By Zac B. Sarian

Farm owners might as well convert their farms into a farm school or learning site and get an extra income of P140,000 a month even by just training a batch of 25 scholars of TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) or the ATI (Agricultural Training Institute) of the Department of Agriculture. Of course, they can even earn millions if they can train more.

This was revealed by Pat Andrew Barrientos, center director of ATI in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan) during the Regional Summit of Farm Schools and Learning Sites for Agriculture in Mimaropa held at the Yamang Bukid Farm (YBF) in Brgy. Bacungan, Puerto Princesa on February 25-29.

Barrientos said that a farmer with at least one hectare for use as a demo farm can put up his own learning site. Farmers can easily comply with requirements, said the Mimaropa ATI regional center director. All the farmer should do is submit a letter of intent to ATI and attend training sessions given by the same.

MORE FARM SCHOOLS NEEDED – Pat Andrew Barrientos of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) in Mimaropa enjoined private investors to come up with more farm schools and learning sites during the recent Summit on Schools for Practical Agriculture at the Yamang Bukid Farm in Puerto Princesa.

Barrientos cited Yamang Bukid Farm as an example of a farm that has become a Farm School now accredited by ATI and TESDA. YBF has been training a lot of TESDA and ATI scholars and is being paid millions of pesos. For example, TESDA is paying YBF P3.5 million for training a big batch of scholars who are currently being instructed on topics such as vermicomposting, organic farming, free range chicken production, integrated farming, and others. There are also courses in livestock and aquaculture topics.

Of course, a successful farm like YBF can train a lot of scholars because it has well-established facilities and has a high degree of credibility. It is now a very popular farm tourism destination, attracting as many as 10,000 visitors a week.

Barrientos, however, assured that owners of farm schools and learning sites should not worry about where and how to get student scholars because the government is also providing incentives to those who want to learn in these farm schools and learning sites. TESDA is giving allowances to student scholars in ATI-accredited farm schools, he said.

Barrientos enjoined more investors from the private sector to come up with learning sites and farm schools. The government has P700 million allocated yearly to fund the training of farmers, especially the young, who want to go into agriculture. Barrientos said that farming can be profitable and sustainable but those who go into it should have the right skills such as those provided by the farm schools.

Of course, farms that become farm schools or learning sites will not become instant millionaires. They have to prove themselves that they can deliver the training that they are supposed to impart to their scholars. That way, more scholars will be allocated to them.

Farm schools and learning sites should develop a high degree of credibility. They should have competent instructors who know what they are teaching not only from reading books and other sources but from actual hands-on experience. The farm owner himself should be thoroughly knowledgeable.

To achieve a high degree of credibility, the farm should have its own showcase or showcases of the technologies it is teaching right on the farm. That’s the best way to develop a credible image.

The farm owner should have a pool of resource persons who can advise him on strategies and develop new products. For instance, one strategy to keep visitors coming back to the agritourism farm and learning site is to come up with something new all the time. And this requires keeping abreast of the latest developments in farm production, marketing, processing, business management, and many more.