to our new routines in an effort to help flatten the curve, and the days have turned into a chance for introspection, solidarity, creativity (banana heart kilawin, banana heart burgers, banana blossom dilis), and tons of Zoom-based activities. Solutions were shared but they also revealed the critical gaps that need to be immediately addressed given the life-threatening impacts of oversight and neglect. We now depend on oft-neglected sectors doing jobs previously dismissed as menial. Mass testing won’t start until April 14. A great number of people are facing increasing vulnerability and getting hungrier, with news of people eating corn fungus, having nothing else to eat and little to no government relief in sight. People asking for food are arrested. The number of Covid-19 cases rises daily, with projections of peak-Covid beyond April 12.
How does one hope in these times of existential crisis? We ask ourselves this question at Good Food given that the crisis and the lockdown came at the heels of our planning activities and new partnerships, marked with optimism and promise. We scaled back some dreams, snapped out of our sadness, and scrambled for immediate responses to be able to pick up produce from farmers, provide them with some source of income and feed our communities here in the city. We continue to take it day by day, as plans change at the last minute and restrictions and situations vary wildly on the ground.
But we did say miracle, because despite all these, last Monday there was a gulay. And it is tremendously humbling because the organic produce we received were from the landless farmers in Bulacan, organized by our new partner Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), a peasant organization pushing for genuine land reform and social change. Without ownership, control or agency over the land they till, constantly displaced by land conversion, land grabs, or militarization, landless farmers are among the most resource-poor of our agricultural workers. Unfortunately in the Philippines, this is very common.
The link between land rights and food security is undeniable, and this lockdown brings to clearer focus the interdependence of farmers and eaters. We can no longer ignore the fact that the conditions farmers face in rural areas affect our ability to feed ourselves properly. Peasant smallholders, not the corporate food system, continue to feed more than 70% of the world’s population, so that when we strip them of their rights or ignore their plight, we similarly compromise ourselves. At the same time, there is no such thing as food security if the most vulnerable sectors of society are unfed. Last weekend we launched Lingap Maralita, an intersectional, collaborative program connecting the rural poor, our farmers, with the urban poor and calling for action and solidarity with them. Ang pagkain ay para sa lahat.
When your subscription came it may have been different from what you were used to and we are heartened by your support and understanding. While we continue to face challenges, we are working hard to offer more diversity and ensure the quality and regularity in the delivery. We’ve included resilient food such as beans from Kalinga and started offering fermented vegetables. Dried beans keep well in our pantries, triple in volume when cooked, and are among the healthiest foods—a boon in times of scarcity. Fermentation also extends the shelf life of highly perishable foods like fruits and vegetables, and endows them with improved health-promoting benefits that we need. Thus, throughout this lockdown, you can be assured that each basket bears the mark of community-shared agriculture, which we will never compromise on: a share of the season’s harvest, fairly traded and respectful of the workers and the environment that gave this gift, and animated by the social contract between us and the farmers. And because it’s CSA, it is also an invitation to be curious and creative in the kitchen. Judging by the messages we received, it was the first time for a lot of you to deal with banana heart.
It reminds us of a visit to Bauko, Mountain Province, in late February, to check on the farmers and their farms. It was our last evening there. We were at the barangay hall, a tiny meeting room with a kitchen in the corner. On the table were gifts from the farmers we met earlier, which we could turn into dinner: freshly harvested cabbages, heads of broccoli, garden peas. We also had a large bag of garden pea leaves; it was our first time to encounter them and on tasting we decided they were edible. The kitchen was humble, with a gas stove, a frying pan, a pot, a kettle, and no running water. You needed to cross the street where an outdoor hose was fed by a cold rush of water from up the mountain. The pantry was similarly Spartan: cooking oil, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Neighboring households lent us extra pots and pans. But there were plates, lots of plates, a testament to the gatherings that took place there and the hospitality that was essential to this remote community. We were grateful for the garlic, ginger, and onion that we stumbled upon in a sari-sari store more than a kilometer away. We made a simple soup and stir-fry to bring out the fresh flavors of the newly harvested vegetables. We caramelized the onions and seared the broccoli and garden peas for sweetness, then added the soy sauce and vinegar. We made adobo out of ingredients that weren’t typical in the dish because it comforted us, being cold, tired, and away from home. We called it Garden Adobo. It was a modest spread, but we were well fed by our farmers. And we remember it here because perhaps this is what hope looks like in these precarious times: drawing strength from what is familiar, sharing what we have, and ready and open to collectively creating something new. And at the heart of it, we believe, is a CSA basket. Thank you for your continued support.
Your community at Good Food,
Char, Ernest, Cara, Joyce, Gio, Mabi, Ate Celia and Kuya Luis