Karla Delgado, the director of Kai Farms, plucks a flower from a branch, laughing at our incredulous expressions as she proceeds to munch on the soft petals. Watching her through city-folk eyes, we begin to remember how natural it is for human beings to be connected to the earth. And as she calls out warmly to the farm workers, we also begin to understand how she has been able to teach them to switch from using harmful chemical-based pesticides and fertilizers to organic and earth-friendly practices.
Champions of the Earth
Kai Farms’ nine farmers have come to see the value of permaculture and sustainable practices. And though it took them a while to embrace the new principles, they are now so into it and even introduced some sustainable innovations such as pots made of banana leaves.
Permaculture is a type of farming that its inventor, Australian Bill Mollison, defines as “the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”
With permaculture, the farm uses nature to heal and create nature: the natural mulch found in abundance at the farm helped revive the soil to its present moist and nutrient-rich state—a great improvement from the acidic and essentially dead soil in 2014 before Karla entered the picture and took over the management of the farm. The farm also practices composting using available elements from its surroundings.
You Get What You Give
“It’s nice to see people understand why sustainable agriculture is important,” says Karla, a member of the international Slow Food Movement, which advocates for fresh, organic, natural, and traditional ways of preparing dishes. “But I think there are also people who are still asleep in terms of that consciousness.” Or unwilling to invest in it: organic produce is expensive, labor-intensive, takes longer to grow, and yields only so much. Still, there’s a trade-off to all these fast, instant, and affordable options. “Why did it ever make sense to human beings to put poison in our food?” says Karla, quoting renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. “Whatever you put is going to come back. The land gets toxic and then food gets toxic. And when you ingest it, you get toxic and it manifests in all these illnesses.”
Her ultimate dream is to make organic produce affordable to everybody, to sell it in the local market. But the entrepreneur in her knows it’s not going to happen as she has to make the farm financially sustainable.
So she does the next big thing—she shares organic seeds and teaches people the principles behind organic farming.
Karla brings farming to the people in the city. She led and urban farming workshop for public school kids in Barangay Valenzuela, Makati and shared healthy ingredients with humble homemakers, among others.
“There’s something really gratifying about growing food and being able to serve it and bring it to many homes,” she reflects on how working in Kai Farms has affected her life. “There’s something about touching the earth that connects you in a profound way to Mother Earth’s energy and wisdom. It’s about our connection to life and being part of the solution.”