Social media is often where people put their best foot forward, showcasing only the super-curated highlights of their lives. But for Raphael Dacones and Carlo Sumaoang of Teraoka Family Farm and MNL Growkits respectively, their Instagram Stories are where they sometimes share their thoughts on the local agriculture industry.

Dacones left a job in Japan to start his own farm in Pangasinan. He now supplies high end restaurants with produce and has expanded to supplying private households during the pandemic as well.

Read Teraoka Family Farm here.

Sumaoang, who manages his family’s organic fertilizer business, is one of the founders of MNL Growkits, a do-it-yourself planting kit that aims to encourage urbanites to grow their own food in the comfort of their own homes.

Read about MNL Growkits here.

While both Dacones and Sumaoang’s Instagram feed reflects their passion for farming and nature and all the joy they take from the endeavor, their Instagram Stories sometimes reflect the frustration a lot of local farmers experience but don’t necessarily talk about.

Here are a series of stories where they talk about the pandemic enabling traders to market themselves as farmer-first, without actually helping farmers:

Dacones’ post reads:

‘This makes me so angry!

It’s disgusting how there are traders disguising themselves as farmers who are taking advantage of the pandemic and say they are “helping” the farmers.

They even have the nerve to say they are one with the farmers in feeding the nation.

Ex: I heard of one person buying Japanese kyuri at Php25/kg and selling it at Php300/kg.

Now tell me, who earns more and who continues to be abused for their hard work?

Everyone should know where their food comes from and if they really are helping farmers.

So tired of this “helping the farmers etc (redacted)”’

To which Sumaoang replies:

“Yes we do!”

With a red arrow pointing to, “We know who they are!”

Before a longer statement on white background that states, “To be fair there are a lot of good hearted social entrepreneurs who pivots their business models. We have a lot of Friends from the tourism, supply chain, even chefs who are really making a difference, genuinely helping our farmers. But sadly, a lot has been taking advantage of this narrative.”

Ending with, “Hello farmer friends, it’s time to speak up.”

Sumaoang goes on to explain his premise in three more stories:

It says: ‘Ive seen multiple sponsored ads with the ‘let’s help the farmers together” narrative. Almost, like a click-bait to consumers. Bec. Let’s face it everybody wants to help the industry (agriculture), and people would certainly buy from companies who “help” our hardworking farmers.

‘Most pa promise a better price for their consumers. Highlighting competitor X’s OA price for say, a kilo of talong. “Our gulay’s cheaper than X” then like good manipulators, they finish it off with a caption saying, “By getting your produce from us, you’re helping improve the lives of our farmers” LUH Wait ka dyan. @farmboyaffy, please hold my beer”’

Then continues:

‘Una sa lahat MAM, SIR. Your tonality may be SOCIAL-ENTREPRENEURish (with the grand intent of helping our farmers and providing better value for your consumers) but your intent is not. First, let’s talk about your “MALASAKIT” for your consumers by offering them cheaper-priced veggies.

Hello po! Please don’t give us this (redacted), disguising a PRICING STRATEGY as “MALASAKIT SA CONSUMERS”. You’re offering cheaper-priced veggies because 1, YOU CAN (wait ka sa next point ko) and 2 because hello, you want to sell more and you want to have a bigger portion of the pie. So please, “MALASAKIT” your face. Malasakit comes from the heart, a pricing strategy is not. Please know the difference.’

But wait there’s more! Sumaoang adds:

‘Lastly, “LET’S HELP THE FARMERS” AGAIN, UNA SA LAHAT, ok naman yung mga farmers natin, selling to OTHER TRADERS like you. Mas okay pa sila with them, kasi business as usual lang. kasi at least di sila object of your pity porn and false “malasakit” that you lovingly project (?)/ To make things worse, you guys are very much willing to offer CHEAPER priced veggies to your consumers pero you won’t buy your veggies at a higher price? Hoy, you buy your veggies or PHP35.00 a kg and sell it for PHP225.00 a kg ay wait sorry PHP210.00 lang pala, kasi you want better value for your consumers.

And this, I don’t really get. WHY DO NEWBIE TRADERS always thin of the consumers FIRST when they come in sa industry natin with this amazing MISSION of “HELPINGOUR FARMERS”? Please explain? Your consumers are TOTALLY OKAY buying a kilo of vegie for say PHP100.00 tas ibaba nyo ng PHP85.00? Coz you care? Wuw, ok. And yun nga you want to help our farmers? Yay galing!’

And then Sumaoang ends with:

‘Why don’t we, instead of providing discounts to our consumers, slide THAT help to the other end of the spectrum? To put things in proper perspectives, a PHP 15.00 discount for family living in a high-end subdivision means so little, it’s almost like a sweet surprise na lang for them. But an ADDITIONAL PHP 15.00 income per KG of veggies sa isang farmer? IT (redacted) Means a lot to them. Sometimes that PHP15.00 translates to “Keep going”; “Ituloy lang natin ang tanim”; “May nagbabago”; “May nagmamalasakit”; “May gustong tumulong”.

K, bye. Please don’t ask me kung sino to. TOO MANY TO MENTION SILA. Plus, I wrote this without any particular person/company in mind (lol jk, meron).

Sa mga tinatamaan, BUTI NGA.’

The posts have been screencapped and posted with the consent of both farmers. While Instagram Stories’ the mercurial nature means these posts aren’t there anymore, the appearance of posts like these highlight parts of the agriculture industry that isn’t clear to the buying public: that not everyone who claims to ‘help farmers’ is actually doing so; that some unscrupulous traders are using consumers’ goodwill to profit more themselves instead of actually adding to farmers’ income; and that the public should demand more accountability with regards to how much a farmer actually earns.

If farmers don’t make enough to sustain a humane standard of living, they won’t encourage other people to farm. And when no one farms, the country will become food insecure, with many people running the risk of going hungry.

Farmers deal with a lot of insecurity, one of them being price fluctuations. Farmers and agriculture enthusiasts should take time to gently educate the public about their challenges and processes to justify the price of their produce. Consumers should likewise advocate for transparency in agriculture systems so that they can see for themselves if an organization really does benefit the farmers it claims to help.

As Dacones posts in his stories after Typhoon Goni decimated his friend’s papaya trees in November 2020:

‘We really need to give our farmers more credit, TBH.

It takes a lot to produce the good stuff that goes to your plate.

It takes 8-9 months to grow and this happens. Sakit.

@beabeaang and @ahmasfarm we feel you!

So wag na tatawad kapag bumili sa local farmers, okay?’

This article isn’t about not haggling when buying produce in the wet market; that isn’t the point at all. It’s about understanding the real cost of producing food so that everyone, from farmers to traders to consumers, aren’t shortchanged.

Read how to find out if an enterprise is really helping its partner farmers.