The Bank in Your Backyard: Practical Tips on Farm Planning, Part 1

It is almost every Filipino’s dream to own a small farm and live off the land. According to Dr. Chito Medina of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), a good farm plan will make this goal easier to achieve.

By Yvette Tan

In a lecture sponsored by the Philippine Network of Food Security Programs, Inc. (PNFSP) for the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, Dr. Medina laid out a simple way to plan a small farm. He calls it “the bank in your backyard.” Here it is, based on a 0.6 hectare property:

Determine staple food. What will your main crop be? Dr. Medina used rice as an example, since it is most Filipinos’ main source of energy, and is always in demand in the market. You can grow just enough to feed your family, but if you happen to have a surplus, you can always sell it.

Determine companion crops. You’ll have a hard time if one has to live on a monocrop alone. Companion crops are plants that grow well with your main crop. To maximize space, pick companion crops that grow horizontally and vertically. Vertical crops are plants of different heights, such as banana, Japanese malunggay, moringa, papaya, and cassava. Horizontal plants include:

If you are planting: Consider planting these beside it:
okra squash, pechay
pipino sitaw, talong, okra, corn
kalabasa upo, patola, ampalaya, pipino
kamatis sibuyas, squash, pechay, bawang
munggo mais, sorghum
sitaw mais
mais mani

Determine supplementary crops. These crops will be your main source of nutrients. Choose hardy, and if possible, indigenous root crops and vegetables, as these will be your source of nutrients, and will also sustain you during the hard times. Pick crops that have multiple uses, such as kamoteng kahoy, which can be eaten, sold as is, processed into different products for the market, and be used as animal feed.

Dr. Medina advocates “no regrets adaptation.” He advises farmers to plant crops that are beneficial whether or not climate change happens. Drought-resistant crops include kadios (pigeon pea), sitaw, mani, sorghum, okra, munggo, talong, kamoteng kahoy, sigadillas (garbanzos), patani, kamote. (Don’t many of these sound like the lyrics of “Bahay Kubo?”)

Determine medicinal plants. An often overlooked aspect of farm planning is medicinal plants. True, we may have Western medicine to fix our aches and pains, but let’s not discount the effectiveness of herbs in relieving common aches and pains.

Determine plants to use for construction and extra sources of firewood. Your land can also be a source of construction materials! These can be used to build and repair fences, and even your bahay kubo. An example of a plant that’s good for construction would be bamboo, which is sturdy and fast-growing. Pruned plants, meanwhile, make excellent sources of firewood.

Determine soil regeneration. Soil can lose nutrients over time. Planning soil nutrient integration in advance to help revive tired soil in advance will help prevent headaches in the future. Planting legumes, for example, will help fix nitrogen in the soil.

Composting is another way to encourage soil regeneration while lessening organic waste. Figure out which type of composting style you’re going to adopt and where in the farm the composting site will be placed. If you plan to keep animals, their waste, properly recycled, can be used to regenerate the soil as well. They can also be used as pest control. For example, ducks eat the snails that feed on rice plants.

Plan for time. The Philippines has two seasons—wet and dry. Make sure you have crops that you can sell, and will feed you and your family throughout both. For example, if you plant rice for the wet season, you can plant mung bean or cowpea for the dry season.

Determine your farming system. This is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Dr. Medina suggests many farming techniques to look into, such as Diversified Integrated Farming System (DIFS), crop rotation, polycultures (mix cropping), agroforestry systems, and crop-livestock integration. There is no one-size-fits-all system of farming. In the end, the most efficient system is the one that works best for you.

In Part 2, we discuss how to make the most of the “bank in your backyard.”


Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG)

2611 Carbern Ville, Los Baños, Laguna
Philippines 4030
Telefax: (+63-49) 536-5549
Contact Person: Mr. Cris Panerio, National Coordinator


Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Inc. (PNFSP)

54 Maginhawa Street, UP Village,
Diliman, Quezon City
Tel: (02) 426-9925

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Yvette Tan
Yvette Tan is Agriculture magazine's managing editor’s web editor. She is an award-winning writer who likes to eat, travel, and listen to stories about the strange and supernatural. She is dedicated to encouraging people to push for sustainable food sources and is an advocate of food security, food sovereignty, and the preservation of community foodways.

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