By Zac B. Sarian
Many young men and women aspire to work abroad because they believe there are no opportunities for them in the country. But actually, there are former OFWs who later discovered that there is more income that could be had in farming in the Philippines.
Just like Lorenzo Carlos, an aircraft mechanic graduate who served as driver for the American soldiers in Afghanistan for four years. He received about one thousand dollars a month, which is relatively higher than other OFWs in the Middle East. One driver from Saudi Arabia we interviewed earlier received only the equivalent of P30,000 a month.
Anyway, when Lorenzo’s work contract ended, he decided to go back to his family in Brgy. Arenas in Arayat, Pampanga. Instead of looking for another employment abroad, he decided to rent two hectares from his father so he could go into farming.
New Upo Planting – Photo shows Ric Reyes of East-West, Aissa Carlos and Christian Renz Carlos posing in the new planting of upo in the Carlos farm in Brgy. Arenas, Arayat, Pampanga. The planting of upo is staggered to make sure that there is supply most parts of the year. Upo is a profitable crop to grow although it sells for a relatively low price compared to other vegetables. It is, however, very fruitful if you plant the hybrid variety likie Mayumi and the cost of production is low.
The Carlos Couple And Son – At left are Lorenzo Carlos and his wife Aissa who have found growing vegetables to be more rewarding than working as an OFW abroad. Their son Christian Renz who is 16 and who is in Grade 11 helps in the farm whenever there are no classes. In photo Renz is holding a fruit of Mayumi upo, a variety from East-West Seed.
Mestiza Ampalaya – Aissa Carlos poses with a harvestable fruit of Mestiza ampalaya which is a preferred variety by both consumers and the farmers. The farmers like the variety because it is high yielding and resistant to disease. On the other hand, the consumers like it because they believe its light green color means it is less bitter than the dark green variety.
Farm Ready Upo Seedlings – Christian Renz Carlos and Ric Reyes of East-West Seed hold a tray of ready-to-plant seedlings of Mayumi upo. The variety starts producing fruits in 45 days after planting and harvesting is done every two days. A total of 30 harvests can be made until the plants are no longer productive.
Free Ampalaya for Neighbors – The Carlos couple, Lorenzo and Aissa, care for their neighbors. They give them free fruits so they can also eat vegetables. Photo shows half a sack of freshly harvested ampalaya which the Carlos couple give to their neighbors for free. The Carlos couple grow the Mestiza variety which is high-yielding and resistant to Namamarako disease.
Tomatoes under Ampalaya – The Carlos couple maximize the use of farm space by planting tomato under the ampalaya. The tomatoes are planted first. When they are about to flower, ampalaya is planted in between them. Before the tomatoes are totally shaded, the tomatoes would have produced fruits for sale. Even when the ampalaya plants have produced lots of leafy vines, the tomatoes manage to produce fruits for sale. Photo shows Cora Meneses in the ampalaya plantation where tomatoes are grown underneath.
Today, as a grower of ampalaya, tomato, pepper (pangsigang) and upo, he is making much more than what he was making in Afghanistan. And there is also the added bonus of being together with his wife and two sons. When we visited his farm recently, he just harvested the 11th harvest of 500 kilos of Mestiza ampalaya planted on 2,500 square meters. That 500 kilos earned him P11,000. And he is expecting more because he could harvest nine times more before the plants become unproductive.
In a few more weeks, he would be starting to harvest from his second ampalaya crop planted on 5,000 square meters. Because harvesting comes during the Christmas season, he expects to get a high price for his harvest. He does not worry about marketing because a trader has contracted to buy all that he can produce in his farm.
Of course, he had a false start. He planted 1,000 papayas interplanted with hot pepper. For one reason or another, it was a disaster. The family lost from that venture.
But Lorenzo was determined to become a grower of vegetables so that even if his wife had suggested that it might be better for him to look for a job abroad, he told his wife to give him one more year to see if farming is for him.
His introduction to the technicians of the East-West Seed turned the tide for him. He planted half a hectare to Django finger pepper (pangsigang) which he harvested from June to September this year. He grossed P400,000 from that and the expenses did not even reach a hundred thousand pesos.
Upo is another favorite crop of Lorenzo. It is because it is very cheap to establish and it does not require lots of fertilizers and pesticides. The fruits are cheap, but then the Mayumi variety is very fruitful. Lorenzo says you feel like you are a pensionado when you plant upo. That is because once the plants start producing fruits about 45 days after planting, harvesting is done every two days and the fruits are all bought at P6 apiece. One time, in one day his wife Aissa related that they harvested 1,400 fruits which brought them P8,400. The pension comes every two days, unlike the SSS pension which is once a month, Aissa quipped. From that half hectare of upo, the couple was able to gross P155,000.
While the Carlos couple is harvesting from their standing crop of upo, they have planted a new area so they will have a continuous supply for the buyer.
Lorenzo’s strategy is to plant his favorite crops on staggered basis so he will have daily cash flow the whole year round. Now you see, one can make more money by growing vegetables than getting employment overseas.