By Vina Medenilla
Growing up, Lodi Carbonilla, agripreneur and proprietor of King David Integrated Farm (KDIF), was accustomed to living around coconut plantations in Southern Leyte.
After 10 years of working as an overseas Filipino worker in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Carbonilla decided to return to his roots and venture into a business that’s close to his upbringing—coconut farming.
Renting his father’s coconut farm, he developed and called it “King David Integrated Farm” after his father’s name, David. The six-hectare land has been under their kin’s ownership for quite some time now. “Coconuts have been there since my grandfather’s management. It is grown naturally since no chemical fertilizer is used; just rich, natural, and fertile soil,” said Carbonilla.
Carbonilla naturally tends the farm by using compost soil as crop fertilizers. He shares that the usual maintenance on the farm merely involves cleaning, cutting, and weeding when needed.
Career shift from automotive to agriculture
In 2016, Carbonilla decided to diversify the farm by sowing fruits and vegetables such as eggplant, tomato, pineapple, and banana under the coconut trees. He has also begun raising animals like cows, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and tilapia fishes. Years later, he enhanced the farm with more elements like accommodation and camping activities that he made available to the public in 2019.
From being an OFW, Carbonilla is now a full-time farmer who recently started vlogging to showcase his work as an agripreneur. He created a YouTube channel called BUKOMOKO TV that, as per Carbonilla, is an avenue to connect with other farmers and agripreneurs who’d like to learn more about agriculture.
The tree of life as a reliable source of income
Over 2000 coconut trees were grown on the farm by different generations of their family, most of which are still standing and continue to bear fruits that sustain his growing agribusinesses. “These coconuts are now the main source of our products,” Carbonilla said.
One of his business enterprises is Buko Moko, a brand that offers fresh buko juice, smoothies, pies, and other refreshments. KDIF is a major source of the fresh coconuts that they use for the business. He adds that the items that they sell are produced without any added preservatives. They also produce naturally spiced coconut sap vinegar sauce under Carbonilla’s other registered business, King David.
The first branch of his fresh coconut juice and shake business was established around 2016. It was followed by the creation of his vinegar business. Three years later, he was able to open the Buko Moko brand for franchise. To this day, his brand has grown to six branches in just one year. However, stalls of these two brands are closed due to the pandemic, urging him to create another food business — a bakery on wheels.
Their naturally spiced sap vinegar is available for P55 (250ml) and P150 (750ml). They’re also adding more products for Buko Moko including buko pie and buko-flavored bread. They also sell harvested coconuts for a farmgate price of P7 for mature coconuts and P15 for each young coconut.
King David Integrated Farm also offers camping, seminars, accommodation, and other activities like biking. They have available nipa huts and tents where guests can opt to rent for a day or stay overnight.
Carbonilla shared, “We usually earn a gross income of P250,000 per month from the stores and our farm. But today, we encountered a tremendous profit loss because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Aside from the crops, they also earn profit through livestock. They raise five cows, 100 ducks, six goats, and one horse that are all fed with grass and naturally fermented feed.
The farm allows the family to cut their food costs since they put aside some of the produce and farm output like chicken meat and eggs for their personal consumption.
Sustaining a farm amid the pandemic
Prior to this year’s unfortunate events, KDIF was welcome to guests, but they temporarily closed due to the threats of COVID-19 and focused on sustaining their production and processing of their farm goods.
As an agripreneur, the massive profit loss didn’t hinder Carbonilla from adapting and creating new beginnings during this rough season. “Now, we are creating a Buko Moko experience,” he expounds: “It is an on-site bakery or mobile bakery on wheels where customers can buy fresh buko pies straight from the oven every day.” Carbonilla adds, “This idea came up because I believe that in every crisis, there will always be an opportunity.”
Carbonilla hopes to teach other farmers, especially the young ones, into farming. Other than being an agritourism destination, he also aims to make his farm as a TESDA and ATI-accredited training center in the next years to come.
In the meantime, he said that individuals who would like to know more about coconut farming from production to post-harvest, or even establishing an agribusiness, can watch his videos or connect to him via his YouTube channel or King David Integrated Farm’s Facebook page.
Photos from Lodi Carbonilla.