By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Jesselle Hyacinth Suarez-Hablo is a chef from Negros Occidental who advocates healthy living by consuming naturally-grown fruits and vegetables.
In part 1, she shared the history of their family farm [add link]. Now, she tells the story of how she made the most of their produce using her culinary background and how small farmers are an important role in her life as an agripreneur.
Establishing a brand name for her advocacy
Using her culinary skills and creativity, Suarez-Hablo helped her parents grow their small business with her constant innovation of healthy products. From then on, their business, Suarez Enterprise, became a growing supplier and food manufacturer.
To better market her products and get her message across to consumers, Suarez-Hablo established the brand “Sir Jess” in 2013.
“I named the brand after my father. It’s my way to give pride to my parents, especially to my father, and make them proud as I make the brand successful despite it starting from scratch,” she said.
As time passed, Suarez-Hablo noticed that her business was gaining popularity as it was starting to be recognized not only in her hometown but in other areas outside of Bacolod City.
“Our award-winning product is the Savory Herbed Piaya in Basil Pesto. There are also other flavors for our piaya such as pure muscovado, turmeric, and even oregano,” the agripreneur said.
Although the fresh herbs are harvested from their family farm, Suarez-Hablo said that the muscovado used in the pure muscovado piaya are sourced from a local producer and brand named OPTION.
By 2018, Suarez-Hablo was recognized by the Department of Agriculture as the Bacolod City Outstanding Agri Entrepreneur and Regional Outstanding Agripreneur.
Apart from the savory piayas, Sir Jess is also known for its premium calamansi concentrate, oregano-mansi concentrate, premium calamansi juice, savory biskotso, and gourmet quail adobo, among others.
Including small farms in the mix
Other than using the ingredients that they handpicked from their own farm, Suarez-Hablo said that they also source fresh produce from small farms located in Bago City and other nearby cities.
“Farmers are part of our successful journey since they provide us with the items that we need to create healthy and savory products. Every purchase of Sir Jess food items can go a long way in sustaining our farmers,” she said.
Suarez-Hablo believes that locally-sourced produce is better for both the community and the environment because these are fresher and free from preservatives.
For their premium calamansi concentrates, Suarez-Hablo said that they source fresh calamansi fruits from their own farm as well as from other farmers in their neighborhood and in nearby cities.
Over time, Suarez-Hablo’s business evolved significantly. Still, she remains grateful for the way her business started and she remains steadfast to her advocacy of healthy eating.
The agripreneur hopes that her products would not only help inspire people to shift to a healthier lifestyle but also encourage them into supporting local farmers.
“If more people become aware of what’s happening in agriculture and the status of our farmers, then we can reach out to others. The more people we can get in on the conversation, then all the more ways we can create initiatives to help our farmers. We shouldn’t remain ignorant and blindsided when we know we have the means to help out,” she said.
For more information, visit fb.com/SirJessPH.
This article appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s May to June 2020 issue.