A Model School Veggie Garden
One beautiful vegetable garden that we have seen and which may be considered educational as well as commercial is the Tanim sa Kinabukasan (TSK) project at the San Miguel Elementary School in Magalang, Pampanga.
This is a collaborative project of East-West Seed Company and the Department of Education headed by Sec. Armin Luistro.
We arrived at the place about 7:35 in the morning last November 22. And what did we see? We saw so many school children doing gardening chores, pulling weeds, cultivating the soil, inspecting plants for possible infestation and the like.
The Tanim sa Kinabukasan is really intended to teach the school kids not only the basics of growing vegetables but also teach them to cook the same, eventually encouraging them to eat more vegetables for their own good health.
And that is exactly what they are doing at the San Miguel Elementary School, according to Leonardo David Jr., the school principal. He said that for 30 minutes, starting at 7:30, the pupils do hands-on gardening. By 8 o’clock, they proceed to their classes to learn their ABCs. Designated class sections do what they call “Kurang-kurang” in Capampangan every weekend. That’s what they call fun-cooking their favorite dishes out of the vegetables that they themselves grow. They bring their own rice and they eat what they cooked for lunch. That’s one way of getting the kids accustomed to eating vegetables.
We may consider the TSK project as commercial because they are producing vegetables in commercial scale, selling the harvest at prevailing market prices. Leonardo was excited in telling us their experience with Django pepper, the very fruitful “pangsigang” variety. He was so excited about their first two harvests of 68 kilos which fetched P200 per kilo for a total of P13,600. Then the price went lower and lower. At the time of our visit, the price was just P25 per kilo, but it was still all right because it is still profitable. The cause of the low price? A big corporate farm in Tarlac flooded the market.
We were really impressed by the neatness of the vegetable garden and the robust growth of the vegetables. The 550 eggplants are very productive and they have already started marketing their harvest starting the first day of November. Their first harvest was sold for P1,200. They harvest every four days and they get about a thousand pesos each time.
Their D-Max tomatoes are very fruitful but they will still be harvested about the second week of December. They expect to get a good price because it is the Christmas season and the price is usually high.
The garden also boasts a very good stand of sitao plants which are starting to bear fruit. This could also be a good money maker for the school. Other crops include okra, gabi, lettuce in the greenhouse, kangkong, edible fern, mustard and others.
Leonardo is not an agriculture graduate but he is so interested in agriculture that he has been showcasing innovative techniques. He researched in the You Tube and came up with his own version of drip irrigation. The water is supplied drop by drop to the root zone of the plants through a series of plastic pipes.
He has also put up two plots of eggplant as an experiment. One plot is grown the way most ordinary farmers do – they don’t mulch their vegetables. The other plot is provided with plastic mulch. The seedlings were the same and they were planted at the same time. They are fertilized also with the same amount and at the same time.
As can be seen in the picture at top right, the mulched plants are very robust and are starting to bear fruit. On the other hand, the plants in the plot at left are very miserable. They have not started bearing flowers. Both plots were hit by floods brought by Typhoons Pedring and Quiel. It seems the mulched plants were not affected at all.
Leonardo David became the principal of San Miguel Elementary in 2009. Upon his assumption, he fixed the area unoccupied by the buildings which is more than one hectare. He leveled the ground and dumped a lot of chicken and cattle manure to improve the porous soil. Then he led the planting of mahogany trees at fairly wide distances between rows. Most of the mahogany trees were each planted by the graduating students. Now, the vegetable plots are in between the rows of three-year-old mahogany trees.
East-West’s TSK rogram started about two years ago and it has spread to 84 elementary and high schools in different parts of the country. There are also 40 similar garden projects being assisted by East-West in the O My Gulay program of Sen. Angara. The OMG projects are being supported by business firms as their form of corporate responsibility.