A Lifetime of Service Like many Peace Corps volunteers, when I boarded the airplane heading to the Philippines in March 2006, I was young, enthusiastic and eager to make a sustainable impact. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible host family, the Cosalans, who made my time in the Benguet Province a memorable and successful journey. The Cosalans are humble stewards of ENCA Farm, a beautiful piece of land that has come to define a large component of who I am as a returned Peace Corps volunteer.
Located in the northern region of the Philippines, ENCA Farm has been in the Acop and Cosalan family since the 1800s. It is named after Enrique and Carmen Cosalan, the third generation to operate the farm. They have spent their lives tilling the fields, growing fruit and vegetables, raising animals, and educating their 11 children about sustainable organic farming practices and the history of their Ibaloi culture.
In the 1970s, not only did the Santo Nino Mines open upstream from the farm and contaminate its irrigation source, but the Philippine government also tried to take away the Cosalans ancestral land. After 30 years of legal battles, the Philippine Supreme Court restored the farm to Cosalan ownership in 2001, and the case set great precedent for indigenous peoples’ land rights throughout the Philippines. In 2006, the farm opened to the public as an ecotourism space, as a community and environmental education venue, and as an exemplary model of a sustainable organic farm. More than 1,500 people have visited and volunteered at ENCA Farm during this incredible rejuvenation period.
I dedicated my Peace Corps Service to helping ENCA Farm develop, and this service continues today, nearly four years after my return. I founded a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, Friends of ENCA Farm, which serves as the primary educational and advocacy entity supporting the work of ENCA Farm in the Philippines. The programs of Friends of ENCA Farm help local Filipino youth attend environmental education camps and support infrastructure improvements such as new irrigation systems at ENCA Farm.
Soon, Friends of ENCA Farm will join a shared office space and center for collaboration—the Greenhouse Project in Denver—that focuses on international development and ending global poverty. This innovative center will connect our work in the Philippines with wonderful partners that do similar development work around the globe. The Greenhouse Project will also offer virtual educational sessions allowing our Filipino partners, farmers and community members throughout the Benguet Province to access trainings that will benefit their organic farming and environmental sustainability initiatives.
I am blessed to be a small part of the story of ENCA Farm and to have found a second home with the warm and open hearts of the Cosalan Family. My 27 months of Peace Corps Service, a journey that began six years ago, has led me to a lifetime of service working to improve the lives of Filipinos.
To learn more about our programs and ways to support this critically important work in the Philippines, visit our website at www.encaorganicfarm.com. Sherry Manning is the founder and executive director of Friends of ENCA Farm, a small, Denver-based nonprofit that supports environmental sustainability and organic farming in the Philippines. She holds a master’s degree in resource law studies from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and serves as the president of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado (www.rpcvcolorado.org). To learn more about the Greenhouse Project and its 27 partners, visit www.d90network.org.