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‘Christmas won’t be the same without farmers’

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“If it weren’t for agriculture there would be no culture at all.” – Elwinn Taylor

The dawning of the holidays has started even months back as most Filipinos declare that the Philippines celebrates the longest Christmas season in the world. I can agree in some ways. Perhaps it is the coming of age in me that the spirit of the season has “metabolized” faster as opposed to the food that we adults take where digestion often comes as a challenge.

ENVIRONMENT AND AGRO-ECONOMICS

Since this column is dedicated to rural development and agriculture in general, I would like to have a glance on how agriculture plays a part during the Christmas season. I say, briefly for it can only be at a surface level but still this triggers interests in me.

Anywhere else in the world Christmas and agriculture are directly connected in a few ways. For example, most Christmas trees are grown on tree farms whereby it is one of the agricultural products. Interestingly, according to research, for every Christmas tree harvested, three seedlings are planted in its place. A replenishment of some sort that can arguably, considered an environment-friendly practice. In the United States, there are around 15,000 farms growing trees purposely for Christmas trees employing over 100,000 people be it full-time or part-time.

For another obvious reason, planting trees, in this case for Christmas trees, helps to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and aids to counterbalance global warming.

Privileged to stay and work in the United States for some time, North and South Carolina are two of the states that consider tree growing for Christmas trees that relatively contribute to their economy. I was able to visit the latter during tree growing in 2011.

‘CHRISTMAS FARMERS’

Another direct relationship between Christmas and agriculture is that during the season as a time of giving and sharing, farmers play a crucial role in providing food and other agricultural products. To many, Christmas is not complete without these products that farmers provide such as turkey and Christmas trees. In the Philippines, Christmas runs without flavor without having lechon – both pig and chicken. Though these roasted specialties have become a special part of preparations even on other occasions, but Christmas is not fully celebrated without them.

Throughout the world, every Christmas celebrating nation is not Christmas apple, grapes and oranges. These products are all grown and provided by farmers all around the world.

‘CHRISTMAS MEAT’

Statista data show that during Christmas hogs and chickens are the most consumed livestock in the Philippines that contribute to most of the livestock and poultry production volume in the country. The onslaught of the pandemic alongside animal diseases such as the lingering African Swine Flu (ASF) significantly impacted the production of these industries.

The post pandemic era has seen gradual rebound of Philippine livestock specifically for chicken and beef but not for hogs due to the lingering hog related diseases particularly the ASF.

Our Christmas tradition as Filipinos extends beyond the essence of its celebration. Every December we not only celebrate Christmas, but the coming of the new year, but more than these two most important celebrations – weddings, baptisms, family reunions, school homecomings are also substantially celebrated. And, for Filipinos the essence of celebration other than physical gathering is the abundance of food regardless of the economic capacities of those who celebrate.

During these celebrations consumption of food – rice, livestock and poultry, fruits, and ingredients double if not, triple. This implies that demand for agricultural products becomes huge.

FARMERS ARE AS IMPORTANT AS CHRISTMAS

This simply means that farmers and agriculture are crucial players – for which they are the main providers of the essence of the Christmas celebration.

There are a lot of pieces of Christmas. However, two of the biggest pieces of the holidays we Filipinos celebrate are the farmers and agriculture. Just like any other important aspect of our social, economic, and political existence – as a matter of tradition innately ingrained not only in our communities but most of all, in our hearts and minds. Christmas as a cultural and spiritual aspect for the Filipinos in us can never be an important celebration without our farmers and agriculture.

But farmers, just like you and me are men, women, and youth like us – and they too on top of providing food and other important elements of the season celebrate Christmas in the most meaningful ways they can.*

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