By Julio P. Yap, Jr.

At first, it was hard and rough sailing for Mer Layson, a photographer and an active media practitioner, until he decided to conquer the open seas by becoming a successful soybean processor.

Taking into consideration the future of their three growing kids, Layson and his wife Mary Ann—also a media practitioner—conceptualized a business venture. This was the start of their 3K project in September 2013.

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“3K” stands for the names of their three children: Kyla, Kyle, and Kevin. The couple now produces soya milk and soya coffee under the brand name 3K.

It was a hard and laborious journey for Layson because he belonged to a large but poor farmer-family in Mexico, Pampanga. As a result, he learned to till the soil at an early age. When he was 16, he was forced to continue cultivating the 3-hectare agricultural land which was (at that time) owned by the government, after his father suffered from an illness.

Despite his difficulties, Layson bravely continued to face the challenges of life with a positive outlook and constant prayers.

A New Career

An announcement over the radio about a training program for soybean production and processing to be conducted in Nueva Ecija started Layson and his wife on their new career.

He decided to attend the program, which was initiated by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) in partnership with the Pampanga office of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) of the Department of Agriculture (DA). The Golden Beans Producers Cooperative, of which Layson is a member, also participated in the training.

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During the program, each participant received 10 kilos of soybeans. Layson tried to process his share into several products like soya milk and pastillas at home, where his family welcomed the products. “[On] another occasion, the Department of Agriculture provided 10 kilograms of soybean seeds. I planted the seeds in my farm in Mexico, Pampanga, as intercrop to corn,” he said.

Then, the rest is history. The couple’s 3K business venture was launched in 2013 after they started to produce soya milk and soya coffee.

At first, the couple tried to concentrate on making pastillas, but it became too laborious to produce, so they focused their resources on soya milk and soya coffee production, using ordinary blenders as equipment. They chose to produce the two products for their health benefits, and because they had a source of raw materials: their own farm, called Layson Farms.

Layson’s farm now organically produces about 120 sacks of soybeans per cropping, enough to supply the needs of the couple’s venture. In the beginning, they peddled their products on foot, going around the neighborhood and the nearby areas of Paco, Manila.

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After a while, the couple was able to acquire a tricycle and a second-hand car to deliver their products to distributors.

The Laysons now have a brand-new utility sports vehicle which they also use to deliver soya milk and soya coffee to their clients. Layson says he owes his success to God, to whom he never fails to pray and thank. “I always put God above anything else,” he shared.

Layson added that without the timely help and assistance of PhilMech, they would not have the equipment they needed to produce soya milk and soya coffee. “PhilMech trained me, and even lent the necessary equipment for me to produce soya milk. 3K would not have been possible without the assistance of PhilMech.”

He also expressed his gratitude to the generosity of the PhilMech officials led by Director Rex Bingabing, Dr. Babes Dela Cruz, Dr. Celia Uy Reyes-Antolin, and Jay Neric. The 3K venture now produces at least 250 bottles of soya milk daily, which they sell at a very reasonable price. The soya milk is very delicious to drink, especially when refrigerated.

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Many Benefits

A report showed that soya milk is like a complete protein and has the same amount of protein as cow’s milk; it can replace animal protein and other sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. But unlike cow’s milk, soya milk has little saturated fat and no cholesterol. It also mentioned that soya milk contains no lactose, which makes it an alternative for those who are lactose-intolerant.

The 3K venture has generated employment opportunities for several workers. Enterprising individuals have also benefited from the Laysons’ 3K project by selling its two products in their respective areas.

Following the success which the Layson family achieved, Layson has become a philanthropist, conducting feeding programs in different areas to benefit the less fortunate. He also conducts free livelihood opportunity seminars every Friday, during which entrepreneurship and development programs are shared and discussed.

Those who would like to participate in the seminars may get in touch with Mer Layson through mobile number 63917-8675197.

This appeared as “The Wonders of Soya” in Agriculture Monthly’s April 2016 issue.