SEED | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

SEED

In the heart of a seed,/ very deep, so deep,/ a dear little plant/ lay fast asleep…”

We must remember this Filipino childhood rhyme that was our initiation to the wonder world of plants, to how life begins and grows through care and nurturing.

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These lines came to mind when I listened to the students of School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) at Gawad Kalinga’s (GK) Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan. This was my third time at the GK farm and I noticed that every time I visited there was something new growing to marvel at.

SEED was launched in August 2014 (I was there), so it is on its third year now. It began with 40 or so bright and determined young people from public schools in Bulacan and now has 122 students. SEED is not a regular academic setup as we know it. Its objective is “to produce graduates who will tackle poverty through agriculture and innovation.”

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A tall order, if you ask me, because most of the students come from financially challenged families. SEED graduates are not meant to slide into the labor force and become employees with 8-to-5 jobs, or to find work abroad. They are being trained to become farmer-entrepreneurs, the kind who will be proud, creative denizens of the soil.  Through innovative means they will make the land flower and fruit in all its glory so that not only are their own lives made better, but the quality of life of many are improved as well.

Learning in SEED is like answering a vocation to serve the community, the people. It is like listening to the land and Mother Nature calling, heeding the call of the wild, so to speak.

SEED is not an agri-science academic school. It is a hands-on kind of learning center. Students learn not so much from books and handed-down stock knowledge as by doing, discovering, experimenting and creating from the ground up. They navigate the twists and turns and face successes and failures along the way, but there is no throwing in the towel or the shovel.

Students are trained to emerge as “globally competitive entrepreneurs with love of country and fellow Filipino poor, helping raise many others from poverty through social enterprise that does not leave the poor behind.” One does not rise alone. This is a counter-paradigm in a profit-greedy, capitalist world.

GK’s Enchanted Farm is the venue for this experiential learning, one that makes farming “the new cool”—that is, fashionable and desirable as a career option for the young.

The program initially ran for only two years, its curriculum developed with Tesda (or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority). But, in partnership with the Commission on Higher Education, it has become a ladderized 4-year program. GK founder and guru Tony Meloto (Inquirer Filipino of the Year, RM awardee) told me that SEED, like most out-of-the-box endeavors, had a shaky start but is now well on its way.

Proof of this is how some of its students—already budding entrepreneurs—have been invited to speak abroad (sometimes in French!) about their personal experiences. I’ve watched video clips of their European sorties and the standing ovation they received. (They learned French from French GK volunteers.)

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These students are not rich kids pretending to be poor. They are sons and daughters of once-marginalized families struggling to rise from penury with the help of GK.

I wish I could list down the products that are the result of the students’ agri-entrepreneurial skills and now being marketed! (I love the OH GK! health drink made from oregano, honey, ginger and kalamansi.) One doesn’t simply plant and harvest. In SEED, one learns product development and marketing skills.

Here are lines from GK-Enchanted Farm-SEED’s desideratum:  “It is our disconnectedness from our land, from the poor, and even from one another that sustains poverty in our country… Our current educational system can also do better in instilling appreciation for the agricultural industry and love for the poor… Through its programs and camps, the Enchanted Farm attracts visitors of all ages and nationalities all year round. The children of the farmers are given quality mentorship and education. In providing the best for the least, the least can become the best.”

 

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TAGS: agriculture, entrepreneur, Farm, Gawad Kalinga, GK, opinion, program, seed
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