By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao Editha Dacuycuy is the owner and manager of the REFMAD Farm in Paayas, Burgos, Ilocos Norte. She started the farm as a way to ease the condition of her special needs daughter, Kaye, but eventually, she promoted dragon fruit farming to the whole town of Burgos as well as other areas in Ilocos Norte. Through her endeavors, Dacuycuy has been dubbed the Dragon Fruit Queen as she helps others find another source of livelihood and a way to augment their incomes. In the previous article, Dacuycuy talked about how the farm started and how she promoted dragon fruit farming in their region. Here, she shares the farming practices on the farm as well as the value-adding processes that they follow. Farming practices  According to Dacuycuy, they grew dragon fruits by selecting matured cuttings which are then planted around installed posts which serve as the anchor of the dragon cactus since it has a vine-like characteristic. “Cacti, just like any other plant, needs TLC (tender, loving care). It needs to be watered, fertilized, sanitized, and the stems need to be properly secured for it to hold on to the post,” the Dragon fruit Queen said. REFMAD Farm practices natural farming. They apply natural farm inputs such as vermicast, vermicompost, chicken dung, and animal manure.
REFMAD Farm uses natural farm inputs on their crops.
“30 percent of fertilizer is inorganic for immediate effect as a plant start-up. Fruits and vegetable concoctions are also formulated to serve as foliar spray and pesticides,” Dacuycuy shared. In a year, the farm harvests around 30 to 50 tons of dragon fruits which are sold at P70 at farmgate prices and P100 to P120 per kilo for retail, depending on the size and quality of the fruit. Other than the dragon fruits, REFMAD Farm also grows malunggay, pomegranates, langka, red and florida mango, native carabao mango, different varieties of banana, guyabano, atis, and passion fruit. They also grow papayas and organic vegetables. Processing the exotic fruit into other products  Being the initiator of the dragon fruit industry in Ilocos Norte, Dacuycuy was challenged by other farmers to find different ways to add value to the dragon fruit. Since Dacuycuy is familiar with the health benefits of the exotic fruit, she decided to call the plant “The Vine of Life.” From all its parts, the Dragon Fruit Queen has created all sorts of products. For example, the roots are processed into an energy booster tea, while the peels are turned into chips, ice cream, baked goods, as well as face masks and bath soaps. The flesh of the fruits are mixed in the ice cream and baked goods as well. The juice of the dragon fruit, on the other hand, is processed into dragon fruit coffee, wine, and vinegar.
Coffee made from dragon fruit.
Even the flowers and stems can also be turned into other products. The flowers are turned into edible products such as energy booster teas, spring rolls, burger patties, and dragon fruit balls. On the other hand, the stems are processed into whitening and anti-aging soaps.
Dragon fruit soap has whitening and anti-aging benefits.
As for the seeds, Dacuycuy said that these are rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 which are good for the brain. She added that these can be used in place of sesame seeds as condiments in meals and snacks. With her creativity and eye for innovation, Dacuycuy makes sure that every part of the dragon fruit is put to good use and can benefit both the farmers and consumers. After all, her family is one of the many who are familiar with the benefits of this exotic plant. For more information, visit RVE Dragonfruit Plantation & Resort on Facebook Photos courtesy of Editha Dacuycuy