Charlene Tan: Changing the world one ‘bayong’ at a time
Food has become a hot topic, and with it, agriculture. As more people dive into the food culture, it’s only reasonable that more people ask the question: “Where does our food come from?”
Charlene Tan is the founder of Good Food Community, an enterprise that links food producers with consumers. Not only do you know that your vegetables were grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers, if you want, you can also get to know the actual farmers who grew them!
“Good Food Community is about a new way of growing and sharing food that nourishes everyone (the farmers, the consumers and generations to come),” Tan said. “It's about shifting our lifestyles and our diets to treat our farmers fairly, to respect our ecosystems and to feed our families well.”
The organization does this by “running a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program, holding a plant-based local community market called Good Food Sundays, and by encouraging engagement by activities such as dialogues (Food for Peace), community kitchens, and farm trips.”
Living Well, Responsibly
Tan has always been interested in new ways of living responsibly. “CSA was an invitation to move from individual lifestyle changes to making a whole new alternative available not just for myself but for everyone else,” she said. “A friend from Engineers Without Borders told me about it as the way he would source his food weekly – and how he learned to be creative in the kitchen as a result. I thought the idea was brilliant and would benefit a lot of our farmers here.”
Tan likens finding partner-farmers to starting a relationship. “There's a different story for every group we work with but it's a lot like any relationship or friendship. First we check if there's enough common ground (in our case, organic farming). Next we see if we are in a position to work with each other. Can we both bring something to the table?
Working with Good Food Community has been a boon for partner-farmers, who Tan and the GFC members have close ties with.
“In the seven years we've put into this venture, organic diversified agriculture has become a viable option for many of our farmers,” Tan said. “To be able to earn a decent income (and not go hungry every lean season), to do just and honest work (and not poison the soil with chemicals), to be with one's family (and not work in the city or abroad) – this has become a reality for a number of our farmers because of the alternative we've built together.”
Weekly Veggie Subscription
One of the things the organization is known for is its vegetable subscription. Customers ‘subscribe’ to a weekly order of vegetables. What they get in their bayongs depend on what the farmers have produced that week.
“For every community, we agree on prices once a year and align on a seasonal calendar of produce. We also commit to a certain minimum volume to purchase, no matter what the market is like,” Tan said.
“In turn, we invite people to share in this commitment by subscribing for a share of the harvest. We confirm with the farmers weekly and deliver on Wednesdays to pick-up points and doorsteps. Subscribers are requested to return the pandan box for reuse upon each pick-up. In leaving the choice of veg to us, we are able to support the growth of diversified and seasonal local produce from different farming communities.”
Good Food Sundays
Good Food Community also runs a Sunday bazaar that’s become a weekly ritual for some and a community for many. “Good Food Sundays is a plantbased zero-waste community market in Mandala Park, Shaw Blvd. It's about creating and enacting an alternative economy whereby we can be responsible about our food choices, whether it be growing, cooking, serving or eating it,” Tan explained.
“We have a table of naked produce that comes from our different farming communities, small-batch processed items made from excess produce such as kimchi and jams, vendors serving whole food plant-based fare and pantry supplies, refillable environmentally sound personal care and household products, vegan cheese, smoothies, etc.”
While it didn’t start out that way, the bazaar has slowly morphed into a bastion for the plant-based. But just as important as what people put in their mouths is the philosophy that they leave no trash behind. “All vendors adhere to the zero-waste policy and most offer a discount for returned jars and containers,” Tan said.
In the seven years we've put into this venture, organic diversified agriculture has become a viable option for many of our farmers
For inquiries about bayong subscriptions, go to https://goodfoodcommunity.com/pages/community-hubs