A 20-year-old girl student from Brunswick, Maine, in the United States has volunteered her services to the “Oh My Gulay” (OMG) program in Aurora province, helping encourage school children to eat vegetables and at the same time learn to grow the same.
She is Emma James, a student at the Bowdain College in Brunswick, majoring in anthropology and education. She comes from a farming family that produces organic vegetables and beef cattle. She has been in Aurora since January 16 and is collaborating with Michelle Calica, the vegetable technician of East-West Seed Company, in putting up vegetable gardens in the school grounds of five elementary schools in the province.
Michelle Calica, her partner, is a graduate from UP Los Banos who has been assigned by East-West Seed Company to implement the OMG program in five schools in the towns of Baler, Maria Aurora and Dipaculao.
OMG is a program initiated by Sen. Edgardo Angara as an answer to the prevailing malnutrition among children in the country. By undertaking the growing of vegetables right in the premises of elementary and high schools, it is hoped the children will learn to love eating vegetables and at the same time will also become familiar with the basics of growing the same. The program is being implemented in many schools in the country in collaboration with East-West Seed Company which develops and distributes high-yielding varieties of vegetables and other high-value crops.
Among the vegetables that they have been planting in the school gardens are tomatoes, eggplant, sitao, pepper, cucumber, ampalaya, okra, pechay, lettuce and more.
Sometime in March (2012) when most of the vegetables would be harvestable, a field day will be conducted at the Maria Aurora Elementary school garden. Teachers, parents and other residents in the other towns in the province will be invited to attend the occasion. This is to show to as many people as possible the results of growing vegetables the scientific way.
Usually on such occasions, there’s a vegetable cooking competition where the teachers and parents as well as students may cook their favorite vegetable recipes and winners are declared. Token rewards are given to the participants. And there’s a tasting of the cooked food.
Emma James, by the way, is an adventurous student. She a grant from the Sen. George Mitchell Institute so she could travel in Southeast Asia. Before coming to the Philippines, she stayed in Vietnam observing community development.
She happened to read about the Oh My Gulay project initiated by Sen. Edgardo Angara and thought it would be an interesting experience to participate in the promotion of vegetable growing in the schools. She contacted Sen. Angara who was only too eager to accommodate her wish. Now she stays in one of the houses of the senator in the capital town of Baler.
By the way, Emma has learned to love the vegetable dishes in the Philippines. One of her favorites is ampalaya which is something new to her. She also likes the edible fern collected from the wild that is made into salad or cooked with coconut milk together with other ingredients.
She will stay in the Philippines until June before she goes back to the US to finish her studies in anthropology and education. She has three more semesters to go. She hopes to return to the Philippines to do her own field study.
Back home, she says her parents take care of 100 beef cattle raised the organic way. They have 200 acres for growing hay for the animals. On four acres, they grow for sale organic potatoes, pumpkins, leafy greens, tomato, sweet corn and more.