By Yvette Tan
In this month’s issue of Agriculture magazine, I profile two very different farms run by millennials. One is an urban farm in the middle of New Manila, the other is a farm tourism site that also exports banana chips. I asked the people who run them what they’d like to tell other young people interested in getting into agriculture.
NXTLVL Farms is an indoor hydroponic farm that consists of container vans stacked on top of each other, each one home to rows of arugula, basil, and kale. The company is run by President Earl Lim, 33, Head of Marketing Aaron Qui, 34, Head of Operations and Growth Robin Kwee, 29, and Sandro Cruz, 29, part of NXTLVL’s Engineering Team.
The company supplies herbs and salad vegetables to high end supermarkets and Italian restaurants—clients who appreciate good quality produce and are willing to pay well for it.
“I actually think that there are a lot of young people interested in agriculture. A lot of my friends actually have an interest in farming. It’s just that they are scared to leave their day jobs and I guess we have to prove to them that it’s not that hard. I always tell someone who wants to get into farming first to try having a small garden and if you like it or enjoy it that much, then you can increase your size,” Cruz says.
“There are two main things: one is a passion for farming and growing. Another is operational excellence, which is having good attention to detail and being curious. Always thinking of how we can improve, how we can grow better, how we can be a better farmer,” Kwee says.
“You really have to be principled as well as responsible. You have to be adaptable because if something goes wrong, you can’t just cry in a corner, you actually have to solve the problem,” Cruz adds.
Villa Socorro Agri Eco-Village in Pagsanjan, Laguna, started as a private family farm. Now, it is a farm resort that is also known for its social enterprise—banana chips. The farm works with partner farmers who supply then with saba bananas that they turn into banana chips that are sold under the name Sabanana Banana Chips in different restaurants, groceries, hotels, and cultural shops locally, as well as in 15 countries abroad.
Community is very important to the farm. Farmers’ wives are employed in the banana chip making facility, where they have a flexible schedule that allows them to go home in the middle of the day to check on their kids before going back to work. There are also Catechism classes for their kids, as well as masses that the families can attend every weekend.
The farm is run by Raymund Aaron, 32, who mixed running the family business with his interest in social entrepreneurship. “We’re really into value-added farming or entrepreneurial farming. So the idea, especially now, would be to add value to your crops. Don’t just sell it as is. Don’t just sell a banana as a banana. Try to add a process so that you can add value to it and sell it at a price where you can make a profit. And in this case, not just a profit for yourself but also for your partner farmers, and community,” he says.
To folks of any age who want to go into agriculture, he gives the following advice: “Get your hands dirty. That’s how it starts. You really have to get out there. (With) exporting, with all the information out there, you just have to continuously know what you should be doing so just seek out help from other partners like government agencies or other people who have been there. Just get out there and ask for help.”
Read more about NXTLVL Farms and Villa Socorro in the July 2019 issue of Agriculture