By Vina Medenilla
Farming is a challenging but fruitful profession. Millions of Filipino households are part of the agriculture industry that may suffer setbacks that include natural disasters, yet, have remained resilient.
Here are some important lessons that we can get from successful family farms in the Philippines as featured in Agriculture Online.
Investing in people and relationships
Not having a capitalist mindset is what made Four Jewels Aquafarm stronger and better after more than 20 years in agribusiness. What started as a subsistence farm in South Cotabato progressed into a source of countless opportunities not only for the founding family, but also for the families who work for them.
Benito and Cirila Travilla developed the farm in 1992 to make ends meet and to be able to send their four daughters to school. Fast forward to today, the couple surpassed their initial goal to provide for their family and even inspired their daughters to continue what they’ve started. “My parents aren’t capitalists–they believe in fair business practices. I believe this generosity also paid off. Our business is the largest producer of freshwater fingerlings in the region, and one of the biggest in Mindanao,” said Faye Travilla, a medical doctor and the youngest among the four sisters to whom the farm was dedicated.
A huge part of the farm’s success comes from the help of the farmworkers. The Travilla family values their farmhands and to give back, they do not follow a fixed salary system, rather, they opted for a 60-40 profit-sharing scheme. With this, the farmers can earn from P30,000 to P60,000 per month.
No doubt that the farm has made it this far due to the business practices and values that the Travilla family holds.
(Read more about the story of how Four Jewels Aquafarm became successful and how they engage in profit-sharing with their farmers.)
Land size isn’t the basis of success in agriculture
It is possible to organize farm tourism events, learning activities, extension services, while also producing vegetables and fruits and raising livestock even in just one hectare lot. A farming family can attest to this as they manage to perform all the said activities on their farm. MOCA Family Farm RLearning Center in Padre Garcia, Batangas, was developed by a Filipino-American family. They offer training and workshops for guests and trainees who want to learn to learn about farming. Gigi Morris or “Ka Gigi” in their local community is the farm school director and gets guidance and support from his husband who is a horticulturist.
The family farm, aside from being a learning and tourism site, rears livestock including hogs, chickens, turkeys, and ducks. MOCA Family Farm RLearning Center also engages in value-adding and creates products such as powdered batuan (an alternative for souring agents), cassava burger, sweet potato hash browns, and sweet potato pansit. They sell these goods online through apps like Lazada and Shoppee.
“When you are a small farm operation, it is important to strategize to make sure that the farm will stay sustainable. We are big in human capacity-building. We believe that our best asset is our farm staff so to be able to have value-added products from the farm, we need to have creative farm staff. I always tell them that not because it was never done, doesn’t mean it will not work,” Morris said.
Young agripreneurs can lead and succeed in farming, too.
Not everyone from the younger generations isn’t into agriculture. Leo Manuel Casaclang is the young farmer behind the success of a family farm in Sariaya, Quezon.
Driven by a business mindset, Casaclang used the available resources such as his great-grandparents’ twenty-hectare farm to pursue agriculture. At present, Casaclang is now successfully running the agribusiness that practices natural farming. Not only is he able to learn and apply his knowledge to the farm, but he also shares his knowledge in natural farming with their farmworkers who were accustomed to practicing conventional farming methods.
He also integrates modern technology into their farm operations to eliminate old methods on the farm. Casaclang said that one doesn’t have to be on a farm to help farmers, but making an effort to help them as a consumer, associate, vendor, or others is a big thing.
As a proud young farmer, Casaclang learned that perseverance, passion, willingness, and open-mindedness are key to conquer challenges in the field.
Farming, as they say, is the best teacher that won’t only teach about growing plants, but will also leave remarkable life lessons.