Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative Agriculture
Organic System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

Monday, August 3, 2015

From the Beach to the Farm: Leaving the job I loved in Virginia Beach, VA as a Senior Database and Web Administrator at the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) Headquarters  to come home to the Philippines after my Dad passed away was the toughest decision ever but having been able to stay with my widowed Mom for her remaining two years and having had the opportunity to help out in my Dad's farm in Zarraga where he was an accredited rice seed producer and to be with the girl who I dearly loved, erased all my doubts of such.

Four years and three weeks later, and here I am now trying to write a blog on a project after a friend, John Roulac, the CEO of  Nutiva, egged me on to "become a writer" and document the project in blog format. Knowing John's intuitive brilliance and  foresight, I knew I had to do this. Especially since this was the same John who is better known for saying "where there is danger, there is opportunity", I figured that with the danger of my writing bad blogs, he must have seen opportunity?

The "project" I speak of which John has become a strategic partner to,  together with Ken Lee and Caryl Levine, the co-founds/co-owners of Lotus Foods in Richmond, California,  is what has been called as the Zarraga High Quality Organic System of Rice Intensification (SRI) Rice Export Initiative.  This has been a farmer initiated and farmer-led project from its inception and after nine months of grueling challenges and obstacles, the farmers have organized themselves into an accredited farmers group and the production of both organic fertilizers and organic SRI rice is now in full swing.

This project aims to redefine and create a whole new organic rice value chain devoid of opportunistic middlemen and traders thereby giving the benefits, power and the credit back to the organic rice farmers, as they justly deserve, for all the hard work they do. Ken and Caryl aptly call this the "Closed-Loop" value chain.. The "High Quality" in the project is a non-negotiable component, because we believe that we all, including our families and friends and the consumers, only deserve the highest quality organic rice for the premium price we are asked to fork out in order to enjoy it at our dinner tables. And of course, how much more organic can you get than the SRI method of rice cultivation. Hence Lotus Foods' More Crop Per Drop (or SRI) program, which they implement with the small farmers in four Asian countries where they source their organic rice from has been adopted to be the organic rice cultivation protocol of choice for this project.

A non-feasible project, some said. Others even said unpatriotic, because of the "export" component.  And others were just not too inclined to even listen to the merits of such.  They could be right in all or some ways. For indeed, the scope of requirements of the project is immense and the checklist of tasks has been unceasing. Yet our farmers are well grounded on the realization that it will take years to accomplish our goals yet they have signified their unwavering support and passion to see this project through a successful completion. I will not get into the politics of arguing with the skeptics and the naysayers. I have always believed, though innocently and naively, that the nature of the beast is global and as such, we should put aside any differences in order to come up with the right solutions.

Nine months since project inception and we have made small but gradual progress. Please just bear with me as I chronicle the events of this  journey -  the bad, the good and even the ugly, as they unfold.  And also to introduce you to the farmers, friends, fellow advocates and visionaries behind this project.

To sum it up, here is what I had posted in my facebook account several days ago.:

The systemic destruction of our farms' soil biodiversity and fertility with its requisite dumping of chemical runoffs ending up in the oceans destroying our coastal and marine resources is a GLOBAL problem and should be scoped with the degree of urgency it deserves and the magnitude of collaboration it requires. Words of encouragement and inspiration from afar become reminders that even the smallest thing we do counts, adds up and makes a world of a difference. 👌
"Keep up the great work. I am glad to have supported your farmers group to grow better rice with less chemicals."
In Health,
John Roulac, CEO and Founder, Nutiva
"While we are relatively small individually…I believe that working together for a greater purpose, we can achieve our goals; many in body and one in mind."
Ken Lee, Co-Owner/Co-Founder Lotus Foods.

From the Farm to the Beach, or From Ridge to Reef,  a holistic approach to the protection, conservation and restoration of our land and coastal resources. Spreading awareness that what we do on land, especially with our soils, will have a resounding effect on our oceans.  Being an avid scuba diver, I have seen and documented both the rich beauty of our underwater marine life as well as the destruction of coral habitat in some dive sites. Saving our soils will indeed save our oceans. Protecting our soils will protect our oceans. Restoring the biodiversity in our soils will restore biodiversity in  our oceans. I have chosen to work on the Ridge, to help the Reef. For those of us who have the opportunity to do so, every little act you do to help will not be puny or inconsequential.  The important thing is to act and to act now.

I started work with SRI in January of 2012 I have personally seen the tremendous potential the rice plant will display especially if "strict" implementation of SRI principles are followed. SRI could be the only organic protocol which can give you more yield during your first tries at transition to organic rice farming.  I will delve more on why this is so later.

Through modifications in the management of farm practices and resources, the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) allows the rice plant to grow to its utmost potential by providing it with the optimum environment to thrive and to flourish.,

What we do on our farm land translates into the health of our oceans.

And yes, most if not all of those who dive, are aware and appreciate the effects that sustainable and regenerative agriculture has on our oceans.