Bacoleños buy, learn at weekend market

By: Carla P. Gomez
12:49 AM July 7th, 2015

BACOLOD CITY—Suddenly, every weekend, the normally empty 1.2-hectare lot on Magsaysay Avenue in Bacolod City becomes a bustling marketplace, where food enthusiasts flock not just to buy the freshest farm produce but also to enjoy family heirloom dishes whipped up by chefs.

The Negros Farmers Weekend Market offers farmers a regular venue to sell their crops, poultry and livestock meat and to deal with consumers, face-to-face, so they can earn more. The items are 10 to 15 percent cheaper than those sold in supermarkets.

Customers eat while being serenaded by violinists, and get a bonus: lectures on food safety preparation, solid waste management, composting, organic and natural farming and even renewable energy generation.

Family recipes

Alan Gensoli, a market volunteer, said many of the weekend chefs offer food from family recipes, such as the Maricris Corro’s “paella” and “callos.”

At Sant Jordi Meat Corner, Hans Schulze cooks up mouth-watering hamburgers. His wife, Alessandra, makes cakes.

The couple also sell beef ribs, steaks, sausages and bacon from cows and pigs they raise in Barangay Granada, also in Bacolod.

Since joining the event six months ago, they have enjoyed the worthwhile experience because of the kind of response they receive from the public.

Doy Miranda of Hinigaran town sells native chickens and eggs. So far, it has helped him earn up to five digits.

Small vendors like brothers Richard and Marino Serodo of San Enrique town, who sell local delicacies, have sustained their businesses because many people come to buy their goods.

Direct market

The weekend market started with the need to provide a direct market for farmers, said Ruby Tanya Cruz, chief executive officer of DC Cruz Trading Corp., which has been in the agriculture industry for almost 50 years. The company hosts the event on its Magsaysay property.

Cruz said she also wanted to provide a place to educate the public in areas of agriculture, health, environment, arts and culture.

At the garden section, visitors are taught how they can grow vegetables in sacks in small spaces in one’s apartment, and the drip method of watering plants from plastic soda bottles.

Architect Rafael Tan, another volunteer, said a plan is under way to raise tilapia in a pond equipped with solar panels. Once that materializes, customers can catch and buy pond-fresh tilapia, he said.

Cruz said she wanted to honor her mother, Susana, who founded the company and died on Jan. 10, 2010. From her she learned that business was about people and relationships.

Simple affair

Only products grown and manufactured on Negros Island are being sold in the market. The farmers need only to fill up an application form if they want to sell, which is evaluated by a group based on product type, values, availability and time.

Those whose applications were approved can rent a booth at P750 on Saturday and P375 on Sunday. Small farmers get 50 percent discount.

“We really keep things simple. We prefer small farmers and weekend chefs—people who have a sense of community, people who have a big pride in what they do, and are honest—in the quality of their produce, and the way they do business,” Cruz said.

“This place has defied our expectations. We never expected it to grow so fast and for people to be so accepting of what we have to offer,” Cruz said. “The response has been so heartwarming.”

People enjoy the variety of goods being sold—from vegetables and fruits to seafood, poultry and livestock products.
Success indicators

After a year, the market has become a place where community gathers, friends bond, and where residents can bring their visitors to taste authentic Negros food.

When the market opened on March 21, there were 35 farmers participating. The number has increased to 50.

The variety of products has also expanded. Customers can now buy natural juices, fresh milk and yogurt.

Cruz said volunteer musicians come to entertain the crowd. “Violinists play their music and people who enjoy what they hear drop money into their open violin cases beside them,” she said.

The market is open Saturdays and Sundays, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. At least 500 go to Magsaysay Avenue on Saturdays and about half the number on Sundays.

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