By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Aianah’s Little by Little Integrated Farm is a 3.9 hectare farmland in Polonuling, Tupi, South Cotabato. It is owned and managed by partners Jenny Blancaflor, a yoga teacher and wellness coach, and Mau Lopez, a retired mechanical engineer.
They started the farm in hopes of finding a reliable source of income while also searching for a way to manage their daughter’s skin condition.
In part 1, Blancaflor shared how they started raising chickens naturally so they can produce a healthy source of meat that is safe for consumption, especially for health-conscious families like theirs. Now, the co-owner of Aianah’s Little by Little Integrated Farm recalls how they started their farming venture and discusses the different natural farming practices that they implement on their farm.
Setting up an integrated farm
According to Blancaflor, the term “Little by Little” in their farm’s name came from the Hiligaynon word “amat-amat,” which is often blurted out by Lopez.
“[It] is one of the few words he learned when he stayed in Negros after his retirement eight years ago. When he said that as we were driving to our farm, something lit up and we decided to call the farm Aianah’s Little by Little Farm (its registered business name is Aianah’s Little by Little Integrated Farm),” she said.
The reason behind this name is because it reflects their progress as farmers.
“We want to create a holistic farm, and the only way to do it is to complete the cycle. Plants as feed source, and animal manure to fertilise the soil or grow more microbes,” she said.
Other than their main produce of broiler chickens, the couple also grows oregano, which they ferment and add on to their chickens’ drink as a source of probiotic, corn for chicken feed, and different vegetables that they use in fermentation and also for personal consumption as well as selling purposes.
The farm also has various fruit trees like coconuts, mangosteen, guyabano, and lanzones.
Presently, the couple are experimenting on biofloc technology which would allow them to grow catfish and tilapia in small concrete ponds.
“We learned that it’s best to have animals and plants on a farm to complete the cycle – animal manure to fertilize the soil and the plants are fed to some of our chickens. We also farm microbes to enrich the soil and overall health of our farm, including the farmers, through fermentation,” Blancaflor said.
They also utilize solar energy by installing solar water pumps and solar panels for backup power sources.
“In an integrated farm, or perhaps in our own system, there is no such thing as waste. Even the wastes can be useful and, oftentimes, can be another source of income. Some chicken manure is sold to farmers to fertilize their own farm lands,” the yoga teacher and wellness Blancaflor said.
She added that it takes time to learn and find the best system that can work for a team.
“We learned that complacency breeds failure, so we keep innovating and refining our systems based on what we learn,” she said.
Getting involved in natural farming
Blancaflor said that their province of Polonuling, Tupi, South Cotabato is home to many fruit and poultry farmers. She admitted, however, that she and her partner Mau had no prior background in farming.
“I worked as an offshore operations manager for five years and Mau was an in-demand traveling mechanical engineer working with different multinational companies,” Blancaflor said.
Still, their lack of initial knowledge didn’t stop them from slowly learning the ropes through interacting with the other farmers and attending seminars on natural farming.
“Everything we know now in farming comes from research, experience, and our training and mentorship with Mr. Andry Lim and Mrs. Jojie Gamboa who practice natural farming systems, and Mr. Youngsang Cho, who established the JADAM farming system,” Blancaflor said.
JADAM is actually a group of organic farmers established by chemist and horticulturist Youngsang Cho who came with a set of easy, low-cost farming principles.
“Conventional farming taught us that bacteria are bad. In natural farming, we are taught that there is a symbiotic relationship to all beings. Microbes are a helping hand, not a pest,” Blancaflor said.
Moreover, the co-owner of Aianah’s Little by Little Integrated Farm added that these technologies use what’s naturally found in the environment like microbes, lactic acid, and many more through fermentation.
An example of a JADAM technique is the use of a herbal solution that can become a potent but chemical-free pesticide. It simply makes use of the pest repellent properties already present in various plants by putting them together in one concoction that could be stored for a period of time.
(Read more about JADAM here: https://agriculture.com.ph/2020/05/01/jadam-a-simple-low-cost-approach-to-farming/)
Since they practice natural farming and JADAM principles, Blancaflor and Lopez happily offer training of the farming techniques on their farm.
“Don’t be afraid to spend on learning or getting coaching and mentorship. We have built a network of veteran farmers and we are learning so much from them, not only the skills, but also in honing our character as a farmer,” Blancaflor said.
For more information, visit Aianah’s Little by Little Farm on Facebook.
This article appeared in Agriculture Magazine’s September to October 2021 issue.