Not your usual farmers’ market
When you come to the Cebu Farmers’ Market (CFM) at VIBO Place along Escario Street in Cebu City, you will end up pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes confused with other farmers’ markets in the city, CFM distinguishes itself by providing local, fresh and organically grown and produced fruits, vegetables and products of local farmers from the towns of Barili, Carcar, Dalaguete, Pinamungajan, Medellin, Naga and Cebu City’s mountain barangays like Guba, Sudlon, Mabini and Babag I.
CFM has been operating since 2014. It bid farewell to its original location at Handuraw Pizza on Gorordo Avenue, Lahug, Cebu City, on the last Saturday of July.
At VIBO Place, where CFM has relocated since Aug. 6, the market is extended for an hour longer, making it from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday. The CFM displays are located in the hallway between the Italian restaurant, Pigafetta, and international fastfood chain, Burger King.
Aside from VIBO Place, CFM can also be found at Banilad Sports Club along Paseo Saturnino, Maria Luisa Road every Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Two chefs, a beauty queen and a college student showcased their creative cooking skills at the opening of CFM at VIBO.
The cooking demo was attended by excited sukis (regulars) of CFM, curious first-timers and dozens of senior high school students from the University of San Carlos.
Manila-born chef Tim dela Cruz wowed the crowd of mostly teenagers with his cooking techniques he learned from his experience working in London kitchens as well as competing in “Masterchef: The Professional 2015.”
Dela Cruz is the head chef at the recently opened Pig & Palm, CFM’s first restaurant-partner and the first Filipino restaurant from Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton and his wife, Irha Atherton, located at the MSY building of the Cebu Business Park.
Like magic, Dela Cruz produced a five-star looking salad out of ingredients he bought at CFM. After his audience eagerly tasted the dish, the chef was bombarded with selfie requests.
Chef Chip Lopez of Kairos – The Lazy Chef and reigning Miss Cebu 2016 Gabriele Raine Baljak prepared a Thai green papaya salad. Chef Lopez encouraged her audience to support the farmers at CFM who are producing organic fruits and vegetables.
Lopez spearheads The Lazy Chef, a grassroots movement promoting mindful eating and a plant-strong diet in Cebu. She aims to rebrand vegetables and challenge the status quo by introducing innovative ways of preparing healthy plant-based dishes.
Baljak, who brought with her an heirloom mortar and pestle to prepare a vegan sauce for the salad, explained some of the reasons why eating plant-based food has helped her live a healthier life. The 19-year-old beauty queen used a green papaya from her family’s 8Hills Natural Farm for the dish.
Katrina Gochangco, a 20-year-old fourth year advertising student of the University of San Carlos, whipped up a grilled vegetable sandwich with homemade hummus. An aspiring chef, Gochangco shared that she recently turned vegetarian. She said it is hard being a student and a vegetarian at the same time.
“You have to plan your meals. Sometimes it gets tiring, but you have to be dedicated if you really want to succeed,” Gochangco said.
Andre Borromeo-Suarez, owner and marketing officer of Axis Uptown and VIBO Place, also attended CFM’s opening and reiterated his family’s support for Cebu’s organic farmers.
This year’s summer had been punishing on Cebu’s farmers. Many organic farmers at CFM had dropped out as their water supply dried out. But since the start of the rainy season, the farmers have started coming back, resulting in more displays at CFM.
While CFM members are not yet certified organic farmers, they all went through rigorous peer-to-peer reviews to make sure that genuine organic farming practices are being implemented in their farms. They have four volunteer agriculturists who inspect each of the farms and tick off the same checklist that organic certification bodies use.
Most farmers cannot afford to get certified. At least P50,000 is required for each crop, and there are annual renewal fees. “So kami-kami na lang (we do it on our own), which is like an unofficial peer-to-peer certifying system so that our conscience would be clear. We’re waiting for the Regional Organic Agriculture Confederation (ROAC) Visayas to take over this important role in fostering a larger organic farming community in Cebu,” Teresa Ruelas, lead organizer of CFM, said.
CFM has been building awareness and campaigning for conventional farmers to switch to organic farming, which espouses, among others, chemical-free produce. “We’re continuing to raise the market, but we need help in raising the production,” Ruelas noted. She said they hope to raise funds to help subsidize the farmers in obtaining their certification and their ability to deliver so that they can have more markets in different neighborhoods in Metro Cebu.
Reasons to Visit CFM
Arden Elca, a 49-year-old contractor, is one of the regulars at Cebu Farmer’s Market. A few years ago, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her operation, the family decided to change their lifestyle and eat organic food. Elca said they’ve read a lot of articles on the internet where cancer has been tied to the consumption of chemically treated food.
“Dako kaayo ang advantages when you eat organic, mao na nga mopalit na lang bahala na og mahal (There are a lot of advantages when you eat organic, that’s why we buy even though it’s expensive),” Elca said when Cebu Daily News caught up with him in Handuraw in June.
Charity Lomosbog, 27, visited CFM in Handuraw for the first time in June. As a yoga teacher, Lomosbog is well aware of the health benefits of organic produce, but these are hard to find in supermarkets. CFM now provides what she needs.
Then, there are the charming sellers: Rosshamea Jancinal of Natural Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Natfamco) has pouches of pure rock salt dried on bamboo. Manang Natnat Subang of Busay sells red and yellow passionfruit, which she says is rich in antioxidants. Bernadette Abastillas of Carcar Natural Farming Practitioners has free range native chicken eggs and a rarely found variety of organically grown sweet corn.
Then, there’s Reto “The Herbalist” Feuerstein, 72, a Swiss expat who’s been in Cebu for 22 years. He collects herbs that grow in the wild, dries them and packs them to sell.
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