Viola Fern U. Sebastian, 54, and her partner Frianina ‘Nina’ V. Resplandor, 52, used to practice their respective careers before life ushered them to a path toward agriculture. 

Breaking into a different industry isn’t easy. Sebastian, an interior designer by profession, and Resplandor, who came from the management consultancy business, found the switch overwhelming at first. 

With perseverance and by leveraging their portable skills, the partners managed to learn how to deal with the challenges they are facing in farming.

“We were very conservative with our management style and gradually turned the farm to become integrated and diversified.” 

Long-time partners Nina Resplandor (left) and Fern Sebastian (right), together with their fur babies: Jack, Gretel, Liesl, and Siegfried.

Carrying on a mother’s legacy

Their interest in agriculture can be traced back to 2012. It was after Sebastian, the current owner of Myriad Farms, visited their family property and saw that it could be developed and integrated with other components. 

Sebastian attended training sessions by various government agencies with this goal in mind.

In 2017, when her mother, who had previously run the business, passed away, the couple decided to go full-time in farming.

Myriad Farms lies on a 10-hectare agricultural land in Purok 2, Barangay Triala, Guimba, Nueva Ecija. 

Commercial rice farming takes up more than half of the entire land area. The 2.5-hectare space is devoted to vegetation, fruit-bearing trees, multi-purpose hall, office or library, residential houses, and other farm facilities, while the remaining hectare is for their farm school techno demo area. 

Harvest time at Myriad Farms. They employ a combination of mechanical and traditional harvest methods. Combine harvested and carabao-driven carts are used to collect sacks of rice.

They cultivate rice as their primary crop, particularly inbred (wet season), hybrid (dry season), glutinous, black, and red rice varieties. 

They grow rice from seeds and harvest them twice a year. The farm’s average yield is 60-62 tons during the dry season, and 50-53 tons during the rainy season.

Fern Sebastian doing a final inspection before harvest. At this stage, the rice plants are 90 to 95 percent mature and ready for collection.

“What’s really helping us in our production is that we keep a record of our activities and expenses, and so far, since 2020, we have managed to reduce our production cost,” said Resplandor, the farm school president. 

The couple said that there is no secret or special procedure in growing rice since they follow the typical rice production process. 

The usual cycle includes “land preparation and ensuring the rice field is well-leveled, seedbed preparation, seed germination, transplanting of seedlings (can be manual or mechanical), scheduled irrigation and maintaining proper water level at every crucial stage, use of organic and synthetic fertilizers, regular monitoring of the rice field, integrated pest management, draining of rice field two weeks before the estimated date of harvest, and mechanized harvesting.”

Shredding of banana stalks and pruned tree leaves for composting.

Threats such as infestations and plant growth issues are easily avoided through frequent monitoring. They also ensure that the planting calendar is strictly followed.

The primary concern of the partners, however, is the rising prices of agricultural inputs like fuel and fertilizer. They adapt to this by cutting down other expenses. 

The farm fertilizes the plants 10 days after transplanting using a mechanical fertilizer spreader.

A ‘myriad’ of things that keep the operations running

The farm lives up to its name since it grows more than just rice on a large ground. Farm elements like fruit-bearing trees, vegetables, flowering plants, ornamentals, and animals can be found at Myriad Farms, too.

They also have 24 native chickens, six Rhode Island Red (RIR), two Black Australorp, eight ducks, and two native goats. 

The chickens and ducks are fed with rice bran, binlid or milled rice particles, fermented plants, and vegetable scraps.

The goats are also let loose during the day to graze and are caged a few hours before the sunset.

The farm animals are kept naturally since they also do not get any vaccine shots. 

“We do give them fermented fruit juices and Oriental Herbal Nutrient (OHN) as nutrient supplements to keep them healthy. Weekly cleaning of their enclosures is done regularly, and their food and water trays are cleaned after feeding time.”

Rhode Island Red and Black Australorp chickens grow on the farm.

At this point, the majority of the farm harvests are for personal consumption, except for rice and mango. In excess of their needs, they process them into jams, fruit vinegar, and sauces.  

Through the commercial production of rice and mango, the farm earns enough to cover the salary of their nine workers and other monthly expenditures.

Activities like pick-and-pay, farm tours, carabao rides, and agricultural training are other sources of farm income. 

Myriad Farms’ seedling area for ornamental plants.

Within the first three years of their management, Myriad Farms received accreditation from several government agencies as a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund-Learning Site for Agriculture (RCEF-LSA), farm field school, and farm tourism site. 

Last April 22, 2021, they were also granted Good Agricultural Practices Program (PhilGAP) certification for rice and mango production. 

Farming may seem strange to the couple initially, but seeing their efforts bear fruit in just a few years proves that having less experience isn’t a barrier to success in agriculture.

Photos courtesy of Myriad Farms. 

For more information, visit Myriad Farms