AGRIBUSINESS

Farming is not a get rich quick scheme

Photo by ArtHouse Studio from Pexels

Though the Agriculture Section of Manila Bulletin likes to highlight successful farm businesses, we would like to stress that running a farm business is not easy. It takes capital, planning, and proper management, among many other things that include sales, marketing, and customer care. It requires patience, as groups and livestock need time to grow before they can be harvested and sold, as well as a high tolerance for uncertainty, as one typhoon or one bout of fast-spreading illness can mean having to start from scratch.

Photo by ArtHouse Studio from Pexels

There is a prevailing notion that Philippine soil is so fertile that you can throw a seed anywhere and it will grow. While this can sometimes be the case, it is also misleading. Soil nutrients get depleted, especially when using synthetic fertilizers and monocropping methods. Climate and weather has become more unpredictable, not to mention the entire earth getting warmer. Markets can shift, sometimes rendering formerly profitable businesses suddenly scrambling to make bank.

As a farm business, you are essentially your own supplier, distributor, sales, marketing, and everything in between, including HR. Ensuring that proper farming and business practices are always followed can be a challenge, especially if the farm owner is rarely on site to supervise operations. Finding trustworthy and competent employees is important, as negligence or unsuitable farming practices can easily lead to business failure. Farm security is also another concern, as theft can be a problem.

Soft skills such as being a good communicator, listener, and negotiator and being able to get along with different kinds of people are important, because even if you are the only employee in your farm business, you still have to deal with customers, neighbors, and suppliers. Running a farm, just like any other business, is not something that can be left to chance. Being open to adopting different technologies (whether high or low tech) are important as well, as it may lead to better farming, administrative, sales, and marketing practices and results.

This concern with the importance of running a farm business like a business (which is why I specify farm business and not hobby farm) partly stems from tangential personal experience.

I come from a family of failed farmers. I had an uncle who ran highly two hog farms in Laguna and Batangas, plus a poultry farm in a different part of Batangas (where the farmhands would tell my sister’s nanny about how tikbalangs were causing chicken deaths, but that’s for another day), and an uncle and aunt who tried to establish a fishpond in Pampanga.

The hog farm, while highly profitable for at least three decades, eventually shut down. The fishpond, to my recollection, lasted a year or two.

As an agriculture editor, coming across news that one person or another has given up on farming is always heartbreaking because not only does it mean a loss to the industry as a whole, but it usually also means that a person has had to give up on a dream.

Growing up, I’ve heard that farming can be an easy way to make money. But observing the experiences of my relatives, as well as hearing about the day-to-day hardships of my farmer friends and their farmer friends (all small farm owners or lessees immersed in farm operations), it can be challenging, but also, when everything goes right, quite rewarding for both the soul and the wallet.

It’s why we think it’s important to publish stories about successful farm businesses while also mentioning some of the challenges they’ve encountered and how they were overcome: because we want to share inspiring stories of people who have found happiness pursuing their dreams, but without glossing over the hardships that are part of running any business.

There are many mindsets that the public, from consumers to farmers themselves, need to overcome, and the idea that farming is easy is one of them (If more people understood the physical, mental, and emotional effort needed to run a farm business, farmers would be getting paid more).

So while we hope to inspire and educate, we also want to stress that while the end result can be fun and fulfilling, the effort needed to get there may be challenging, but for some farmers, that’s also part of the journey.

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Yvette Tan
Yvette Tan is Agriculture magazine's managing editor Agriculture.com.ph’s web editor. She is an award-winning writer who likes to eat, travel, and listen to stories about the strange and supernatural. She is dedicated to encouraging people to push for sustainable food sources and is an advocate of food security, food sovereignty, and the preservation of community foodways.

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