By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Philippine agriculture has had its highs and lows over the years. Some examples of its low points include oversupply in farmers’ crops, and land grabbing. Meanwhile, it has also seen some success through the rise of farm tourism destinations, the establishment of farm to market roads, and programs aimed to help out the Filipino farmer.
With this in mind, a couple named Jeffrey Manalo and Micah Aniceto-Manalo opted to start their own farm in January of 2018 with hopes of improving Philippine agriculture to foster national food security.
“[Our] primary purpose is to improve the lives of our farmers and to promote agritourism through raising livestock, growing high value crops and fruit trees, as well as involving the community in farming,” said Jeffrey Manalo, the farm owner of La Granja de Ceres.
Prior to the farm’s establishment, the couple worked as software engineers in Singapore for almost eight years.
They named the farm La Granja de Ceres after the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain, and fertility. The farm’s name is in Spanish and directly translates to “The Farm of Ceres.” It occupies five hectares of land in Sitio Maligtong, Barangay San Jose, Tuy, Batangas.
From crops to livestock
Presently, the farm grows chilies, eggplant, okra, three varieties of corn: white, purple, and yellow, cassava, and sweet potato.
Chilies are the farm’s main produce since they manage to harvest around 15 to 20 kilos of the crop every week. They then sell it to the market for P80 per kilo.
Manalo said that a key to securing an abundant harvest is by monitoring the plants regularly. The farmer must be observant as well as able to see the problems that could happen if no action is made.
“Different crops require different ways of maintenance. One thing’s for sure: we make sure that the crops get all the nutrients it requires to produce a good harvest. Cleanliness is also vital to prevent pests from coming,” Manalo said.
Aside from their crops, La Granja de Ceres also raises livestock and poultry such as goats, cattle, chickens, and quails. Among these, the quails are the most profitable.
“We have quail eggs that are harvested everyday since our birds produce around 1,500 eggs daily,” Manalo said.
The quails that they raise are a cross breed of Seattle and Taiwan breeds since these are known for their high resistance to diseases and good egg laying efficiency.
In raising quails, Manalo shared that there are four things to keep in mind. These are to provide the birds with proper shelter, an appropriate amount of food and water, maintain their environment’s cleanliness, and lessen their stress which could come from noise pollution or even from the presence of humans and other animals.
Learning the ropes as they go
Although the couple admitted that they’re still fairly new to the trade, they are determined to see their farming goal come into fruition which is why they heeded advice from trusted and available sources.
“My mom and dad were farmers. I had to seek advice from my parents about farming and I also follow the practices of nearby farmers because they had the actual farming experience,” Manalo said.
He added that he even joined a farmers’ association to broaden their network and contribute to their farming knowledge. And of course, like most people nowadays, he and his wife took advantage of the internet by browsing through materials that could help them with farming.
La Granja de Ceres is still into conventional farming at the moment. However, the couple has begun to slowly transition into integrated and natural farming.
Some examples of the practice that they implement are the use of goat manure as a fertilizer, using vermicompost, and utilizing chemical-free techniques in driving away pests.
“We are looking forward to our farm to implement full natural farming techniques. We are still young and not well known. This is the area that we are still working on but with our continuous improvement in our products quality, I believe we will get there soon,” Manalo said.
After all, Manalo believes that a true farmer is patient, optimistic, and a good student who is ready to learn from the lessons that the farm experience will offer.
For more information, visit La Granja de Ceres on Facebook.