BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in early 2020, many Filipinos needed to cope with displacement since health protocols dictated that non-essential workers, along with the general public, needed to stay indoors for their safety. It was during this time that farming and urban gardening became popular among the masses, who found the practice of growing food in their homes or extra spaces to be productive and fulfilling.
As more Filipinos ventured into farming, they realized that it provides more than a source of fresh, healthy food because it can also be profitable. In 2021, Agriculture Online encountered several Filipinos who turned to farming to weather the pandemic. Here are four of them:
The couple behind Nawawalang Bukid
Hailing from Lucena City, Quezon Province, the Pagkaliwagan family, composed of Jaquilyn, a former OFW in Taiwan, and her husband, Ronniel, who worked as technical support personnel in a factory, had to find an alternative source of income to make ends meet after the pandemic affected their livelihood.
Seeing the opportunities and potential market for vegetables, they decided to venture into hydroponics farming last March 2020. They began by building a greenhouse in their backyard for food production but only recently turned their vision into reality. They called their farm Nawawalang Bukid because aside from being distant from the town’s center, many of their customers often get lost when visiting the greenhouse.
Nawawalang Bukid’s main crop is lettuce, but they also grow other produce such as sweet basil, pechay, and strawberry using hydroponics. After seeing their profits from farming, the couple plan to add more greenhouses and open an on-site samgyupsal restaurant where they can serve their fresh leafy vegetables to customers.
A police lieutenant colonel turned chicken farmer
Before the pandemic broke out, Edwin Cobarrubias Ellazar, a member of the Philippine National Police (PNP) with the rank of police lieutenant colonel (PLTCOL), and his wife, Analyn Samonte Ellazar, who is also a PLTCOL, earned extra money from their school service van and canteen businesses.
They eventually had to find another source of income that will help them stay afloat amidst the global health risk. They turned to chicken farming as a way for them to earn a profit and for Ellazar to fulfill his goal of developing a farm for retirement.
Ellazar and his wife named the farm Garden of Edan-Nature’s Farm after their youngest son. Through their family farm, Ellazar earns a sustainable income, fulfills his childhood dream of living in nature and providing food for others, and promotes free-range chicken farming in their community.
A family farm shifted its focus from fruit-bearing trees to chickens
Rodriguez Integrated Farm was established in Palawan in the late 1980s by Rowell Rodriguez. He began by planting fruit trees and developing the area as a family getaway. But when the pandemic struck, the Rodriguez and Ramirez families had to turn their attention to income generation.
It was Rodriguez’s son-in-law, Edemin Ramirez, who came up with the idea of raising free-range chickens naturally to meet the demand for chicken meat in the province. But aside from chickens, the families also honored what their patriarch started by planting more fruit trees like rambutan, banana, and papayas.
The family farm may not have started the family farm as a source of income, but it became handy when the pandemic started. It also became a way for the two families to bond and supply their community with a source of free-range chicken meat.
Brothers farm to provide a source of fresh healthy food to the community
When the pandemic struck last year, Jet Serrano, the managing partner at Serrano Agri-Ventures Farm, realized the importance of food security during this crucial time. But he wasn’t the only one who had the idea of farming. His brother, who is an established chef working in Sydney, Australia, came home to the Philippines and suggested moving to the province to focus on reviving their family farms, starting with the one in Morong, Bataan.
Serrano and his brothers started the farm in 2019, before the pandemic. At that time, they weren’t as active on the farm as they are now due to their existing careers. But with the pandemic and the threat of food insecurity, the Serrano brothers developed their farm by growing fast-cycle crops like pechay, spinach, and lettuce.
Although farming provided the Serrano brothers with an extra source of income during the pandemic, their main goal is to supply their community with fresh produce that could help boost their health, which brings them a sense of fulfillment.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have posed a threat to people’s health and their livelihood, but some Filipinos managed to overcome it by farming. The process of growing food has also given them more than just an extra source of income, it has allowed them to realize their farming dreams, support their community, and find a fulfilling hobby.