A test run of a new air screen processing machine is taking place at PhilRice this weekend. The Rice Terrace Farmers Cooperative (RTFC) processed samples of newly harvested rice and sent them to PhilRice for testing the prototype. The air screen machine was custom designed and built for the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. The machine has different sized screens, which will screen off the broken grains; and a fan, which will blow the last bits of chafe and bran dust off the rice. This process will replace the labor-intensive hand winnowing that the farmers have been doing after the dehulling and partial milling.

Replacing the labor intensive winnowing with an air screen machine

Replacing the labor intensive winnowing with an air screen machine

As the volume of sales increase, we are working hard to make the processing stage less labor intensive. With appropriate technology machines, the rice processing will be more efficient and the quality of the finished product will improve.

The design and building of this machine was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Social Action Committee of the Kamloops United Church in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada.  For two years, the Kamloops United Church has helped fund the Quality Control Trainings for the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. Because of this new processing machine, the rice shipped from the cooperative should  need no additional processing. The first rice to pass through this additional processing will be shipped directly to a Fair Trade distributor in Canada for packaging and sale in Canada. Our heartfelt thanks to the Kamloops United Church for making this distribution expansion into Canada possible!

Bookmark Heirloomrice

Since I began working on this project almost 10 years ago, it has been my dream to put the native rice from the terraces of northern Luzon in the culinary spotlight for people who care about the food they eat and the farmers who produce it. I have dreamed of the day when tinawon and unoy conjure images of the Philippines, just as jasmine and basmati evoke Thailand and India.

The Essential Good Food Guide by Margaret Wittenberg (Ten Speed Press)

The Essential Good Food Guide by Margaret Wittenberg (Ten Speed Press)

The dream takes a big step toward becoming a reality when Margaret Wittenberg’s new and fully revised book “The Essential Good Food Guide” (Ten Speed Press) is released this week. The author has added an entirely new section, Cordillera Heirloom Rice, under the Medium-Grain Rice heading. In it, she gives a brief background of the historic terrace area, a general description of the varieties and then, by name, a complete description of each of the three staple varieties and three sticky rice varieties that are currently available on the market. Under the Long-Grain Rice heading, there is a complete description of the Ulikan Red.

Margaret Wittenberg has written the definitive guide for navigating our super market aisles, natural food stores and farmers’ markets in the search for the ingredients that will make cooking and eating good food a pleasurable experience. It is wonderful to see the heirloom rice of the Cordillera included in this great resource book. This is definitely a book to share with people who love to cook and care about what they eat.

Bookmark Heirloomrice

Town_storeThe city of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin has been in the fair trade news recently, and for good reason! Not only has Fond du Lac become the latest (and 32nd!) US Fair Trade Town but also, on World Fair Trade Day 2013, Fairtrade.us announced that its first annual Reader’s Choice Award for the Favorite Fair Trade Store went to their very own Just Fare Market.

As founder of the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project in the Philippines and supplier of Fair Trade heirloom rice to the Just Fare Market, I know first hand that this extraordinary store does much more than provide an outlet for crafts, clothing and food products from developing countries.

The Just Fare Market works hard to fulfill its mission to educate the community about the benefits of fair trade and remind consumers that a difference can be made when people consider how and by whom products are produced.
Earlier this year, the farmers in the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project were highlighted by the Just Fare Market, both in the store and on their website. The store’s Volunteer Committee hosted an evening “rice party” for volunteers that combined fun, product education and a tasting of our heirloom rice that volunteers had prepared as rice fritters, fried rice, blueberry rice pudding and rice salad.

Just Fare Market_Page        rice party 002

When volunteer Marcia McLaughlin learned of our Adopt-A-Terrace initiative to restore and rehabilitate damaged and abandoned terraces, she requested that the project be part of the store’s artisan fund, which invites customers to round up to the nearest fifty cents or dollar when they make a purchase.

Through this fund, the volunteers and customers have adopted a terrace in Pasil, Kalinga and are supporting Gudilea Ayangdo to repair her terraces, which were damaged during a major typhoon in 2011.
Damaged Terraces

To this amazing store and community, thank you! Positive change happens when people work together to support each other. Whether its called bayanihan or Fair Trade, it’s about making our communities and our world a better place for all.

Bookmark Heirloomrice

Celebrating local food in Cagaluan, Pasil, Kalinga

Celebrating local food in Cagaluan, Pasil, Kalinga

Traditional "long table"

Traditional “long table”

The “long table” stretched almost 20 meters. Farmers from the eight villages in the municipality of Pasil, Kalinga gathered in celebration. Men had cut the giant bamboo poles from the nearby forest for the event and lashed them together to make the sturdy serving and eating platform. Banana leaves and split banana tree trunks were gathered and would serve as the plates; rattan baskets as trays and coconut shells as bowls. This is tradition.

Low fired clay cooking pots from Pasil are renowned for their quality

Low fired clay cooking pots from Pasil are renowned for their quality

Women, gracefully carrying the giant clay pots on their heads, arrive with the dishes of native rice and local vegetables. The Pasil women are renowned for their hand-built, low-fired ceramic clay cooking vessels. The perfect clay is found only in the villages of Dangtalan and Dalupa. Each village brought traditional food, local produce and delicacies to share.

Traditional sticky rice dessert called inanjila

Traditional sticky rice dessert called inanjila

A bounty of vegetables grow in Pasil's cool climate

A bounty of vegetables grow in Pasil’s cool climate

The children had cleaned the area and gathered firewood. Teachers had worked with them on their performance of traditional dances. The program also included farmer leaders and elders sharing their experiences of farming “before”, in words and in ballad songs. After the celebration of local food, there was time to talk with the guests from the Department of Agriculture about farming and their current irrigation and pest problems.

Keeping traditions alive in the next generation

Keeping traditions alive in the next generation

A little rain didnt dampen the spirit of the event

A little rain didnt dampen the spirit of the event

There were many meetings with barangay councils and farmer leaders in order to make this event happen. Participation in the Terra Madre/ Salone del Gusto in Italy and the Indigenous People’s Terra Madre in Sweden have given their leaders new insights about valuing indigenous knowledge, protecting the traditional seeds of the communities, and the value of growing healthy, clean food within the community. As they share these ideas with their neighbors, people are beginning to feel a part of the international movement to protect indigenous rights, traditions, foods and seeds; and that as farmers, they are not alone in their struggles.

Farmer leaders Lam-en and Rowena Gonnay

Farmer leaders Lam-en and Rowena Gonnay

This 3rd annual Terra Madre event was about a community coming together to celebrate their richness and diversity, honoring the old ways and planning for a sustainable future for the next generation. Farmer said they were proud of what they have accomplished and are working to revive the traditional seeds in the community through gathering and sharing their knowledge on preservation and reproduction.

Pictures and descriptions provided by Rowena and Lam-en Gonnay

Bookmark Heirloomrice

Vicky Garcia, Raymunda Mamaril, Rowena Gonnay and Jimmy Lingayo represented the traditional rice producers of the Cordillera

Vicky Garcia, Raymunda Mamaril, Rowena Gonnay and Jimmy Lingayo represented the Philippines and the traditional rice producers of the Cordillera

Once again, farmers from the Cordillera region were privileged to attend the 2012 Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre event, which was held October 25-29 in Turin, Italy. The Philippine delegation included three farmers representing the traditional rice producing communities whose rice varieties are included in the Slow Food Foundation’s “Ark of Taste” and Vicky Garcia, the executive director of the RICE, Inc., the NGO supporting the farmers participating in the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project.

One of the main workshop events of the Salone Del Gusto was the Terra Madre Network’s Taste Workshop on Traditional Rices of Asia. Rice is the staple food half of the world’s population but it also has deep cultural and spiritual significance within Asian cultures. In this sold out workshop, producers and experts from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia presented stories of that cultural connection and a taste sampling of a traditional rice recipe.

Preparing a traditional suman dessert rice using the ominio variety of Mountain Province, Philippines.

Preparing a traditional suman dessert rice using the ominio variety of Mountain Province, Philippines.

Raymunda Mamaril, representing the ominio rice producers of Barlig Mountain Province, showcased the dark purple sticky rice in a traditional dessert recipe made with brown sugar and coconut milk and wrapped in a banana leaf. Raymunda was assisted in her presentation by Margarita Fores, owner and chef of the CIBO restaurant chain in the Philippines. Chef Fores, who is known for bringing the modern taste of Italy to the Philippines, had the opportunity to reverse her role by speaking about this traditional rice in Italy.

Raymunda Mamaril and Chef Margarita Fores talk about the ominio dessert during the Taste Workshop on Asian rices.

Raymunda Mamaril and Chef Margarita Fores talk about the ominio dessert to participants at the sold-out Taste Workshop on Asian rices.

We would like to thank Elena Aniere, program coordinator at Slow Food International, for making this important workshop on traditional rice varieties possible. We would also like to give a special thank you to Margarita Fores, who brought her culinary expertise and charm to this endeavor and made it a truly professional presentation.

Bookmark Heirloomrice

Certificate of Recognition

Congratulations to the Rice Terraces Farmers Cooperative

The Provincial Government of Ifugao through its Project on the Certification of Ifugao Products awarded a Certificate of Recognition to the Rice Terraces Farmers Cooperative (RTFC) as a producer of an Ifugao certified product.

The RTFC was recognized for its processing and marketing of traditional heirloom rice that is grown by its members in the mountain terraces of Ifugao.

The Provincial Government of Ifugao launched the Ifugao Certified Products Seal of Excellence initiative as a way to identify and promote outstanding provincial products that can be globally competitive and also represent the identity of the province. Products designated as such will be allowed carry the Ifugao Seal of Excellence.

Bookmark Heirloomrice

Vicky_in_village_1x6
sidebar_hands2As Director of RICE, Inc., I walk many painful miles through the terraces to attend local meetings with the farmers and provide training sessions.  I am often invited into the homes of the farmers to share a meal and visit.

The faces of the farmers and the stories that they tell about how the project has affected their lives are what keeps me going when I get discouraged by the funding setbacks, the bureaucracy that hinders more than it helps, the floods, the landslides and all the difficulties that the farmers and the project face every year.

The story of Nanay Pacita resonates in my mind. I see her in a group of older women; she stands out, erect, her face lined by hard work.   Even though she is 60+ years old she doesn’t wear glasses and her keen eyes closely follow the information in the training session on Quality Control.  When asked why she had come to the training session she replied,

“I am encouraged by your consistent invitation for all farmers to be part of the rice development. Me and my family are so helped by this project, not just the technical part of training with machines or equipment but you allowed us to be involved as we are…you asked me to hold the pen and sign my name; to write my thoughts. A long time ago, when I was in grade school, I held the pen and learned to write my name.  I didn’t finish school.  I put down my pen and worked in the fields all the years of my life. I am now old and as long as I remember, I have not done any writing until I became part of this program.”

At the session break, I continued our conversation asking her again why coming to the meeting was important to her.   She answered with a shy smile.  “I feel honored to be part of the program where I am valued as an important member of the group. I told you that now I have to sign my name each time I sell my rice. In the past we sell our rice and nothing follows: no knowing or asking of names, information about us or coming back to inquire about what else we need.  But this project,  it is all about the production, the rice, the process and the farmer.  I am so happy. “

“Going to the paddy terrace is what I am good at doing. I do all the work of softening the soil, weeding our paddy and all the work needed to be done on the farm.  At the end of the day I go home, wash my hands, eat and the next day go back to the farm. That is the cycle of my life. Now, I get to hold the pen, sign my name and write on the application. Even if I have to copy the words, which someone gives me, I used the pen to write.  I attend a meeting such as this and am part of the activity.  Before, a meeting for a farmer like me was no place to be.   But you insistently ask for our attendance. Being here is difficult but feels good because I am part of something very important for my self confidence, my family and my community.”

banner_hands2
As told to Vicky Garcia

Bookmark Heirloomrice