Memoirs of an agri journalist

By Zac B. Sarian

We keep remembering Tessie Custodio of Davao City, whom we interviewed in 1992. She gave up her job in 1985 as a statistician of a government agency so she could devote her full time to her two-hectare rose farm.

At the time of our interview, she had 60,000 American rose bushes from which she harvested a lot of flowers every day. What we can’t forget was her unique way of selling her daily harvest of flowers. You see, she really harvested a lot, but unlike other big flower growers that we know, she did not sell her flowers to dealers who shipped them to Manila and other big cities. She sold every flower in Davao City.

How did she do that? Well, it was quite simple. She engaged 40 women from poor families whose husbands were mostly jobless to sell her flowers. Her main purpose was to give them an opportunity to earn money so their families wouldn’t go hungry.

Davao City is a big city and the women sellers were assigned their own areas where they would sell the flowers. Some sold their flowers in public and private markets, churches, house-to-house, bus terminals, and other places. The women sellers made reasonable incomes because each could sell at least 10 dozen flowers a day. Actually, many sold much more than that. And they could have sold the flowers at a big profit margin. It was possible for them to double their buying price of P20 per dozen of the long-stemmed roses, P15 for the medium-stemmed ones, and P10 for the short-stemmed.

Tessie’s marketing scheme worked very well at that time, which pleased her no end. The sellers paid for the flowers the following day when they got their new supply. Others who benefited from Tessie’s rose farm were the farm workers who were compensated on a contractual or “pakyaw” basis. For instance, for spraying half a hectare which could take half a day, a worker was paid P150. That was considered a big amount for a worker in the 1990s. That was equivalent to one day’s pay for a regular farm worker. Other workers who did the weeding or who prepared the plots for planting and other chores were also paid the same way. Tessie explained that the ‘pakyaw” system worked well for the workers as well as for her. Each job was finished faster and the worker also made more money.

Now you see, agri people have their own creative ways of running their projects.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2018 issue.