With the outcry on chemical-free foods, an offshoot in the demand of organically-grown foods significantly skyrocketed. Organic farming is the latest bandwagon.
Years ago, Daniel Apostol of Tupi, South Cotabato had already had this vision for farming. Being a farmer's son, cultivating lands is not a new thing for Apostol. Indeed, this inspired him to take BS Agricultural Engineering as an undergraduate course. After getting his engineering license and practiced his profession for five years, he left and tried to put up his own business. He tried to venture into hardware supplies store business. Though it prospers, he was victimized by a group of rebels and all of his investments were gone. Not losing hope, he went back to what he was raised and loved to do - farming.
Starting from their family five-hectare denuded land, Apostol engaged into diversified farming. Corn is his cash crop. He also planted herbal plants, mahogany, mangosteen, lanzones, durian, mango, and other fruits and vegetables. He also has goats and native chickens.
He proudly said that being a farmer further harnessed his skills and abilities as an agricultural engineering graduate. What he learned in his formal education was utilized and applied more in farming than when he was employed. He acknowledged the fact that having the adequate technical knowledge as an engineer enabled him to transform his land into a productive and profitable farm.
Because of his enthusiastic and active participation in farming practices outside his farm, he was elected as the president of Koronadal City Mango Industry Council and also, he vice chaired the City Agriculture and Fishery Council, the decision-making body of the Koronadal City in agriculture.
From the 17 years of farming, he is able to add another hectare of land and lands he got from mortgaging. He was able to send his three children to school. "In farming, it is not easy to get your profit unlike the other type of businesses, however in farming though the flow of income is gradual, there is security. You know you will earn" he said.
Going "greener", go organic farming
Seven years ago, he started to engage in organic farming. At first, he was a laughingstock in their community. Nobody believed in him. They said that why does he is making things difficult when there are shortcuts (pertaining to use synthetic fertilizers/pesticides). He stood firm on his beliefs. He wanted his family to eat chemical-free foods. He wanted for the people to realize the many advantages of going into organic farming. He became an advocate of organic farming in Koronadal City.
In his farm, he is using his own produce organic fertilizer - the vermicompost, and the indigenous microorganisms (IMO). His vermicast comes from substrate mixture of 30% coconut husk, 30% corn husk, 30-35% goat's manure, and the remaining are leaves. His expertise on organic fertilizer production came from years of undergoing on trainings and seminars.
Because of his advocacy, he was given by the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) a mechanical shredder and brewer worth 340,000 pesos to mechanize his production of organic fertilizer. He is sharing his produce fertilizers to his co-farmers who do not have the capabilities to produce of their own. Aside from it, he was sent to various conventions, conferences, trainings and seminars, not only to gain knowledge but also to share his knowledge and experiences on organic farming. His wife also bagged a hand tractor due to being a first runner-up in the Department of Agriculture (DA) search for outstanding rural woman.
For now, he is focusing more on the mass production of his organic fertilizer than marketing his organically-produce vegetables and fruits. He said that he is not commercializing yet his produce because it is not still well-appreciated the value of organic products in their community, unlike in the Metro Manila and other major cities wherein the organically-grown foods command a better price.
A new venture: organic soybean cultivation Aside for his efforts to promote organic farming in his province, Engr. Apostol is also the first farmer-cooperator tapped for the organic soybean production in South Cotabato.
Soybean is a high value crop promoted by DA under the High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP). This commodity is being promoted to be cultivated by the farmers. This is not only because of its high demand in the international market but also to be self-sufficient in soybeans production here in the Philippines. Currently, the country imported 94% of Filipinos' soybean consumption. The soybean program is also in line on the organic agriculture program of DA.
When Ms. Aileen Alvarez, focal person of soybean program from Central Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CEMIARC), was looking for planting area for soybean, Apostol immediately offered his one-hectare land. During that time, he is looking on ways to cope with the outbreak of bacterial leaf-blight on his corn crop.
Using his own produce organic fertilizer and IMO, he will cultivate soybeans. He started planting soybeans on July 2011 and he expected to harvest 2000 kilos of soybeans. His yield will be bought by CEMIARC and these soybeans will be distributed to farmers for planting. The aim of the program is seed production.
When asked on what he thinks the good thing brought upon by soybean, he said that he can only well-appreciate the results of the program after 3 to 5 years since soybean planting is something new in their community. Nevertheless, based on what he researched and observed, there is big income-generating potential in soybeans. He emphasized its nitrogen-fixing characteristic of the crop, health-benefits derived from consuming it and also the plenty of potentials of soybeans for product development.
With this new venture, he was able to encourage farmers to signify on planting soybeans.
"Let's leave our old ways, let's veer away in using chemicals in our plants…let us restore our soil, let us be partner in reversing the climate change by engaging to organic farming. In that case, we can delay the destruction of our environment" he says.