From Farm to Fork

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I was walking along the brick designed streets of downtown Cebu near Magellan’s Cross, where, on a drizzly Friday afternoon only a handful of tourists were trying to get a photo of the famous icon of Cebu instead of the usual busloads that are there regularly. I walked a few steps towards the City Hall as I headed out to see if the Beep Bus was there and if the lines were long.

I wanted to go to Robinson’s Galleria to buy a few things because their grocery store is one of my favorite go to places for fresh produce and select items for my concoctions. Sure enough, there were two Beep Buses waiting with very few passengers on board and I thought to myself this will be a quick ride to the mall. But before proceeding towards the bus something caught my attention.

 

At my back was a row of tents with tables and people gathered all around them like some sort of commotion. It was still raining lightly so it was curious to see these people huddled over a series of tables with items displayed up for sale. What could be so important it was worth braving the rain over?

So I walked towards the lined up tents and just a few meters before I got to them, the crowd parted and there I saw on the tables were heaps upon heaps of fruits and vegetables that were clearly harvested not two days ago. I was wide-eyed with astonishment and surprised exhilaration. I didn’t have to go the mall after all and the idea of getting a good deal for a basket full of fresh produce got me smiling from ear to ear.

I approached the lady at the nearest table and chatted away. She was also very happy to see me as she smiled back at me and answered every question I threw at her. I was amazed at the selection of fruits and vegetables that they had on display. And the quality of the items, the carrots, the mangoes, they even had fresh ampalaya and white pumpkin, it was exciting. I needed to make a salad for my tita and her guests, she had commissioned me to cook for them the night after and salad was on the menu.

The farmers manning their own stalls displaying their harvested produce came from the mountain barangays of Sudlon Dos and Babag and even in the Pit-os hillside communities. Some of them came from the town connecting Cebu City with the western part of the island through the trans-central highway. Some were from the southern mountain barangays of Cebu City as well.

And so, I learned from them, this endeavor of the city government of Cebu has been around for a number of years already. It is the effort of the participating barangays and other LGU’s who brought these farmers together creating a venue wherein the middle-man is eliminated and their harvest becomes accessible to the public at incredibly affordable prices. It is a Farm-to-Fork initiative that brings these goods directly to the consumers.

Although I am accustomed to going to Carbon and buying my carrots and potato there, I just dread it at times when I need to waddle through the muddy streets of carbon and brave the crowded mayhem that is a regular nightly scene there. As much as I want to get the cheapest, best available deal, I limit myself from going to Carbon simply because it is at times inconvenient pushing yourself through the swarm of people and haggling with our “suki” vendors.

So for me, discovering this weekend market in front of City Hall, which is a weekly thing by the way, is a treasure find and a relief. I powered through my list and got busy. I chatted with the nice ladies of the farmer’s market making friends and selecting through their produce, I was happy and content and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

The items on display were mostly organic, with very little pesticide and chemicals applied to them, many of the farmers underwent training with the Department of Agriculture and there are pest control methods that doesn’t use harmful chemicals and instead employ a number of natural ingredients and even relying on ducks to eat the pesky worms and weeds that abound their farmland.

Organic produce has great benefits for the consumers. For the business side the farm to fork initiative encourages more farmers to engage in agri-business and our reliance on imported products are lessened.

For a hefty price of p100 pesos, yes, one hundred pesos, let me just spell that out for you, I was able to buy enough lettuce, three kinds, Iceburg, Lollo Rossa and Romaine for twenty people. And I went ahead and bought carrots, tomatoes and mangoes and I was only able to spend p350 all in all.

I had to make my own dressing of course when I got home but aside from the dressing, the total cost for providing a healthy, fresh, salad experience for my guests all came down to just p350.00. I reflected of course when I was back at home safely snuggled in my bed and I came to realize that had I been to the supermarket, I would have spent at least a thousand and five hundred pesos. But instead, I only got to spend a mere fraction of that.

The farmers market is a weekly event at the city hall grounds fronting the Basilica. They are open from 2:00 pm on Thursday all the way to the wee hours of Friday night and even extending to early Saturday dawn. It is actually open, while supply lasts.

Rest assured, next week, to replenish my stock, I will be dropping by again and maybe splurge a little and see what my p500 can get me, a week’s stock of fruits and vegetables perhaps? More lettuce to make more salad with? Why not?

To express my gratitude and happiness I would like to share with everyone a recipe for a fruity, citrusy vinaigrette that is truly simple to make. I hope my dear readers can drop by the farmers market as well this week and I will be seeing you there. Rest assured, there will be something healthy and affordable for everyone and parking is not a problem, the Senior’s Park behind the City Hall provides ample parking spaces.

Recipe:

Simple Summer Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

1/3 cup Apple-Cider Vinegar

1 cup Olive oil

1 Tbsp Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

2 Tbsp Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

2 Tbsp finely chopped Onions

1 Tbsp finely chopped Garlic

½ tsp Thyme

½ tsp Oregano

½ tsp Dried Basil

½ tsp Corriander

2 tsp Honey

Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, stir vigorously until vinaigrette is formed and the vinegar and oil emulsify. Emulsification is a temporary combination of immiscible liquids and you may want to stir the vinaigrette before applying it unto your salad.

Suggested salad combinations:

Mesclun greens – Lollo Rosso, Iceburg and Romaine Lettuce

Tomatoes, Carrots, Cucumber, Mango,

Pomelo (pull segments into small chunks)

Cashew Nuts (crushed, lightly roasted) and boiled shrimps

 

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