Farmers shouldn’t be charity cases

A friend sent me a bag of produce which included these citrus fruits.

I really admire their farm because, among other things, everything it grows is organic, and it really does try to give its farm employees decent wages.

Agriculture and food security are big now, and a lot of people are taking advantage of this. Many use “help the farmers” as a come-on for people to buy their stuff.

Personally, I’m wary of this mentality because it implies that farmers are charity cases. That they actually are is a sad truth that must be changed.

We pride ourselves on being an agricultural country but in the same breath will declare that our farmers are one of our lowest paid sectors. It’s shameful, especially since without farmers, we would not have food and clothes. Even urbanization was made possible through agriculture.

I hope the pandemic sheds light on the plight of our farmers and I hope that the companies who claim to help them really are helping them and not just saying so because it sounds cool. It’s a far cry from the reform we need, but it’s a teeny tiny itsy bitsy start.

There are many farms that pay their farmers fairly, but there are more middlemen who shortchange farmers and don’t even handle the goods properly. I know these are simplistic statements. Philippine agriculture is vast and varied and tangled, filled with people with vested interests, but also with people who believe that it can be a good source of income for everyone involved.

I won’t claim to know how to solve its problems because I don’t. All I can do is highlight stories that hopefully inspire people to grow their own food, put up their own farms, or make sure that the people they buy from really treat farmers fairly.

I’m hoping for a time where we don’t buy produce “to help farmers.” I’m hoping for a time where we purchase things because we want to, taking for granted the fact that the farmers who grew them are middle or upper class, thriving, and not needing of charity.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.