On account of affordable travel bookings made available throughout the years, most people tend to set some of their hard-earned money aside to get a chance to travel to new places and experience new things. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has recently put a halt to jetsetting dreams since its  outbreak in March as people have been strictly advised to remain inside the safety of their homes to avoid spreading the virus. 

Almin Abejaron, a legislative staff officer at the Senate of the Philippines, used this circumstance to use her saved up travel money for good. 

Instead of travelling like she initially planned, Abejaron started a campaign to help farmers from remote areas earn an income by selling their produce to consumers in towns and nearby cities.

Using her travel money, Abejaron bought produce from farmers and took charge of selling it to consumers.

“I saw the plight of our farmers. Not only [do] they toil in planting but they toil in disposing [of] their harvest, especially when the pandemic hit. My interest in agriculture started as an intervention program to help our LGU in assisting small farmers affected by the pandemic,” Abejaron said. 

Being a legislative staff officer, Abejaron’s work is based in Manila but she’s originally from Malungon, Sarangani Province. 

The day before the lockdown was imposed last March, she managed to fly back home to her province since Congress was also in recess. She had time to do grassroots research and also lend a hand to local farmers. 

“I was at the right place at the right time when farmers started coming to ask help from our mayor then I volunteered to do something about it,” the legislative staff officer said. 

Using her money that was meant for her travels, Abejaron bought produce from farmers which she then marketed to consumers. 

By April 1, she started Alminfinity Agri-Trading (AAT) and created a campaign called “Gulay-on-the-go.” She connected with consumers through AAT’s Facebook page and she even offered free delivery services using her personal pick-up truck to hasten the shipment of highly perishable vegetables and fruits since farmers from their province couldn’t deliver to the nearby bagsakan, or trading outlet, due to closure and difficulty in mobility.

Unexpecting the amount of vegetables to come her way, Abejaron started with one ton of fresh produce.

“I really thought it was that easy. I was caught off guard when farmers started delivering trucks of vegetables from the mountains. I mean, literally, I started with a minimum of one ton. Then, I asked for help from volunteers to help me in packing,” Abejaron admitted. 

A hands-on agripreneur and budding farmer 

Working with the farmers and wanting to empower them has inspired Abejaron to start her own farming journey as well. 

“I started by growing cacao, coconuts, red chili, passion fruit, lettuce, tomatoes, and potatoes. I still plan on expanding this list since I’m still in the growing stage,” she said. 

As a beginner, Abejaron asked the local agriculturists and technicians for help in maintaining the crops. She even started enrolling in webinars given by the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Trade and Industry, and from farmtech companies. 

“I also watch YouTube videos and read ebooks on agriculture. I started visiting demo-farms  to ask for tips. I look for mentors for every crop,” the legislative staff officer said. 

She added that she’s also into intercropping and integrated natural farming after she saw the advantages when she visited a demo farm. Plus, she wants to practice a farm-to-table concept since it promotes healthy eating while directly helping local farmers.

Due to her close work with farmers, Abejaron has been inspired to start farming herself.

Abejaron has also collaborated with young farmers in hopes of encouraging them to plant on their parents’ idle lands which could ensure food security and empower the youth to take charge. 

“I partner with our young farmers and local agriculture office to campaign healthy living. We also have a program on backyard gardening. I also ask my page followers to help me connect with big companies that are advocating farm-to-table for possible partnerships and shipments to other big cities that are in demand of fresh farm produce,” she said.

For more information, visit Alminfinity Specialty Shop on Facebook