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This is what we want


This is what we want


Manila| Philippines


I grew up in Manila, Philippines, as a third generation of Chinese - says Charlene Tan, founder of Good Food Community. I went to private schools never having contact with so many Filipinos... At some moment I realized that we live in different worlds which oppress each other, the relation is simply oppressive. I wanted to change something, I got involved with an NGO connected with agriculture and discovered the idea of buying food directly from farmers. I found it brilliant: I could live better and also farmers would benefit. I pitched the idea to my friends, we wrote a business plan and when we got the money it was like... mhm, now we have to do it. We formally launched in 2011. There were 12 of us and we had a lot of different points of view. Some of us wanted to be non-profit, other for profit or cooperative. After a lot of discussions about what will be the most effective and how to adapt the idea to the local context, we decided to register as for profit. After the first year my peer group got kind of tired. To be fair I have to say they were all having full-time jobs, I was the only one who quitted the other work to put all my energy into this project. And, of course, it occurred to be not as simple as we thought…

The biggest challenge was to work at the same time with completely different people.

We have to deal with so many different groups. First of all the farmers, which at the beginning didn't know how to build relations, what supply chain or organic standards mean or how to market. They also speak a different language. I have a framework for how I see and describe the world: social justice, sustainability, social enterprise, bottom line… But when I’m talking to farmers I have to figure out what language they speak and adjust to it. Be open to their world, their way of thinking and their attitude.

The second group we work with are consumers and urban communities. We have to educate them how to cook different vegetables and be flexible with what they get from farmers instead of strictly following a recipe. The first thing is to let it be, not controlling every step and appreciating what nature gives you. We teach consumers to be more conscious, satisfied with what they have without wanting always more and more.

Responsible consumption is an important goal, but not the only one.

My dream is to make a change in the way we relate to each other, transforming farming into relationships. How to do it? When we meet people who live in another way and see it’s possible we start to think that we may also try to live differently. And treat other people differently. And that’s how friendship and community start.

Friendship and sense of community is something which actually keeps Charlene going.

We have around 60 farmers collaborating with us on different levels of participation. They are from three communities, and this means different backgrounds, different strategies. When we started we didn’t have any matrix, we were basically not really knowing what we were doing. I just had a vision it will be great if we have vegetables directly from farmers and we share them, creating a community out of it. Wouldn’t it be nice? Five years later, two breaks down later… there are moments when we are with farmers, packing vegetables, talking, sharing a common vision… and all in all this is what we want, what all this initiative is about.


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