How expensive organic food led this couple to pursue sustainable farming

URBAN GARDENING. Down to Earth's next Urban Gardening Workshop is scheduled on August 17, 2019. All photos by Down to Earth

URBAN GARDENING. Down to Earth's next Urban Gardening Workshop is scheduled on August 17, 2019.

All photos by Down to Earth

Nicolo Aberasturi grew up in a family farm, raising cattle in Bukidnon. 

They were the first producer of organic fertilizer certified by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) in the early 90’s.

“It was by accident,” Nicolo shared. “DENR got strict with the waste from the cattle operation, we were required to compost our cattle wastes.” 

In 2007, after having their daughters, his wife, Paula, started looking for a simpler, healthier and more conscious lifestyle. Since they were living in the city, hours away from the farm in Bukidnon, they had to rummage through markets and buy expensive organic produce. 

“I then realized the absurdity of buying expensive food we could grow ourselves,” said Nicolo. 

So, they began their venture into biodynamic vegetable farming. Biodynamic agriculture emphasizes the use of manures and composts and excludes the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants. 

They further developed it when typhoon Ondoy hit the country in 2009 and they had to grow more food to supply communities that had been cut off from their sources.  

“I wanted to go back farther – venture into local breeds of cows that were only feeding on local grasses. I knew then that this was the only sustainable solution for animal production,” he said. 

For Nicolo and Paula, sustainability must be threefold: economic, ecological, and socio-cultural. They believe in a holistic approach to business. It must be profitable, must be good for the environment, and must consider the needs and development of the community. 

They hold two urban gardening workshops every  month: one in English for home and farm owners, another in Filipino for farmhands, stewards, kitchen crew, and gardeners. They teach households and farms to grow healthy food in a practical and sustainable way while also regenerating  soil.

“We teach attendees how they can manage and utilize 50% of their waste. This helps them save money and at the same time solve our garbage, water, and air pollution problem. We make growing food easy,” said Nicolo. 

 Aside from the workshops, the husband-and-wife tandem is also working on several projects to promote their advocacy such as the Vertical Tower Garden. Vertical Tower Garden is a biodegradable waste solution for small spaces or urban environments with little or no access to a garden or land. It’s an inexpensive alternative to hydroponics and vertical walls.

 WASTE SOLUTION. The vertical tower garden utilizes food waste that converts into compost and food for worms.

“The first thing to do is really understand why you need to move towards a healthy food lifestyle. Unless you truly understand and believe how it is the most ecological, practical and healthiest choice, you won’t be able to sustain the lifestyle. There is a myriad of ways to live consciously, but at the core of it is an understanding and grasp of why you are doing it. The way of life follows when you have learned it and when your heart has embraced it too.” –

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Rea Gierran

Rea Gierran joined BrandRap in 2019 as a senior content producer. Most of her favorite work are published on GoodRap, a column that aims to share good news from brands and other private companies. Before joining Rappler, she dabbled in print media and digital marketing.