Thursday, April 4, 2013

Negros Farmers Weekend Market: The Realization of Vision into Action

Fresh vegetables, bottled products, pastries, and flowers are only some of the items sold at the Negros Farmers Weekend Market at very affordable prices (NFWF photo). I first became aware that there is a Negros Farmers Weekend Market last March 22, 2013 when my friend Lodel Magbanua, a respected Aikido instructor here in Bacolod, invited me to go to the place the following day to discuss a possible lecture and demo in the place. From Talisay, I hurried to the designated venue and got down from the Ceres bus at the NOPPO entrance. No wonder the cops whom I asked were not familiar with the Negros Farmers Weekend Market; I would shortly know from its owner that it was only started a week ago, on March 16, 2013. What caught my attention immediately was that the place was huge, 1.2 ha. in all. Several paces from the entrance going to the center is a series of concrete footpaths leading to the pavilion, a hall dedicated to public education where anyone can talk about important issues such as health, environment and agriculture. Lectures on Saturdays are free to both speaker and the public, and the hall can accommodate 70-100 people. Nearer to the entrance (to the right side) is Zone 5, the area where farmers sell their fresh produce, both organic and natural for those who want to make their pick, at very reasonable prices, prices that can help the public make their money go farther in the current economic slump. For instance, a kilo of tomatoes at SM sells at P40.00 and at Libertad Market, P20.00; at the Negros Farmers Weekend Market, one can get it at P15.00, or a 62.50% and 25% savings respectively. Mangoes normally sell at around P80/kilo but the same can be bought at the Negros Farmers Weekend Market at P65-70/kilo. Ready to eat sweet corn costs P35 at SM but can be bought at P25.00 at the Negros Farmers Weekend Market. I wondered why they can sell it at a low price and then it dawned on me. The only way this would be possible is when the ones selling are the same farmers who grew these products, that is they have a more direct sales channel to the buyers, where no middlemen are involved. My hypothesis proved to be correct when I talked with Mrs. Ruby Cruz, Marketing Director of DC. Cruz Trading Corporation, later that day. Normally what happens is, farmers would sell their produce to middlemen who would make the same available to both institutional buyers and consumers alike. Since middlemen had to sustain their operations, they have to have mark ups. Furthermore, since the rent for the farmers at the Negros Farmers Weekend Market is so low, they are not burdened with a big overhead cost, a saving that is reflected in their pricing. Currently, there are over 50 vendors at the Negros Farmers Weekend Market, selling fresh products such as fruits, meat, vegetables, herbs, milk, fish, seafood, and rice and processed foods such as bottled sardines, artisanal bread and wine, dried squid products. There are also vendors who sell arts and craft, silk, ornamental plants and ready to eat cooked foods, featuring local and international (Spanish, Indian, Japanese, Bolivian) food. A few paces up north of Zone 5 is the Food Area, Zone 3, an open-air dining area where visitors can enjoy a cup of coffee while being one with the environment, as we did during our visit. There are tables and chairs under makeshift net-style shades where visitors wait for their coffee or order bangus, tilapia, and/or other seafood to be grilled, ala Pala-Pala style , or choose from a myriad of local and international cuisine. While enjoying our coffee, we saw former Gov. Lito Coscolluela who heads the Anti-Baha Group. We were told that the honorable statesman had pledged their support to the Negros Farmers Weekend Market by taking care of the solid waste management. The Negros Farmers Weekend Market is a no plastic zone, and does not allow plastic sando bags in the premises. So it is best for the visitor to bring along an eco bag for shopping. The Negros Farmers Weekend Market is a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project of the DC. Cruz Trading Corporation, with its beneficiary being the family’s foundation, Herbe Foundation, which has the mission of providing education to indigent children with deep focus on character formation. DC Cruz Trading Corp. is an agriculture firm founded in 1966, with currently 8 branches in the Negros Island: Bacolod, Bago, Bais, Kabankalan, La Carlota, and San Carlos. The Herbe Foundation, named after the Cruz siblings’ now deceased sister, is a charitable institution presided by Ruth Cruz. The Philippine Lumen School, from the Latin “light,” was founded in 2010 to give a values-based type of education, which the Cruz siblings believe is the basis for people to become successful in life. The school currently has 67 students, all indigents and some abandoned by their parents. Tuition, while socialized, is minimal, ranging from free tuition to P350/month, inclusive of meals, snacks, uniforms and books. The Negros Farmers Weekend Market is open only every Saturday, 8:00-6:00 PM. Direct retail consumers and institutional buyers are all welcome, as well as NGOs and special interest groups who are interested to give lectures on special interest topics that will serve to educate the public. Interested parties may contact Mrs. Ruby Tania C. Cruz at 0917-300-3291.

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