SMC to convert portions of head office space into small urban farms for support staff to grow fresh food, earn more

San Miguel Corporation is building its first urban farm within its sprawling head office complex in Ortigas to help build self-sufficiency among its support staff and help put agriculture back into the spotlight.

Under the program, interested employees and workers doing support jobs will be given a plot of land in what will be dubbed as SMC’s “Malasakit Garden”, for them to use as a space to grow whatever produce they like.

They can then choose to either bring home their harvest, or to sell these for a profit at a small Malasakit Garden Farmers market stall to be set up at the complex.

“In this time of pandemic, many Filipinos are looking for ways to earn extra income, or at the very least, make sure they have sufficient supply of food. Realizing the importance of food security, many are also exploring growing their own food. That is why we thought of this simple project to help our maintenance workers, as well as our own employees,” said SMC president Ramon S. Ang.

“The land is available and good for planting. It doesn’t take so much to try and help people, especially those who help us do our work everyday. We partnered with a non-profit, SEED Philippines, and they will be the ones teaching our people how to succeed at urban farming. With this, we hope the Malasakit Garden can augment healthy food supply for some of our workers, or serve as an additional source of income,” Ang added.

“Our hope is that they can really grow to like planting, they can hone their skills, and it becomes a practical life skill for them,” he said, adding that many support workers actually grew up in the province and know how to plant, except, there is no land for them to do it here in the city,” Ang said.

Ang said the project will hopefully encourage more businesses to transform urban spaces into functioning ecological spaces and help agriculture flourish.

Early on in the pandemic, SMC committed to protect the jobs of all its employees and extended workforce and provide various support for their frontline staff, including free swab testing and access to bikes so they can move around safely.

SMC has tapped SEED Philippines to ensure the success of Malasakit Garden. SEED’s advocacy is to help eradicate poverty in low-income families through specialized programs on agri-entrepreneurship. They teach organic vegetable production, soil management, planting materials production, and pest and disease management.

SEED will also be serving as mentors during the early stages of the project.

“We are excited to see how our participants will make this project their own. They will have freedom to decide what they want to plant, and how they will make the garden thrive. Our role ultimately is to provide them support so they can make the most of the lot,” Ang shares.

Recently, a bill promoting urban agriculture passed third reading in Congress. House Bill no. 8385 intends to promote urban agriculture nationwide and help boost the country’s food security.

SMC, for its part, has been doing what it can to help boost the country’s food supply and support farmers and entrepreneurs. It has launched various livelihood training programs for communities in Bulacan and Quezon province.

Meanwhile, its recently-opened SMC-Better World Diliman community center helps boost farm incomes by providing a ready-market for farmers’ excess produce.

Through the help of NGO Rural Rising Philippines, SMC-Better World Diliman has shown good results, selling over half a million kilos of produce in just six months.

SMC also purchases directly from local farmers for a number of its raw material requirements. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company reported its highest purchase of corn, cassava, among others.