BY VINA MEDENILLA

To establish a certified farm school is a dream for many local farmers. This can be made possible through applying for a Learning Site for Agriculture (LSA) certification in the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI). An ATI-accredited LSA is a venue where students and aspiring farmers or learning site cooperators can experience practical and hands-on learning.

Among thousands of certified farm schools in the Philippines is Bukid ni Juan. 

Bukid ni Juan (BNJ) is a diversified farm that sits in an 8,000 square meter plot at Barangay East Dirita, San Antonio, Zambales. 

Bukid ni Juan is a certified learning site for agriculture in San Antonio, Zambales that’s also granted a two-year GAP certification for crops like corn and more.

This family-owned agricultural enterprise is headed by the family’s patriarch, Ferdinand M. Domingo, a licensed agriculturist and an associate professor at the President Ramon Magsaysay State University.

BNJ started off as a coconut plantation in October 2016. The family expanded to more crops like calamansi, tamarind, rice, and vegetables after a year of farming. 

Surrounding property previously used for grazing was bought little by little until it reached the present land area. “Vegetative covers such as talahib and makahiya are common in the place. The soil is sandy loam and classified as rainfed,” said Domingo. 

One of the areas at Bukid ni Juan that is devoted to crop production.

The Domingos developed the land for its initial functions— a retirement home and setting for family gatherings. But they chose to share the product of their hard work last November 2017 by opening the farm to the public. This is the family’s way to motivate young people and farmer organizations to venture into a diversified farming system. 

Ferdinand M. Domingo (in yellow shirt), a learning site cooperator and farm owner, with his family at Bukid ni Juan.

One month after the opening, BNJ became a certified learning site accredited by the ATI Central Luzon. “Along with the accreditation, Bukid ni Juan envisioned achieving food sufficiency in the countryside through sustainable farming.” 

On February 1, 2018, the Bureau of Plant Industry granted Bukid ni Juan with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification for crops like corn, fruits, and vegetables. 

Read an article about the reminders when getting Good Agricultural Practices for corn farming. 

This full-fledged farm now houses seven native goats (four kids, one buck, and two does), four sows, one boar, 20 piglets, and 30 free-range chickens that include a native breed like paraoakan or parawakan. 

In terms of animal feed, Domingo shared, “The goats graze around the area, they have periodic deworming and vitamins with the help of one of the agriculture technicians. The native pigs are fed with rice bran, weeds growing around the area, corn stalks, and fruit rejects.” Chickens are nourished with azolla mixed with rice bran. He added, “The newly-hatched chicks are fed with commercial feeds for a month, and then, azolla and fruit rejects are gradually introduced to them.”

One chicken breed that they raise on the farm is paraoakan or parawakan chicken that is native to Palawan.

Bukid ni Juan plants a hybrid or aromatic variety of rice during the rainy season. They produce rice solely for household consumption. Next to the rice field is the vegetables. Corn and most high-value vegetables are alternately grown in net houses. The farm practices off-season planting for high-value crops for higher profit. 

Corn varieties that they plant all year long are sweet pearl, purple magic, and purple gem. “During the rainy season, they are planted in protective structures with artificial lights. After the rainy season, they are planted in the outfield.”

Bukid ni Juan produces corn varieties, including sweet pearl (in the photo), purple magic, and purple gem.

The farm also grows Queen or Formosa and Maui Gold pineapples. These are intercropped with papaya (red lady and red royale), calamansi, and sweet tamarind. 

The Domingos save about P5,000 a month since they don’t have to buy rice and other produce that they consume every day. 

Harvested products are marketed through a pick and pay program as well as on social media. When dividing the total harvest, 75 percent are put on sale, 10 percent are for presentation, 10 percent are for household use, and the remaining are for the animals.

Since the farm does not use pesticides, the rainy season (a.k.a. the period where pests are abundant) comes with difficulties. This is the time where they experience higher crop loss, which also translates to lower harvests and overall income. 

To protect the plants during this period, Domingo installs plastic roofing, particularly for plants like tomatoes. Since he is the only producer of tomatoes in the area, he makes sure to produce them even during these times. BNJ sells tomatoes for a farmgate price of P100 per kilo. 

As a way of giving back to the community, BNJ offers free consultancy services to local and foreign agriculture enthusiasts. The farm hires seasonal workers when needed to perform weeding and planting tasks. Most of the time, the family maintains the farm.

General tips for pineapple and corn production

Domingo shares a few points to consider when producing corn and pineapple. In his own words, here’s what he has to say:  

  • “Subject the soil for nutrient analysis yearly in order to provide the right kind and amount of fertilizer and at the right time.
  • Maintain cleanliness in the area to avoid the build-up of insect pests and diseases.
  • Provide sufficient water during the vegetative and flowering stages and gradually withhold towards the start of maturity stage to avoid black rot in pineapple.
  • Have a record of planting (corn) or flower induction (pineapple) in order to determine the right time of harvesting.”

By planting Queen or Formosa and Maui Gold pineapples, the farm can earn a yearly pay of at least P5,000 for every 100 plants.

On a family farm, the responsibilities of members are extended while teamwork and relationships are strengthened. 

Just like BNJ, family farms build hope and create continuous learning and development for the society.

Photos from Bukid ni Juan.

For more information, visit Bukid ni Juan.