By Yvette Tan

There is a worldwide lament at the dearth of young people looking to find a career in agriculture. A group called Agripop is out to change this.

Composed of young farmers, agripreneurs, and industry allies, Agripop started out as a group of acquaintances who met over coffee and realized that they all had the same passion for the agriculture industry and wanted to see it grow. A farm tour and a camping trip later, the group was formed. Their name was suggested by a radio host after they guested on his show.

Agripop is composed of Julius Barcelona of Harbest Agribusiness; Barbi Cruz, an organic vegetable and aquaculture farmer; Raphael Dacones of Teraoka Farms, Carlo Sumaoang of Novatech Group and MNL Growkits, and this editor. 

The participants of the first Agripop Sessions all want young people to realize that while farming can be challenging, it can also be fun and profitable. (L-R) Gino Camarillo, Carlo Sumaoang, Peter Domingo, Julius Barcelona, Barbi Cruz, Stef Mendiola, Raffy Dacones, Sandro Cruz, Erick Yambao. (Front) Gio Espital, Yvette Tan.

The group held its first Agripop Sessions, an event where invitees, also young people in the agriculture industry, had to give a three-minute presentation on a topic of their choice as long as it had to do with agriculture.

Present were Gino Camarillo of Camarillo Farm Corporation, Philo Chua of Theo & Philo Artisan Chocolates, Sandro Cruz of NXTLVL Farms, Joel Darwin of Natural Selection Design, Peter Domingo of Domingo Permafarms, Gio Espital of ELMNTM, Stef Mendiola, and Erick Yambao of Plontur.

The event was held at the Harbest Agribusiness office in Pasig. Potluck snacks included pizza and brownies (made with fine Philippine cacao), and because these are farmers we’re talking about, watermelon, honeydew melon, arugula, and cherry tomatoes straight from the farm.

Topics included High Density Orchard Farming, where proper farm planning and the growing of chest-height fruit trees make it possible to yield tons of fruit from a small plot of land; WOOF, aka World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, a loose network of organic farms that facilitate homestays and farming experiences for travelers looking for hands-on experience in organic farming; the cocoa grading process; how to brand a movement; and using the experience of growing one’s own plant to get urbanites interested in agriculture.

Participants agreed that the unconventional format forced them to use creativity to condense their message so that it’s short but understandable, while also enabling them to learn a lot about topics tangential to their interests. Plus, it encouraged camaraderie because it’s impossible to look poised while giving a very short presentation.

Agripop aims to build a network of young farmers who are similarly passionate about their chosen field. They hope to spark collaboration between members, offer emotional support to people going through the same industry challenges, and encourage more young people to try their hand at working the land.

Agripop wants people to that farming is hard work, prone to the whims of climate and weather, and fraught with uncertainty. And yet, when the livestock are healthy and fattened or the crops are ready for harvest or the first cooking herb you’ve grown has sprouted it’s first leaf, it can be the most gratifying feeling in the world. What Agripop wants to show is that farming may be challenging and messy, but it is also fun and profitable.