Balance and Harmony in Food Production – An Individual Choice

The idea of intensifying food production in order to support what will be a world population of 9 billion within a few decades is under real consideration, particularly with the release of a new scientific study which highlights the urgency of the situation.

The problem is caused by the misuse of agricultural land, food waste, the desire to switch to a “western” protein based diet in countries such as China and India, and, of course too many people being born. The solution, according to John Beddington, Britain’s Chief Scientist, is to allow population levels to peak naturally and meanwhile to develop technologies such as GM while devising ways to use potential and actual farming land as exhaustively as possible.

This approach focuses the debate entirely on the human needs and perspective without consideration for the other inhabitants of our planet, without whom we would not able to survive. Because we are dependent on the plants, animals and minerals for our well-being, does it not make sense to look after them to the best of our ability? It could be argued that their needs come before ours because they are so important in our lives.

If we treated a fellow human being as a machine to be exploited and then discarded, it would be considered extraordinary and unacceptable, but for the lower kingdoms of nature it is happening all the time all over the world, even now. When we have allowed abusive farming practices to occur, eventually she hits back with dramatic consequences, as we have seen with the outbreaks of BSE, Foot and Mouth and Avian Flu. There is no doubt that, if the human desire for a comfortable self-centred lifestyle is pursued at the expense of the planet, the planet will rebel, to our cost.

We can learn a lot by observing our natural environment, and how it keeps itself in balance – unless man intercedes! If a species becomes over-abundant then it will ensure the appropriate number for its survival is achieved whatever it takes: it may be disease, weather, lack of food, a new predator…….the outcome is a return to perfect equilibrium with everything in harmony. I have no doubt that, if our global human population is allowed to continue to grow far beyond what is tolerable, it will be reduced forcibly and perhaps painfully to what is acceptable.

The alternative is to confront the need now and to begin to discuss, at least, the problem of over-population and to consider ways of dealing with it. People will not want to hear, and it will be very controversial, but really, it must be done, publicly, internationally, and now.

In the spirit of a balanced approach to food production, it is heartening to hear stories of communities working together from a shared ethos of simple co-operation with nature and each other – groups of people in the US forming private organic food clubs, The Rininging Cedars initiative in Russia, people plot-sharing and re-planting orchards in the UK. In the end, while governments may talk of The Big Society and similar centre-led initiatives – excellent in their own way – it is up to each of us to put into practice what we believe.

Protect Our Food Production – The H-2A Program Should Be Blasted Away!

We should be thinking about protecting ourselves from future food shortages by strengthening our internal food production.

Today, over 50% of our internal agricultural labor is illegal, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Said another way, more than 800,000 of the 1.6 million agro workers who work on our crops and livestock each year are foreigners without legal permission to work. If you still haven’t seen the light, here’s the bottom line: there’s a potentially disastrous weakness in our food production system because we’re dependent on foreign food imports, undocumented foreign workers, and a shortage of American workers.

Instead of blaming the farmers, or screaming at our politicians for not protecting our borders, we should be truly responsible by getting off our butts.

First, by coaching our kids to go into farming. Next, we should be aware of economic realities which have been in place since the 1940s. President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted the Bracero Program in 1941 and, as a result, Mexican agro labor carried the day while we fought in Europe and in the Pacific. After our soldiers returned, we went on to build an industrial America unparalleled in modern times.

We were able to do this because we had the help of Mexican agro labor. Today, we are producing 25% of the world’s economic output even though we are 5% of the world’s population. It’s time to humbly admit that we need Mexican agro labor and that they should work for us legally. It’s also time to sympathize with the plight of our farmers.

This is why. Imagine that you’re the owner of a dairy farm with 500 cows of which 100 are dealing with the onset of labor. You don’t have enough American workers to care for the herd, much less these pregnant cows. You’re told that you can get help from Mexico but it will not arrive in less than six months. If you’re lucky. The H-2A Program, the politically-correct, yet inefficient portal to bring these workers in, requires you to go through a paper-intensive, deadline-ridden process that kills 40% of all applications.

Our farmers have more important things to do than to chase after the H-2A Program. They don’t have time to go through three government agencies in order to bring a Mexican worker for seasonal work. Producing crops, milk and eggs, meat and poultry, not to mention thousands of other products, is much more important. So they use an illegal work force, and should we blame them?

The H-2A Program should be blasted away. We should be using our great native intelligence to come up with practical – yes, practical – solutions instead of falling prey to fear-mongers who don’t know what they’re talking about. Let’s get real about our future, our children’s future.

An Overview of Common Food Product Contaminants

An aspect of food plant sanitation procedures is the identification of common contaminants. These are the common contaminants known in the food processing and manufacturing industry.

Microorganisms

Food-borne diseases exist, primarily due to pathogenic bacteria. Consumers have been warned to properly store their food and to prepare it appropriately to avoid diseases that occur due to infection. Common disease-causing microorganisms are Salmonella, E. coli, and L. monocytogenes. L. monocytogenes are a primary concern of sanitation professionals because basically, it exists everywhere. This type of bacteria can infect the whole food manufacturing plant. Salmonella and E. coli can become dangerous, too, when they proliferate in the site. These bacteria may not necessarily destroy food products, but their presence in them can lower their shelf life. The good thing is that these microorganisms can easily be killed through thorough cooking.

Aside from the pathogens mentioned above, there are other agents that can cause food spoilage. These are yeast, mold, Pseudomonas, and Lactobacillus. These can be eradicated through appropriate food plant sanitation procedures.

Biofilm

While microorganisms mentioned above are easy to get rid of, there is another biological contaminant, but this one gives a challenge in sanitation. A biofilm forms when surfaces are not cleaned thoroughly. Unclean surfaces may provide a favorable environment for bacteria to thrive and grow. The bacteria may trap microscopic debris and nutrients. As they grow in number, they form a biofilm, which covers surfaces that may appear clean to the naked eye. Food products that come in contact with contaminated surfaces become filthy too. Biofilms pose risk in manufacturing. They are not easy to get rid of because they adhere to surfaces effectively. Removal involves proper rinsing, cleaning, mild scrubbing, and application of sanitizers. The formation of biofilms can be prevented by cleaning equipment and utensils right after production. Many food manufacturers hire food plant cleaning services to make sure that even the stubborn microorganisms are eliminated.

Chemicals

You probably thought that contaminants are only microbes, but there are others, such as chemicals. There are many possible sources of chemical pollutants, like cleaning solutions and food ingredients. One can get rid of unwanted substances by cleaning the equipment after usage. Residues during the previous manufacture contain elements used. These elements remain on the equipment surface unless thorough cleaning and rinsing is done. Even organic substances, like protein, can contaminate food products that are next in line.

Lubricants used to run equipment smoothly may also come in contact with food being processed or manufactured, although the chances of that happening may be low. Excess oil on machines should be detected before production starts. Hence, regular inspection of equipment is essential.

Other Contaminants

There is a chance that friction between surfaces during the production process could create metal fragments that may be introduced to the food being processed. Other possible contaminants are insects, hair strands, and even foreign matter. Such contamination is most probably a result of gross negligence on the part of the workers. However, food manufacturers are quite stringent with their hygiene policies. Workers are supervised to make sure that they enter the work site neat and in proper attire. This is on top of making sure the facility is clean before, during, and after production.

Jade Food Products: A Taste of Home Sweets Home

Sweet Dream Begins

“I both gave birth to my second child Alvin and the candy making business twenty seven years ago.”
Successfully rearing both the Patigayon children and managing her home-based business was quite a “sweet delight” for an entrepreneur awardee, Mrs. Fe I. Patigayon of Jade Food Products of Brgy. Sumilihon, Butuan City, Agusan Del Norte, Caraga Region, Philippines.

“Manang Fe” Patigayon (as she is fondly called), manager and a mother of five; Joselito, 29; Alvin, 27; Julie Ann, 19; Joe Fe, 17 and Jade, 10 years old humbly shared how her “binangkal making” career in Manila during the early 80’s gave birth to her multi-million worth of candy manufacturing business today-two decades of experience that brought delight not only to her but the children who loves the delicacies of Jade Food Products.

‘Binangkal’ Maker

“Linya na nako ang pagluto ug sweets, binkga, bud-bod ug uban pa. Ako’y nakasunod sa iyang skill” (It has been our family’s’ passion to cook rice cakes and delicacies. I was the one who followed the footsteps of my mom who was very skilled in cooking native delicacies).

Manang Fe, in her early 50s recollected how she got associated with the “sweets” industry. “Binangkal” maker (local muffin-like delicacy coated with sesame seeds which is a popular delicacy in the Visayas and Mindanao regions) ko niadto sa Manila. Nagsugod ko ug helper sa pagluto, peddling ug mag ‘back ride” pa sa motor sa akong amo niadto. Nainteresado ko nga nindot man diay na nga negosyo” (I was a ‘binangkal’ (a dip-fried round bread coated with sesame seeds) maker in Manila. I started as a helper and peddled the bread back-riding on a motorbike with my employer everyday. Then I became interested with the business and thought that the business was good).

Love Is Sweeter

A year after Fe’s career as a ‘binangkal’ maker and delivery assistant, she went back to the province and met Joe Patigayon, a candy factory worker in Talamban, Cebu City. After series of ‘sweet’ courtship and finally ended in marriage, the couple decided to migrate and settled in Brgy. Tagabaca, Butuan City, Agusan Del Norte in the Northern Mindanao, where their five children grew up. Since Brgy. Tagabaca relied more on agriculture, Manang Fe ventured into farming to support the family’s needs. However, since the needs began to grow and her desire to be an entrepreneur grew intensely as well, she then thought of going back to creating sweets and delicacies as an alternative livelihood to augment the family’s income.

Thousand Peso Capital

“Kami lang duha sa husband ko sa pagsugod sa negosyo. One thousand pesos lang amo puhunan niadtong 1982 ug wala pa’y buwan ako anak na si Alvin” (My husband and I started with just a thousand peso capital last 1982 when my son Alvin was barely a month-old). It was in Langihan (Salvador Calo Public Market), Butuan City where she first sold her goods in wholesale price to different retail stores. After years of supplying and doing business in Langihan and with a sizable number of “sukis” (valued customers) Jade Food Products became a by-word in the local market.

As the business grew, Manang Fe decided to generously hand-over her Langihan “sukis” to one of her valued clients who eventually became a distributor of Jade Food Products herself. When asked why she needed to turn over her valued customers to other entrepreneurs, she just smiled and said, “Gipabor nako sa iya ka’y naluoy man ko. Hinuon na-a pa man ko’y nabilin. Ang resulta, nahimo nu-on nako sila nga mga distributors.” (I gave my valued customer the opportunity to have the distributorship business. In return, it gave me even more distributors).

Meager Capital

“Pangitaan nako ug paagi nga makaya ra nila (customers) ug palit ako baligya. Pang-masa ug tag piso-piso ra.” From the “piso-piso” (a peso worth of candy) of Jade Food Products, Manang Fe was able to send her children to school until her eldest son Joselito graduated from college and is now helping the business as the company’s Assistant General Manger and in charge of the operations. Joselito not only manages the company’s operations but also runs the motor pool and equipment maintenance of their service-delivery vehicles. Jade Foods “presyong masa” (mass-based price) really paved the way to support the family’s needs for education and support to the Patigayon children. Truly, Manang Fe not only raised a home-based business but the enterprise produced fruits of prolific children as well.

Maternal-Approach Business Model

“Gibalayan gyud nako…” (I provided housing assistance to them) (as Manang Fe was referring to one of her loyal employees). “Makatabang ko, mabuhi ko, mabuhi pud sila” (I can help, I live and they will live as well). Dili nako gustong sulohon ang tanan” (I don’t want to grab everything), she humbly answered.

As a mother, Manang Fe can’t help but think beyond how she can care for her employees especially those who have been working with them for some time and helped her walked the road to a successful enterprise.

With a handful number of full-time and part-time workers (re-packers), Manang Fe does not only pay their salaries but also provided non-wage benefits such as providing them with free board and lodging assistance as perks. In addition, some of the regular employees were given housing assistance which they are only required to pay the cost in terms of a “data-data” (installment basis).

Just like a mother cares for her children, Manang Fe takes care of her valued employees. Her motherhood management style resulted to loyalty from her employees and eventually improved their quality of life.

Love Your Neighbor

True to what the Bible says, “Love you neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:32), Manang Fe exemplified a life of a loving and generous neighbor by providing them with free transportation services at times when they needed assistance especially during emergency situations.

At present Manang Fe has expanded her business from farming, manufacturing & managing their public utility jeepney. Whenever there is a need for emergency transportation assistance, Manang Fe is always there to lend a helping hand to her neighbors in times of needs – free of charge.

“Nabuhi mi ani (home-based business) ug nakatabang pud ni ug dako sa uban labi sa mga nanay nako nga silingan”. (We lived through a home-based business and it helped us a lot even our neighbors).

At present, Manang Fe is not only involved with community service to her neighbors by providing free rides but she also gives them opportunities for livelihood especially to the unemployed mothers. Jade Food Products employees comprise both wage-earning employees and or “pakyaw” (piece-rate) workers.

From a capital of One Thousand Pesos (Php 1,000) in 1982, the company’s gross sales are now estimated to reach a quarter of a million every month! From its phenomenal growth, truly the Biblical principle of loving our neighbors produced fruits of blessings to the Patigayon family.

Entrepreneur of the Year

“Advance mi sa pabayad ug amo mga contributions (like Philhealth. Para ra man pud sa akong kapamilya ug mga empleyado ko and pagbayad ug ensaktong balayranan. Maka-harvest man gud mi ug benefits, doble-doble pa.”(We always pay are workers’ social security premiums in advance, in fact we do exceed providing other benefits to them).

When asked how’s her involvement with government agencies such as DTI and the LGU and her views as an entrepreneur towards the agencies’ support to Jade Food Products, Manang Fe proudly replied that they’re actively participating and advance in paying their obligations and contributions both to the local and other government line agencies.

As a home-based enterprise situated in the midst of a rural barangay, seldom do we find an entrepreneur as pro-active in outlook like Manang Fe about her attitude towards supporting the government especially through payments of obligations and contributions at the same time understanding how it can help employees and the enterprise in return.

No wonder, Manang Fe’s effort was eventually recognized as the “Gawad Entrepreneur” awardee from the “Tulong Sa Tao Project” spearheaded by our country’s former President, Fidel V. Ramos last 1997 in partnership with DTI Agusan del Norte.

From then on, the recognition she received inspired her more to be of support to the government’s programs especially on entrepreneurial development projects organized by the local Department of Trade and Industry and other related government agencies.

Jade Food Products indeed not only delighted its customers but became an inspiration to other home-based entrepreneurs in the community.

Sweet Dreams Never Stop

At the age of 54, Manang Fe, an award-winning entrepreneur, fulfilled mother of five productive children, supportive wife and a woman who endured the obstacles of life still dreams of developing and expanding the business of Jake Food Products at the same tine continue her farming activities despite of the blissfulness she’s now experiencing.

She’s not only concerned with just the profit side of the business but now gearing toward sharing her blessings more to the family and community.

She envisioned being an inspiration to the budding home-based women entrepreneurs in Butuan City. Her livelihood advocacy is for the home-based women entrepreneurs and unemployed mothers to help their family’s’ income by being more productive and not rely on dole-outs or debts. Manang Fe lovingly shared, “Mag-tuon pud sila (especially the housewives) ug negosyo, dili kay mag-sige ug utang, mubarog sila sa unsa’y makatabang sa ilang kaugalingon ug pamilya.” (Housewives need to learn to be entrepreneurs and not keep on borrowing money or be indebted).

As a successful woman entrepreneur, Manang Fe still dreams of more quality time with her family. “Gusto sa akong mga anak nga awto na ang akong dribun.” (I’d like to drive a car still). Manang Fe shared how her children wanted her to drive a car instead of the usual delivery truck that she used to drive. Then smiled as she shared and ended the interview session with a slight humor, “Bisan sa una pa, manager na, driver pa gyud ko” (Even before, I’ve been a manager and driver). She ended our interview with sweet laughter.