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 to be had from farming in the Philippines.
Just like Lorenzo Carlos, an aircraft mechanic graduate who served as a driver for American soldiers in Afghanistan for four years. He received about one thousand dollars a month, which is relatively higher than what other OFWs in the Middle East get. 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 more employment abroad, he decided to rent two hectares from his father so he could go into farming.
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 had 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 can harvest nine more times before the plants become unproductive.
In a few more weeks, he will start 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 money on 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 was 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. This 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, his wife Aissa related, in one day 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 a staggered basis so he will have a daily cash flow the whole year round. Now you see, one can make more money from growing vegetables than getting employed overseas.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January 2018 issue.