A busy week can really accumulate a lot of stress. Working from 9-5, Monday to Friday, throughout the year can get monotonous and boring.
But millennial couple Chloe Capili and Christian Pabelico found a way to break free from the routine of a corporate job. On weekdays, they are the typical diligent workers of a public relations and digital agency, but on the weekends they are happy full-time farmers.
On weekends, Chloei and Christian, along with Chloei’s family, travel to the fifth class municipality of Bailen in Cavite. The Capili family acquired the 7000 sqm land in 2021, and have been continuously developing it until it could be suitable for farming in 2022.
Prior to acquiring it, the land was said to have had coffee trees. These trees prevented sunlight from gracing the farm and this was the first obstacle they had to face.
“You could also see that the land was untouched for a long time. You could see it hasn’t been farmed in a long time so when we started we really had to clean it up,” Chloei said in Tagalog. “It was like an abandoned lot when we got it. So we really developed it and until now we’re still developing it.”
In the beginning, Chloei admits she wasn’t interested in the land for its potential in agriculture, but for its entrepreneurial benefits. However, along the way she found love and relaxation in farming.
TGIF (Thank God It’s Farmday)
It was Chloei’s family that acquired the land for farming and it’s her family line that has a background in agriculture, but ironically it was Pasig City-born and raised Christian who is the established gardener between the couple.
Prior to planting at the farm in 2022, Christian was already an urban gardener. Christian has a rooftop garden in his Pasig home where he tends to crops, ornamental plants and bonsai. He and Chloei have sold different crops and plants from his urban garden to clients through Instagram.
Christian was extra enthusiastic to study about farming in a large space. He sought out different sources online. “Before we get into farming a certain crop, he would research first. He would watch YouTube, like that,” Chloei said.
Chloei doesn’t fall behind because she, too, reads plenty of academic sources to find the optimal method of farming on Bailen soil. “I would look into organic farming. What studies are behind certain integrated farming techniques, those are the type of research I’m doing,” she said. “More on how to make the farm more long-term for us. So that’s our dynamic.”
Christian and Chloei aren’t the only people who go to Bailen every weekend to farm. Their family members also travel to Bailen for a weekend of farming. They form a group of 5-8 people and travel two hours from Dasmariñas, Cavite.
“It’s a nice picture actually. We all have the 9-5 corporate job where we stay at the office and it’s a different picture when we get to the farm. We would cook our own food, we would harvest. We clear the weeds for our farm.” she said.
They often invite other family members to go with them to the farm, but Chloei said it’s not the kind of trip where they could just kick back and relax. “It’s not like, ‘Hey let’s go to the farm,’ and we would have manpower there that would serve you,” Chloei said. “It’s different with us. If you go to our farm, you need to work with us.”
However, despite the physical labor that everyone does at the farm, the whole family clearly enjoys it. Going to the farm every weekend has become routine and holidays are also spent there.
They also often do overnights at Bailen. “In our family it becomes an automatic trip when it comes to long weekends,” she said. “That’s how we currently plan our trips. It’s usually at the farm.”
How to be two things at once
“When we started the farm, we wanted to be as scientific as possible,” said Chloei. Before they started planting, they had the soil tested and looked for crops that they could plant beyond what Bailen folks typically planted. “We wanted to be different because we wanted to enjoy the opportunity.”
The family reached out to the local office of agriculture for help and learned what crops were typical for the province’s soil. This knowledge enabled them to know what other crops could be experimented and explored.
“We want to have a certain level of awareness that it’s not only the tree (crop) that is important, but also the soil,” she said.
It took half a year of development before the farm could be suitable for planting crops. But the first thing they planted were calamansi trees.
“We researched for a low maintenance crop,” Chloei said as she admitted that they all knew they had limited time and access to the farm, and they needed a crop that could survive even without daily care. “The first thing we planted were calamansi trees. We readied a 2000 square meter area and we planted about 200 seedlings of grafted calamansi.”
It took approximately a year for a calamansi to bear fruit, and the long wait gave them time to develop the rest of the land in Bailen.
As of now, the Capili’s farm has planted and harvested tomatoes, eggplants, okra and other vegetables. They are also currently experimenting with grapes and are developing the area for a vineyard.
During the weekdays, the Capili’s farm in Bailen is managed by Chloei’s cousin, Totong. He reports his observations on the farm to the family in Dasmariñas daily, and they create plans of action during the week.
An example is when it was reported to them that the eggplants at the farm were infested. “During the weekdays we already look for products. And when the weekend comes we want to make sure that the products are already delivered to us so we can bring them to the farm,” Chloei said. “Then we would plan as a team what the spray schedules are for the next few weeks.”
When the weekend comes, the Capili family execute the plan they have decided on, but at times when immediate action is required, such as curbing infestations or watering, they rely on Totong.
Despite its ongoing development, the farm was graced with abundant harvests. At the Christmas season of 2022, they were able to sell eggplants, tomatoes and bell peppers to their communities at Dasmariñas and Pasig.
“Our selling method is farm to community. Farm to people, basically.” Chloei said and mentioned that they do not use traders. “If we’re planting, we are not gonna plant for the middlemen. I’m aware of the challenges of the agricultural industry because of the traders.” She said she believes more in the power of communities.
TikTok’s Work From Farm
Chloei and Christian have a TikTok account named “Work From Farm” a spin-off of the term work-from-home which was the couple’s current corporate setup.
As the digital lead of her company, Chloei was enthusiastic about creating videos to document the development of their farm. She also creates videos that share tips or facts she learned while farming.
One of the first videos she posted was about the fact that kalabasa was a crop that needed manual pollination. The 15-second video blew up with comments saying that it was something they didn’t know. “When I did that simple content, it validated the notion that not a lot were aware that not all plants and vegetables couple pollinate themselves.”
Chloei said that videos like those were a way to connect with people who didn’t know much about agriculture, especially since food is part of our lives. Sharing information and the production of food before it arrives at our tables prompts appreciation for farmers and farms.
As a millennial couple, their audience is also mostly millennials. They used to post daily on TikTok and Chloei just shoots random videos on the farm. She channels her creativity through their TikTok videos and is well received by their audience. Even though she hasn’t been posting as actively as before, the already posted videos still generate views and followers for the couple’s account.
They emphasize the importance of research on several videos. “Even before you plant, you have to research the entire journey of the plant.” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of people who get seedlings and are unable to make it grow because that’s the only extent of what they researched.” For them, it’s important to always be prepared for what could happen to a crop.
READ: Welcome to Farm-tok: Three Pinoy educational agri-TikTokers to binge watch
A weekend to always look forward to
Chloei admitted that as of now, the hardest part of being a weekend farmer is that there are a lot of missed opportunities and she wished that they could develop the farm faster.
However, their weekends are still the highlight of their week. Besides bonding with the family, the farm has given them direction for their weekend. Their experience as farmers has helped them to become more grounded and more connected with nature.
The farm is continuously being developed. In the future, they want to expand to more crops and to continue their farm to community sales method.
“It’s like there’s no captain here, there’s no digital head here, we are all farmers,” she said. “We’re setting goals for the farm and it’s an exciting journey for all of us as a family.”
Chloei has really fallen in love with being a farmer. “You know the feeling that you could harvest something that you grew? I cannot emphasize how wonderful that feeling is,” she said. “Not a lot of people appreciate where the [food] comes from. Not a lot of people appreciate their farmers enough.”
“Getting a seed to become a tree and give you something you can eat, I cannot emphasize that enough,” she said. “That journey is something that I sincerely enjoy.”
Photos courtesy of Chloei Capili