By VINA MEDENILLA
In Madrid, Spain lies a 1.5-hectare farm managed and owned by Filipinos. Ghie, as she prefers to be called, 50, and her husband Ramon, 65, manage businesses in different industries: real estate, retail, and agriculture. The couple invested in these sectors both in the Philippines and Spain.
Having enough staff in their businesses allows Ghie and Ramon to spend more time on their farm. Growing up with parents who are farmers, the couple both share farming experiences with their families back home.
The two have not only found a great way to bond over farming, but tilling the land also enables them to have healthy eating habits and to maintain a healthy body by engaging in farm activities.
Since they are now based in Spain, they always collect ‘a piece of home,’ a.k.a. local vegetable seeds, whenever they go on vacation to the Philippines.
It has been seven years since they started their farm in Madrid, which they named after the municipality where it is located — El Molar. The partners started growing crops as a hobby. This pastime activity progressed into a business opportunity when they started supplying vegetables and fruits to Filipino customers and Asian grocery stores.
The climate was the biggest adjustment they had to deal with when they started farming in a country with four seasons since they were accustomed to growing crops in a tropical country. For them, the right timing is essential to the growth and quality of each crop. Two months before the summer season comes, they prepare the seedlings in a greenhouse before transplanting them to plots.
The summer season (June to August or September in Madrid) is a busy season for the farming duo because this is a time they can produce and sell most of the crops to their clientele. Vegetables that they grow every summer include talong, ampalaya, sili, kalabasa, malunggay, pechay, sitaw, okra, chicharo or pea, saluyot, kamote, onion, along with ornamentals like rose, sunflower, and bougainvillea.
They naturally grow these crops and do not use any harmful fertilizer and pesticides. They also have equipment that lightens farm operations such as a watering machine that pumps water from a nearby river and tractors for cultivating the soil.
They sell vegetables for one to five euros (P58 to P290) per pack. Live goats, pigs, and chicken eggs are also available on the farm, while the flowers they grow are arranged and used as home decoration or shared with friends. They also earn extra profit by offering farm equipment rental to nearby farms. In every harvest season, they collect about 5000 euros or over P200,000 per month.
As of this interview, El Molar Farm also rears 50 chickens, 30 goats, 30 gansas or geese, 30 ducks, seven pigs, 25 cats, and 11 dogs.
Sharing memories with Filipino friends
The farm is regularly maintained by two permanent Filipino workers. Whenever they need extra farmhands, they hire fellow Filipinos who want to take a part-time job on the farm.
The farm also serves as a venue for celebrations with their friends where they mimic the Filipino fiestas and share dishes that remind them of home.
For Ghie and Ramon, mastering the art of right timing is necessary to attain optimum harvest. Accompany this with the practice of skipping chemical fertilizers and pesticides for the safety of everyone.
The couple envisions the farm as a public destination where anyone can hang out, harvest on their own, camp, or have a picnic with their loved ones.
Photos from Ghie.