I’ve always maintained that owning a farm is the original Filipino dream. Unfortunately, like many dreams, owning a successful farm can be challenging.

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels

Aside from the difficulty in acquiring adequate farmland suitable for the crops or livestock one wants to cultivate or raise, there are also other factors such as capital for operations before, during and after harvest, as well as for the construction of farm buildings, buying or renting farm machinery, farmhand salaries, and so on. I know I’m missing out on a lot of other expenses like transport and maybe marketing, depending on one’s business model.

But even if a farmer has access to land, water, and capital, there’s one thing that no farmer can claim complete mastery over, and that’s Mother Nature. Even the most high tech, temperature-controlled indoor farm cannot claim to be fully nature-proof, especially in a time of climate crisis. Storms have been getting stronger and more erratic, and shifting weather and climate have meant even more threats from drought and in some cases, earthquakes and forest fires.

Still, there are enough people who believe that if done right, farming can lead to good earnings, and they’re not wrong. Unfortunately, some of the people who believe this also think (or hope) that there’s an easy way to do this, and it’s usually these people who fall for get-rich-quick schemes.

Yes, these exist in the agriculture industry as well. Every now and then, one will come across a story of a failed farming venture. But instead of a subsistence farmer who has been saddled with an unreasonable loan or whose land has been taken away unscrupulously, the victim will be someone with capital who wanted to do things the easy way. The “easy way” may vary, but it usually involves giving huge amounts of money to someone who easily makes it disappear.

This is not to discourage people from investing in agriculture (we need more farmers, please), but to encourage due diligence in those who do so. Depending on your venture, check with the corresponding government office to ensure validity of ownership and to make sure there aren’t any unpaid dues. Even if you already own or rent your land, check once in a while to make sure someone else hasn’t sold it from under you. I’ve seen this happen more than once to people whose names aren’t on the deed, and it doesn’t just happen with agricultural land. Do your research before hiring a farm consultant, buying from a supplier, or investing in a farming system. Research can be a pain, especially when you want to get started, but given the proliferation of fake or faulty information out there, it pays to be prepared.

A very Filipino thing that I used to be guilty of is being afraid to ask questions for fear of being a nuisance or looking dumb. I’ve since realized that as a consumer or investor or just a curious person, a. it’s your right to ask as many questions as possible to make sure you understand something, and b., people put too much of a premium on seeming smart instead of actually being smart. There are no dumb questions if one learns from the answers, and people who think that a question is dumb say more about their own small minds than about the person asking said question, who is only trying to learn.

Every industry will have its share of people who try to take advantage of others, and agriculture is no different. And like in every industry, it’s a good idea to arm oneself with at least basic information, and if possible, trusted resources. Letting the ego lead, especially if one is a newbie, is rarely, if at all, a good strategy. If someone promises an incredibly lucrative return on investment, or a surefire way to get rich without talking about how to deal with the very real problems farmers encounter such as water supply, natural disasters, and pests or diseases, maybe do a little more research (such as with the SEC, the local agriculture office, or a second expert opinion).

Actually, a sign might be referring to the operation as an “investment” instead of, say, a farm. Of course, this is a very general statement. All ventures, professional or personal, are investments in a way, whether in time or money or something else. The difference, I guess, would be to refer to a venture just in terms of revenue, without any of the passion or determination needed in such an uncertain enterprise. Because if there’s one thing farmers have no choice but to get comfortable with, it’s uncertainty. Anyone that promises a farming life completely free of uncertainty either doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or is trying to sell you something.

Agriculture may be the Filipino dream, but without due diligence, it can also be a bad get rich quick scheme.