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

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

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 this month’s issue of Agriculture
magazine.