“Magtanim hindi biro, maghapon nakayuko, ‘di naman makatayo, ‘di naman makaupo…” So goes the classic Philippine folk song, which sings (in a very upbeat manner I might add) about how farm work is no joke, how you’re bent over the entire day while you plant, and that you can’t sit down or straighten up to stand. And as a bunch of us city folks whose day jobs likely include a lot of sitting around joined a group of organic farmers to plant rice in Capas, Tarlac, that song was constantly referred to and hummed.
So how did I end up, in the middle of a rice field, ankle deep in mud, holding a bunch of rice seedlings, bent over and with the song playing in my head?
This was the invite. My vegetarian sister who writes about “meals for the meatless in Manila” in her well-written blog, Schlepping in the City (she says, she schleps, I slouch) gets her bag of organic veggies from the Good Food Community, which supports a cooperative of farmers from a rural town in a province known for its rice farming.
When she made her first trip to the farm in Capas back in May for a birthday cookout, to meet the farmers who raise the veggies she buys, and even get to harvest some vegetables on her own, I told her I wanted to join her in their next trip to the farm. And their next trip turned out to be all about getting schooled in planting rice by the Good Food farmers.
It looked pretty simple enough: farmers Tay Rolly, Tay Pedring and Nay Susan took us to the fields where two rice paddies in all its squishy, wet muddy glory were waiting. There were shrieks, a lot of nervous laughing, and saying goodbye to any sort of footwear. I actually liked how the mud felt under my feet–not so much how hard it was to walk through it. After half an hour bent over and planting those seedlings I would find myself trying to sit down on the mud in between every couple of seedlings planted. It was only the three-year-old kid of one of the other volunteers who thought this was a good idea.
Two rice paddies completed by around 10 to 15 other people and I was still exhausted. (Yes, song, you are SO right!) I was never going to waste another grain of rice ever again.
Afterward, we got to sit down and listen to Tay Abel and Tay Pedring about the entire process of planting rice and how to make a natural fungicide from a mixture of ginger, garlic, beer and molasses. And after all that rice planting and garlic and ginger peeling and slicing, there was a whole lot of food. Read my sister’s better written and more detailed post on the Plant to Plate Tour here. Below are more photos of the delicious food and a peek into one of the greenhouses built thanks to the Fund a Farmer efforts of Good Food.