When the young learn to farm

In line with growing the urban farming community, this writer accepted an invitation to be a guest speaker for two online classes with grade school students. The topic was food security, community resiliency, urban farming and aquaponics.

Based on the feedback (the kids have a reflection journal), and the Q&A portions of the class, the kids really had fun, especially after finding out that we can use fish poo as nutrient source/fertilizer for vegetables.

We started the class by stressing the importance of food, recognizing that most of our food supply come from faraway places (rural farms), and if travel is restricted (for example, pandemic, natural disasters like flood or landslides), our food supply will be compromised.

When asked what happens if we don’t have food, one of the kids blurted, “We will starve and die.” Kids really have a way of getting straight to the point.

They were also asked, “what if we grew our own food here in our cities, will that solve the problem?”

We then discussed urban farms, progressed to aquaponics, explained how growing fish and crops together without soil worked, and then showed how to design, build and operate a simple system.

Some of the kids can be heard, via Zoom, asking their parents, “Dad can we build an aquaponics system here?” And one of the parents took a picture of the online class and posted it on instagram with the caption, “This is cool.”

Yes, farming can be cool. And the young ones can pave the way towards the possibility of a sustained agricultural renaissance.

Talking about food security with children is very important given the challenges that we face. Besides covid-19, the lockdown and the travel restrictions that affect access to food, it must be remembered that the average age of a Filipino farmer is around 64 while the average lifespan of a Filipino is roughly 69. If we do the math, we have only five years to find a solution to this ticking time bomb.

We have to start telling the next generation about this. After all, this is an endless journey. My generation (millennial) gets to write a chapter or two, but eventually we have to pass the torch. And it is our job to make sure that those who will come after us are best informed and prepared for the journey they have ahead.

The Zoom class was the first, but it will probably not be the last. And it is part of the bigger picture: the GK seminars and Aquaponics Workshops facilitated, the articles published every Sunday in this column and the thoughts and ideas shared in the online community via the Facebook group: “Metro-ponics: Aquaponics in Metro Manila.”