By Julio P. Yap Jr.

With hope and determination, a 47- year-old farmer was able to convert an idle mountainous area of a sitio of Batalyon in Barangay Kiling, Alfonso Lista in the province of Ifugao into a very
productive agricultural land.

It’s easy to see why others would likely reject the site where Roberto Lopez Jr. developed his farm; it is very remote and one has to travel about seven kilometers of uncharted land just to reach it.

From the town of Roxas in Isabela, Lopez and this writer started to travel via a barangay road using his old but reliable pickup truck.

At first it was a smooth journey, traversing some two kilometers of concreted barangay road.

Originally a bare mountain, this is what the farm of Roberto Lopez Jr. now looks like – full of vegetation.

But apprehension began to set in as the vehicle started to ascend the mountainous area through a rough trail which Lopez said was carved out from the mountainside. One false move, and the pickup truck would plunge into a deep ravine as the one-way trail was just wide enough for a small vehicle to pass.

Along the way, one is likely to wonder why Lopez chose to develop a very remote site into an agricultural site, when the surrounding areas remain unproductive and only wild grass abounds in the mountains.

Upon reaching Lopez’s farm, which spans over three hectares, one is sure to forget all apprehensions and the hardships of travelling along a rough mountain trail as it is like seeing an oasis in the middle of the desert. It is an isolated area which is full of vegetation.
One then walks through the middle of a field where 50-day-old corn plants which are more than five feet tall abound.

In the middle of the farm, Lopez built a small hut, but one has to cross a creek on foot using a shaky, makeshift bamboo bridge. But one can’t help but notice that Lopez’s corn plants are very robust and have started fruiting. The leaves are dark green; the cobs are healthy; and the stems
are very vigorous.

When asked how he developed the area, Lopez proudly narrated that it was sheer determination and hard work that led him to realize his dream of turning the unproductive land into a sustainable farm.

He said that he gets most of his farming ideas from reading Agriculture Magazine, which he regularly buys in Isabela. “I have been reading Agriculture Magazine for two years already and I really get so much information about the latest trends and technology [in] modern farming,” he said in the vernacular.

Lopez said he was motivated to plant corn after reading an article in the magazine about a farmer in Isabela who was able to protect his crop against the effects of the El Niño phenomenon. At first, he was only planting different varieties of vegetables and fruit-bearing trees on his farm, but the experience of the corn farmer in Isabela prompted him to venture into planting corn.

Lopez holds one of the healthy cobs produced by his corn plants.

As a result, he discovered Amino Plus Foliar Fertilizer, which the farmer in Isabela used to protect his crop against drought. Lopez then started inquiring about the product, and was able to contact Abel O. Sakiting, the field technician of Amino Plus who serviced Lopez’s area.

Sakiting then oriented Lopez on how to properly use the product to attain the best results.

After using the foliar fertilizer, Lopez said he noticed that his corn plants became healthier, as manifested by the vibrant color of the leaves and the sturdy stems and roots.

Upon noticing the improvement, Lopez also started applying the Amino Plus Foliar Fertilizer on the different varieties of vegetables he planted around his corn field, like panigang pepper, okra, squash, and banana; all these, he said, became cash crops.

In addition to the vegetables, Lopez also started planting other fruitbearing trees around his farmland, like rambutan and santol; he also treats these trees with Amino Plus Foliar Fertilizer.

Lopez shows a small container of Amino Plus Foliar Fertilizer, which he now regularly uses to fertilize plants in his farm.

Since his farmland is rain-fed, he was able to tap a small natural spring as a source of support irrigation for his crops.

From the basic technologies he gets from reading Agriculture Magazine, Lopez was also able to devise a sprinkler which he now uses to irrigate his crops whenever rain is not available. With a limited amount of water, Lopez said he manages land and water use carefully to sustain the productivity of his farm.

With the technologies he acquired, Lopez is optimistic that his hard work and sheer determination will push him further in attaining his objective of becoming a successful farmer. But becoming successful is not enough for Lopez, who says he wants his experience to be replicated by other farmers.

“I am doing this not just for myself. I also want other farmers to be aware that farming is not just a menial job, it is a profession in itself,” he said, adding, “Reaping the fruits of one’s labor can erase all the difficulties and hardships that a beginning farmer experiences to begin with.”

With the improvements and technologies he applied to his farm, Lopez is expecting to have a bountiful harvest of corn, which he said would command a better price.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s August 2016 issue.