25 Nov2009


This post is long delayed. When we were last in Bacolod, we had a wonderful abundance of organic produce from near and far, and the folks from Fresh Start Organic Farms were the ones responsible for assembling all of the produce for us to sample and consume… Discussions ranging from the source of wild strawberries to the intense flavor of a free-range chicken occupied hours of discussions. After a foray to the Burgos market in downtown Bacolod, we decided to head out to the Fresh Start Organic Farms in Silay and what a treat that turned out to be! We were greeted by newly opening sunflowers planted along walking paths leading to the various types of lettuces, vegetables, herbs and spices raised in this farm…


A first for me was this tea tree. I have always seen tea tree oils, etc. but this was the first time I had seen a live plant, which is apparently native to Australia, and a traditional ingredient used by the aborigines, see link here. It was once used to substitute for brewed tea…


Another first was seeing this stevia plant, which is incredibly sweet, and a great substitute for refined sugar, I am told. Gil Carandang of Herbana farms once had a little pot of this at their stall in Salcedo market, but this was the first time I have seen it growing so abundantly in the ground…


The farm also had the most lush “bushes” of tarragon I have seen in the Philippines, and I just wanted to make a bernaise sauce right there on the spot!


All of the fertilizer used is organic, and they have mini mountains of compost and live worms at work to ensure an abundant supply for the fields…


The soil in this area seems so incredibly rich, so the addition of compost just makes things even better. Hundreds of lettuces are planted at any given time, and these seedlings rapidly turn into…


…lush head of lettuce of several varieties.


Here a small romaine or cos lettuce…


…and another lettuce with jagged edges, a variety I haven’t come across before.


Some flat leaf or Italian parsley.


Lush beds of monggo. It’s so nice to see more and more folks raising produce and herbs organically and we really should make an effort to support these farmers. Many, many thanks to Chinchin, Francine et al for allowing us to visit their farm and for identifying other sources of organic produce in and around Bacolod. If you want to know more about Fresh Start Organic Farms, check out their website : www.freshstartorganic.com



  1. Betchay says:

    I love sunflowers!And your pix of just newly opening sunflower really catched my eye!These flowers never fail to brighten my day—as it did today with my favorite blog!Gud am, MM!

    Nov 25, 2009 | 11:01 am


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  3. betty q. says:

    I could be mistaken, MM , But i think the lettuce with the jagged edges is called Ice King. It is lettuce like iceberg…has a heart or center and compact.

    Nov 25, 2009 | 11:15 am

  4. Mom-Friday says:

    Nice sunflower up there! MM, you have great timing on this post as i am contemplating on a having potted herbs in a portion of our very small pocket garden — maybe with basil, lemongrass, and other simple-to-grow herbs i have to research on…what’s your experience on this?

    Nov 25, 2009 | 11:29 am

  5. el_jefe says:

    Mirasol=Sunflower….I love sunflower seeds and its fragrant oil…sunflowers are of the same family with Llacon or Yacon..
    MM…how to make BERNAISE Sauce? Recipe naman po…Thanks!

    Nov 25, 2009 | 11:36 am

  6. betty q. says:

    I got it, MM…it is a looseleaf lettuce called Jack Ice.

    Nov 25, 2009 | 11:44 am

  7. Marketman says:

    Thanks, bettyq! el jefe, there are lots of good bernaise sauce recipes on the net. Just use really good egg yolks, lemon juice, tarragon and other ingredients… Mom-Friday, I tend to kill most herbs, so I have difficulty with herb gardens. But if you are good with plants, why not?

    Nov 25, 2009 | 11:45 am

  8. ryanclaw says:

    Nice organic produce there..I hope our local government support these kind of endeavors..Our first step to support them is to buy their produce..Good Produce = Good Market = Happy Farmers =and the cycle goes on.

    Nov 25, 2009 | 11:52 am

  9. Fabian M says:

    Thanks for sharing this info MM. :)

    I love the concept of organic food, and would choose to buy and eat such; my experience with free-range chicken is that it tastes the same as regular chicken so it will never be the taste which will get me to purchase it instead (or maybe my taste buds aren’t sensitive enough to tell the difference); also stevia doesn’t really taste like the sugar we’re used to, so it’s not a great substitute (again, using the taste standard).

    My wish is that we have more spinach in the markets (whether organic or not)

    Nov 25, 2009 | 12:34 pm

  10. millet says:

    MM, i have a black thumb, too, but surprisingly, tarragon and the many varieties of mint are easiest to grow. i have them in growing lushly all over my small garden, including the vietnamese rau ram. have never been succesful with cilantro, though.

    Nov 25, 2009 | 1:26 pm

  11. millet says:

    love the sunflower pic…it looks like it’s just rubbing its eyes awake!

    Nov 25, 2009 | 5:21 pm

  12. Lava Bien says:

    Actually wanted to try planting regular asparagus and the white ones (very popular in Salamanca Spain) in our farm in Quezon Prov…. when I get the chance..when I get the chance…and some arugula.

    Nov 25, 2009 | 5:23 pm

  13. uniok says:

    How i wish, mabago ang mentality ng pinoy yun”Kumakain na parang Kambing”. Eating fresh salad greens and vegetable always makes me feel secured with my health. Korean salad greens/kimchi/kimbap,japanese raw cabbage salad , an indian salad(lettuce,cucumber.tomatoes,bellpepper,carrots) and the arabs ( salad greens,olives,cheeseand lemons)…sarap..hehehhe someday i want to mass produce lettuces, spinach etc through hydrophonics…no soil needed…

    Nov 25, 2009 | 6:37 pm

  14. kate says:

    the place looks lovely! I wish we had the chance to see the farm too when we went to Bacolod for the Masskara festival. Maybe next year :) Thanks for sharing, MM!

    Nov 25, 2009 | 7:58 pm

  15. Mila says:

    The sunflower in the first shot looks like a little girl waking up, long lashes unfurling early in the morning.
    I’ve been tending a pot of mint and it’s amazing how it has survived so far. I might make myself mojitos to celebrate .
    Going off topic MM – guess what I stumbled on this evening while wandering around town? A box of La Resureccion tableas! I had to get some, and will make some champorado over the weekend. Or experiment with a mole like stew to fight off the cold weather.

    Nov 25, 2009 | 10:50 pm

  16. Mom-Friday says:

    appreciate your feedback MM, i will try my luck with a few pots first :)

    Nov 25, 2009 | 11:12 pm

  17. betty q. says:

    Lava Bien: Did you know that white asparagus is green asparagus that hasn’t seen the dasyalights? Yearsago, I took over someone’s garden in the community garden. Since her soil was sort of clay-ish in some spots, I asked the other gardeners who were weeding at that time to dump their weeds that hasn’t flowered yet and were still baby weeeds in one of the boxes. Oh, boy…kabundok were the weeds that they dumped on the asparagus bed. I left them there for a few weeks and when I saw this white spear poking through, I was deiighted! I had my first white asparagus and more came up!

    So, if you want white asparagus, I would suggest dumping about 2 feet of straw on your asparagus bed initially and keep on adding as the thickness goes down so they are protected from the sun.

    For thos in the LOwer MAINLAND…or Chowhound….you are in the Island, right? We used to live in Duncan and just off Cobble HIll, there is a farm called Asapagus Farm….he has white asparagus and freshly picked asparagus each day. I forgot his name but you can google it. Don’t know if he is still in business but most likely he is the major supplier of most restos in Vancouver.

    Nov 26, 2009 | 12:10 am

  18. betty q. says:

    MF: you want some perennial herbs like parsley (curly and flat leaf Italian), oregano , mint (MUST CONTAIN IT!!!!) along with annualherbs like basil (so may different varieties now!). You can even do a container with flowers in it like pansies (edible), nasturtiums or calendula . …but if have a tall big container, puede mo rin isiksik ang lemongrass but put it at the back of the container. By summer, you will be rewarded with this nice edible arrangement. I had one of this when we were in Vancouver…NINAKAW!!!! I don’t know how they were able to lift it!

    Chowhound…the asparagus farm I was telling you …previous owner sold it but new owner kept the Asparagus farm going. It is a short season , I think only April till June!

    Nov 26, 2009 | 6:10 am

  19. Rona Y says:

    Thanks for posting about this place, MM. My mother wants her family’s sugar cane farm to start diversifying (to help keep the soil healthy, she wants to start rotating crops and she also have the workers grow their own vegetables to help support themselves), but it’s such a struggle to change people’s minds!

    I’m hoping we can visit FSOF when I’m in Bacolod in December. Maybe we can take some of the workers on a field trip or something, so they can see the benefits of raising organic foods.

    Nov 26, 2009 | 6:11 am

  20. sha says:

    miss living in that organic estate I used to work in UK, my ex boss had a compost manager and I have seen those worm production for the fertilizer. Once you eat organically raised food every day, you can really tell the difference….

    Nov 26, 2009 | 7:41 am

  21. Teresa says:

    Wow MM. I really like the flower photo. Can i turn it into my desktop image? Hurray for these farmers! Organic farming is not as easy at is seems due to pests and plant disease. Organic fertilizer can be done in in-house but do they also use organic pesticides and fungicides? It would be good to know more about these organic medications for plants.

    Nov 26, 2009 | 11:15 am

  22. maddie says:

    Wow! I haven’t heard of this farm. Do they allow visitors here or is it by invitation only? Thanks for the heads up.

    Nov 26, 2009 | 2:13 pm

  23. Seigfred says:

    Most rural families in the Phils practice organic farming even before it has become a hurah in the west. I remember as a kid we’d visit the farm and on meal time they’d just pick herbs and vegetables from a patch a stone throw away from the house where free range chooks pick worms.

    I miss the smell of smoke from burning dry leaves which they use as pesticides.

    Nov 26, 2009 | 6:43 pm

  24. atbnorge says:

    I love tarragon; so good with chicken dishes. I have it in my little patch and grows year after year. I cut the stems during the fall and hang them to dry so I have my tarragon herb during the winter months along with sage, flatleaf parsley, thyme, mint, and oregano. It is so nice having fresh herbs available in the garden. They actually don’t need too much attention.

    Nov 26, 2009 | 10:23 pm

  25. Vicky Go says:

    You mentioned “organic” fertilizers – compost & such. They don’t use midnight soil, do they?
    And I didn’t see anything about pest control. In a recent documentary on PBS with Michael Pollan “Botany of Desire” – they mentioned that variety, especially in the instance of apple orchards helps in pest control. Most orchards in the USA have been growing just one or two varieties & they rely on spray pesticides heavily. Now they are trying to bring in several hardy varieties especially from the apple forests of Kazachstan, cross-breeding them or growing them as stock. They said pests go crazy because they can’t “specialize” since there are so many varieties in one orchard.

    I’ve read that crop rotation helps in pest control, too, as well as in preserving soil nutrients like in planting crops like peanuts & some beans with nitogen-fixing root systems.

    Nov 27, 2009 | 8:01 am

  26. el_jefe says:

    Yes Vicky Go, you are correct…monoculture (only one kind of crop) or lack of diversity or crop diversification may lead to pest infestation…monoculture also often results to development of so called ”super insects” since only one type of pesticide for certain pests, for a certain crop is used…the insect pests or pathogens may develops resistance or may become tolerant in the long run. For example, a certain province was encouraged to monocrop,for example only corn was allowed to be planted, such practice would result to infestation of Asian Corn Borrer or (Ostrinia furnacalis) because single crop is encouraged, it is harder to control because of lack of diversity and absence of trap crops, over use of pesticides that dose not only kill the pest but beneficial insects as well…
    Introduction of resistant varieties is also good since you will get to develop tolerant or resistant varieties….this a form of breeding, selection and crop improvement…But It is always safe to use endemic or indigenous varieties than introduced ones.
    Too, crop rotation is also and effective cultural management practice in the field. in doing so you are actually hampering the biological process or reproductive cycle of pests. These pests are not given enough time to complete their biological processes.
    Legumes are N-fixers, there are bacteria in the root nodules of legumes that fixes nitogen in the atmosphere…Hhahaha night soil…they use lots of these among vegetable gardens in china!!!mmmmm YUMYUM!!! HEHHEHEHE!

    Nov 27, 2009 | 9:04 am

  27. betty q. says:

    MM, does Mr. Carandang use inoculants?

    Nov 27, 2009 | 9:43 am

  28. Jing_Bacolod says:

    yeah, Fresh Start i love their products ….they are celebrating Organic Farmer’s Festival here in Bacolod. Margarita Fores served an organic lunch buffet at the Provincial Capitol for the benefit of Suntown Camp Foundation for children with cancer. Now, that’s living and loving a healthy life.

    Nov 27, 2009 | 5:24 pm

  29. Vicky Go says:

    @el jefe: Thanks for the explication. You sound like an agriculturist, or at least a botanist. Wonder if “monocrop” culture has affected sugar cane growing – is the Canlubang, Laguna sugar coop still in existence? Do they grow just one variety of sugar cane? (heard of “Pampanga Purple” from my father who went to UP College of Agriculture in Los Banos) What about rice? I thought you could get 3 harvests in 2 years (more?) – do they plant several varieties? Did the IRRI developed, typhoon & flood hardy variety take w the growers (or the consumers)? Are we still considered a rice exporter? or do we now have to import rice, too? How about coconuts – another major agricultural product. I don’t know much about that – are there different varieties too. How do they deal w pests, then & now?
    I think other southeast Asian countries use night-soil (Taiwan?) – that is why, it’s iffy eating
    raw/green salads from these areas – cases of amoebiasis have been reported.

    Nov 28, 2009 | 6:44 am

  30. millet says:

    just learned that there are several farmers in negros occidental supplying organic tanglad to human heart, the Gawad Kalinga-related company producing those wonderful 100% organic, 100% Pinoy and 100% natural toiletries and other products.

    Dec 6, 2009 | 10:20 am

  31. Mary Ann says:

    I second the motion to Seigfreid comments. I was born in Manila and have been raised part of my life in rural and urban environment. Thanks mostly to my mother who taught me responsibilities as I was growing up. I was only 9-12 yrs. old growing up in Western Visayas area. We raised chickens, pigs & cows. Not too many but enough to give us food. Butchered our animals humanely. Planted rice, sweet potatoes, cassava (I think it called yucca in the U.S.) mung beans, banana, pineapple, tobacco (found out later it’s really bad for health), cocoa, malunggay, coffee & lots of different produce. My uncle used to own a sugar mill in the same area. Aside from that, some people in certain part of the Philippines are very sustainable. They make their own sanitary pads. I remember using bamboo too hold the water. Well, we have lots of resources in the Philippines. My kids would really love to see and experience these things.

    May 8, 2010 | 5:04 am

  32. Rea says:

    Hi Sir, just got threw your site now, and im interested to know about uf far, are you allowing visitors to go there, and where is it that farm located and how to get there from Tarlac city..

    Hope to get reply from u sir..
    More Power

    Dec 17, 2010 | 8:52 pm


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