By Vina Medenilla
Just a few hours away from Manila is a 4.8-hectare agri-forest farm in Cavinti, Laguna. FarmShare Prime, as its owners say, “is a community-engaged farm in the Philippines. Setting itself as the center of the Backyard Animal Raising Technique for community profitability and sustainability.”
Behind the farm is Augusto Tengonciang, 40, president of FarmShare Corporation, along with his business partners who are friends and classmates who share the same goal of transforming Philippine agriculture and to alter the stereotypes about the Filipino farmers.
Driven by the country’s need for more food producers towards a food-secure nation, Tengonciang and his co-owners ventured into agriculture with the intention to engage more youth in the industry. “We grew up in the countryside and we witnessed the transfiguration of a simple town to a commercialized one. We decided to start the farm last 2017 and join a group of livestock breeders, but later grew our network to other farm operators,” said Tengonciang.
The story behind the corporation
“All the owners or incorporators are not from wealthy families,” he added. By combining their resources, they were able to establish and develop a corporation that has been successfully expanding into agriculture-related services and business units. As a president, Tengonciang devotes most of his time to the farm and has lived there since they started farm operations. For him, farming requires ample time and hands-on monitoring to minimize and prevent errors.
“Given that we do not have a good grasp and technical know-how in agriculture, we used our engineering skills to learn by doing, observing, and testing. We mainly rely on social media groups and benchmarking existing farms.” Along with the process of learning, one thing that they observed in the farming community is its generosity in knowledge sharing, particularly to industry newcomers. Tengonciang’s group used all the information and ideas they picked up from the fellow farmers, leading them to create more opportunities in establishing the agribusiness.
What’s inside the farm?
FarmShare Prime is a certified learning site accredited by Agricultural Training Institute (ATI). The farm has been spreading awareness about goat production since December 2018. FarmShare Prime is a TESDA-accredited farm school that offers Organic Agricultural Production NC II. They are also a partner of the National Dairy Authority (NDA) in their Herd Build-up program (HBP), where they received cattle from the agency to produce fresh milk. FarmShare processes milk and offers them to the public through its business division, Cavinti Creamery.
The farm also grows common vegetables for personal use and houses goats, sheep, around 230 rabbits, 25 cattles including calves, ducks, horses, chickens, and tilapia fishes. Most of their livestock are fed with corn grass, legumes, soya pulp or okara (a byproduct of soybean), and spent grain. Vitamins and minerals are also provided if necessary. There are personnel assigned to the animal section to ensure that all the animals are well-fed and regularly monitored. Some farm animals are sold for meat or live. Buyers are allowed to pick live goats that they want to buy on-site.
Destination for the whole family
Another highlight of the farm is another business arm that promotes agritourism: FarmShare Agri Park. “On our farm, we offer farm activities such as animal feeding, petting, milking, and many more. We have guided tours to make the visit more educational and meaningful, especially for the young ones. We have a partnership with BLOC Inc. to establish a glamping accommodation that the guests were requesting,” Tengonciang said.
Most of the employees live around the farm, which is a huge advantage since they are familiar with the area and nearby communities. The farm also asks for referrals from their farmhands when they need additional manpower during the peak season, where they usually hire about 60 temporary employees to help with farm tasks. Workers are assigned to areas where they will be more productive based on their skills. “Each team has its own specialization and regular assessment is done to ensure that they fit for the job,” Tengonciang added.
Establishing and running a farm, for Tengonciang, is a commitment. One has to plan and choose the right network that will help them achieve their goal and purpose. “Be resourceful and innovative. Ask and do not reinvent the wheel. Share everything as possible and recognize others’ contributions,” he added. Keeping daily records on the farm is also necessary for easy monitoring and analysis.
For the team that forms FarmShare Prime, they see farming not as a business, but rather, “a vocation with sacrifice, but with a greater impact on our lives.”
Photos from Augusto Tengonciang.
For more information, visit FarmShare Prime.