Owner of a productive family farm shares her experiences with typhoons and some tips on how to keep small farms safe during one

By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao 

The Philippines is no stranger when it comes to typhoons. Recently, the country experienced the effects of super typhoon Ulysses, internationally known as Goni, which caused millions of pesos in damage and greatly affected the lives of many Filipinos. 

Among those who felt the effects of the super typhoon are the farmers. Because of the strong winds and continuous rainfall, they lost a significant amount of crops. 

MOCA Family Farm RLearning Center in Barangay Castillo, Padre Garcia, Batangas, is no exception to such circumstances since it also experienced some losses as a result of the typhoon. 

(Read about MoCa Family Farm RLearning Center here.)

Due to the consecutive typhoons, Quinta, Rolly, Tonyo, and then Ulysses, the farm had to conduct clean-up operations to remove debris and save whatever crops they could. 

“We put up what can still be saved and moved on. In a way, the typhoons have also made us some sort of fatalist. As family farmers, we do a lot of planning but we also believe that there are things that are inevitable.  We can prepare for the typhoon, but after that, whatever happens, happens,” said Gigi Morris, the farm owner and farm school director. 

So although they lost some crops, they’ve started to propagate new seedlings and move on. 

How small family farmers can prepare 

According to Morris, when they become aware that a strong typhoon is making its way into the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) and could possibly hit their location, they begin to practice precautionary measures.

For their livestock, they secure their housing to make sure that they’ll be safe for the duration of the typhoon. As for their crops, Morris said that they start harvesting whatever they can harvest. 

“Sometimes, when a tree is laden with fruits, like papaya, we thin fruits or remove extra fruits from the tree. That way, the chances of it being toppled decreases. It is also common for us to prune trees or remove extra branches and twigs,” Morris said. 

But to help family farmers in the long-run, the farm school director said that they should be educated about climate resilient farming. 

“Teach farmers to adopt planting crops that are more resilient to typhoons. That’s why for me, I am focusing on root crops next year,” she said.   

Morris added that the “we are resilient” narrative is getting a little tiring to hear. Policies must include access to free seeds, inputs, and technology for those who want to plant again after every typhoon.

Her own experience after a typhoon

Back in 2014, when Typhoon Glenda hit, Morris’ rabbitry got destroyed since the rabbits got sick from the calamity and never recovered from it. In addition, large, decades-old mango trees growing on their farm were uprooted. 

“I have to admit, I wanted to give up back then. I have invested in breeders, facilities and marketing. My young kids reminded me that our farm is our home and we don’t give up on our home, otherwise, we can no longer create memories,” Morris said. 

Growing up, Morris has taught her two sons that one of the reasons why they live in the Philippines is to create good childhood memories that they can look up to in case they decide to live in other parts of the world when they are adults. 

Encouraged by this, Morris and her family repurposed the farm. 

“This is when I set the 5Fs and 1E as my guiding values and principles in our farm enterprise and operations. Everything we do is around family, farming, food, fun, faith, and education. Because we are educators as well, we decided to convert our family farm operation to include agricultural tech-voc training,” the farm school director said. 

(Read the article on MOCA Family Farm RLearning Center here.)

With a new purpose for their farm, and a learning experience from the effects of the typhoon, Morris managed to bounce back and make their farm more resilient to such calamities. 

“I think most family farmers are always optimistic. They say experiential learning is the best teacher. After experiencing a typhoon, you learn from it.  I do think that we not only learn from it, but from years of experiencing typhoons, we get a little ‘immune’ to it,” she said. 

And by getting “immune,” Morris means that these instances help farmers become more resourceful as it teaches them how to work with the environment and nature. 

“There are many things that are uncontrollable.  For me, I have learned to look at it as nature’s way of natural selection. In fact, I also use it as a way to eliminate farm enterprise or activity that is not sustainable in our farm operations,” Morris said.

So despite the number of typhoons that enter the country, Morris believes that experience partnered with the right knowledge on climate resiliency farming can help small family farmers like her and her family can overcome challenges and look forward to a brighter tomorrow. 

For more information, visit MOCA Family Farm and RLearning Center’s Facebook page.

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Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Patricia Taculao, or Patty as she likes to be called, is a content producer for Manila Bulletin Digital Lifestyle. She graduated from University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She loves to spend her free time, reading, painting, and watching old movies.

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