By Zac B. Sarian
A few days ago, we were in a forum where the discussion was how to entice the young kids to get to love growing plants and animals so that eventually they will end up running their farms as a business.
That’s really fine for the long run. We were thinking, however, that we could also entice the college graduates who are working in the city to consider putting up their agribusiness projects in the provinces. Maybe, the best targets are the young professionals who are fed up with monstrous traffic and pollution in the metropolis.
Architect’s Rice Farm – Rolita Spowart and Zac B. Sarian pose with fancy colored rice grown at Rolita’s farm in Cabatuan, Isabela. The farm is mechanized from land preparation to harvesting. Many owners of rice combines in Isabela do the harvesting for a share of the harvest. She finds that a convenient arrangement. Growing rice in big scale like what Baby does is a profitable proposition.
Architect Loves Farming – Rolita “Baby” Spowart finished architecture but instead of designing homes and buildings, she is into agribusiness. She runs an 84-hectare rice farm in Isabela, and put up an orchid and ornamental plant business now run by her son Mark. She introduced from India the white Milky mushroom shown here.
Agritourist Destination – Photo shows local tourists posing with the leafy vegetables grown at the Costales Nature Farms. Some are grown inside the greenhouse while others are in the open. All the vegetables are organically grown. The farm has been the first organic farm to be accredited by the Department of Tourism as an agritourist destination.
Sharing Common Advocacy – Josephine Costales and Eddie Cañuto share a common interest – organic farming cum agritourism. Josie manages with her children the Costales Nature Farms that she co-founded with her late husband Ronald in Majayjay, Laguna. On the other hand, Eddie developed the Ephratah Farm in Badiangan, Iloilo, on a 16-hectare idle upland property handed down to the family by their grandparents.
From Corporate to Organic Farming – Jess Domingo is one example of a professional who left the monstrous traffic in Metro Manila at age 50 to devote his remaining years to farming and culinary interest. A former chief financial officer of top corporations in the country, he now runs his cattle ranch in Ifugao where he also raises organic pigs, free-range chickens and high-value crops. His farm is turning to be another agritourist destination and training center for organic agriculture. He is shown here with his organic fatteners.
High-Value Crops Advocate – Julius Barcelona is an Ateneo graduate in psychology who is in love with agribusiness. He is part of the team that is running Known-You Philippines which distributes high-value crop seeds produced by the biggest seed company in Taiwan. He is very active in disseminating improved farming techniques for papaya, melons and watermelons, and high-value vegetables. He is shown here with his company’s showcase of their high-value fruits at the Agrilink 2016 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.
These people are a very good target because they are educated and would be easier to absorb the fine points of farming as a money-making business. Most likely they have their own savings to start with. They also have an easier access to financing than those who have no track record in employment.
The professionals who have corporate exposure are in an advantageous position because of their experience in good management practices. They are most likely knowledgeable in IT so they can access needed information related to their agribusiness projects.
We know of a number of professionals who opted to retire early and put up their projects in the countryside. The first person to come to mind is the late Ronald Costales who gave up a high-paying job to put up an organic farm in Majayjay, Laguna.
In less than 10 years, his project has received various recognitions as a farm tour destination. It is the first organic farm to be accredited as an agritourism destination by the Department of Tourism. The farm has become a major supplier of organic vegetables, meat and eggs to major outlets in Manila. It has also become a training center for people interested in organic agriculture.
Although he passed away early this year at the young age of 49, Ronald has already set up a management system that makes it easy for his wife Josie and their children to operate the farm. The farm has contributed to employment of people in the community numbering no less than 80 persons.
Another fellow who gave up his construction business in Manila to go back to his hometown in Badiangan, Iloilo is Eddie Cañuto. He has put up Ephratah Farm which has become an agritourist destination accredited by the Department of Tourism. It is visited by an average of 2,000 local and foreign visitors a month.
Eddie developed into a thriving agribusiness what used to be a 16-hectare idle property handed down to the family by their grandparents. It boasts of recreational facilities, hotel and special events center in addition to the area devoted to agricultural production.
Red Lady and high-value leafy vegetables are the main products of the farm. Because the produce are organic, Ephrathah farm gets a high P35 per kilo for its papaya sold to four SM supermarkets. The organic lettuce is also sold at a high price.
For eight years now, Red Lady papaya has been the main money maker of the farm. Every four months, they plant one hectare to papaya so that they have a continuous supply throughout the year.
What is remarkable is that the Ephratah Farm has become a thriving agribusiness managed by the children under the supervision of Eddie. Engr.Ed Roderick, the eldest with an MBA from La Salle who gave up a high-paying job in Manila, manages the farm. Ainah Rose, the only daughter, takes charge of the hotel and events center while Jonathan, the youngest, takes care of marketing.
The farm is not only generating profit for the owners, it is providing employment to 76 people from the surrounding communities. Now you see, professionals who go back to the province to put up their own agribusiness can create significant impact in the countryside.