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BAR-PhilMech supported agri-entrepreneur receives TOFARM Award

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Gadmer “Mer” Layson was one of the successful soybean agri-entrepreneurs supported by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) and the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) who received “The Outstanding Farmers of The Philippines (TOFARM) 2016 Special Citation Award” under the agri-entrepreneur category. The awarding ceremony was held at Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Makati City on 15 November 2016.

Launched by the Junior Chamber International Philippines (JCIP) and Universal Harvester, Inc., TOFARM is a search and award program anchored on promoting farming in the youth sector of all classes. It gives recognition to the resiliency, ingenuity, and the strength of hardworking Filipino farmers.

A former reporter of Pilipino Star Ngayon of the Star Group of Publication, Mer is now the hardworking owner of KKK Enterprises named after his three children: Kyla, Kyle, and Kevin. A soybean producer and processor for four years now, Mer first heard about the National Soybean Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) through a radio announcement regarding a three-day seminar on soybean production and processing.

The DA, through the High Value Crops Development Program and BAR, with all the partner agencies, have intensified the implementation of the Soybean Program in the Philippines which aimed to further promote the production, processing, utilization, and marketing of soybean in the country towards building a competitive soybean industry.

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Under the project, “Pilot Testing of Integrated Soybean Production-Processing Technologies towards Accelerating the Development of the Local Soybean Industry in the Philippines,” being implemented by PhilMech through the coordination of BAR, various machineries that aid in improving soybean postharvest and processing systems were identified. One of the beneficiaries of the project was the Golden Beans and Grains Producers Cooperative which Mer is a member of. The coop received seeds for planting and Mer was among those who obtained viable seeds from his harvest being used for processing.

These interventions allowed the group to process and produce more; not only responding to the growing demand for soymilk but also enabling Mer to help others become soybean product retailers. As KKK Enterprises grew, Mer was able to produce soybean coffee, and very recently, soya ice candy.

Mer was able to employ eight people in his processing area and three farmers in his production site. Aside from this, his initiatives to disseminate the advantages of producing and processing soybean inspired more than thirty retailers.

Now earning about ₱50,000 a month from soybean processing, Mer aspires to be an inspiration to others—helping them earn more with the development of more soybean products. Through trainings and seminars, apart from the interviews he has done with a number of radio stations, Mer aims to reach out to everyone including farmers, housewives, and youth and encourage them to venture into soybean processing or retailing. ### (Ma. Eloisa H. Aquino and Mara Shyn M. Valdeabella, DA-BAR)

* Photos courtesy of JP Yap of Manila Bulletin