By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
One value that Filipinos are known for is having close family ties that come from having extended family structures. Whether it’s spending time together or venturing into new experiences, family always comes to mind.
Sisters Jercyl and Fiona Uy consider farming as a family affair since they work together with their parents in managing their farm known as Batangas Sunset Farm in the town of Lian, Batangas.
“Together, we work with our parents for Batangas Sunset Farm. Jercyl is assigned the marketing, web and business development tasks while Fiona is in charge of the purchasing, branding, and design work,” the sisters explained.
Due to their digital skills and familiarity with online platforms, the sisters thought that their knowledge can contribute to the front end of their farm’s effort in bringing its produce directly to consumers to help provide food security especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Batangas Sunset Integrated Farm (BSF) is a mango and vegetable farm that also serves as a goat sanctuary.
“We originally wanted to name it ‘Ananda’ which is Sanskrit for ‘happiness’ as it is our refuge from the city. But since our bahay kubo is situated at the highest point of the property, we get to revel in a gorgeous sunset everyday. We decided that the chosen name was more apt for the spectacular view,” the sisters said.
The history behind the farm
It was around February 2019 when the family acquired the farm. By then, the area already had fruit-bearing mango trees of the Philippine carabao and Pico variety.
The Pico variety is more slender, tender, richer, and sweeter but lacks the distinct aroma of the Philippine carabao mango.
One reason why the family decided to go into farming is because they are working towards following a plant-based diet. As their vegetable consumption increased, they thought of growing their own food since it’s more practical and sustainable.
In addition, they also want to create a safe haven for animals on their farm.
“Our family is strongly against animal cruelty–our dad being the biggest advocate. He often rescues stray cats and dogs who were supposed to be the original inhabitants of the farm. In the end, the pets stayed in the city because our father preferred to put goats in since they serve as natural mowers on our mango farm. There, they can freely roam the area and eat as much grass as they want,” Jercyl and Fiona said.
Prior to BSF, the family patriarch worked and lived for a while in Batangas City as a consultant in designing caging systems for livestock. While doing so, he liked the farm lifestyle and learned a few things about operating a farm.
At BSF, the Uy sisters shared that their father is in charge of the farm operations. Jercyl and Fiona would visit the farm weekly to keep track of progress, align with the staff, and plan their next steps.
“One of our favorite activities on the farm is putting seeds in seed trays for germination,” they said.
By working hand-in-hand with their father and the staff on the farm, Jercyl and Fiona not only assist in promoting the farm to the already competitive market, but they also get to help out with the tasks on the farm while immersing themselves in the farm life that they came to love.
Mangoes, vegetables, and goats
When the family acquired the farm in February 2019, there were mango trees of the Philippine carabao and Pico variety already growing in the area.
“Aside from mango trees, we also grow lowland vegetables such as chili, okra, sitaw, eggplant, patola, tomato, and cucumber,” the Uy sisters said.
The sisters added that they are also starting to plant corn that they can feed to their goats and they are also planning to start growing papayas soon.
Meanwhile, the farm is presently harvesting around 150 kilos of lowland vegetables every week which they sell at prices that are 30 to 40 percent lower than those in the market. Their goal is to triple the yield in the next quarter as they maximize the space available for tillage.
When it comes to maintaining their crops, the sisters said that they try to steer clear from using a lot of chemical fertilizers and insecticides on the farm. They also use goat manure to enrich the soil before they transplant the seedlings onto prepared plots.
“Our main goal is to make the soil healthier for our vegetables and plants. The weeds and unwanted growth are fed to our goats,” Jercyl and Fiona said.
Their goats are a mix of the Anglo-Nubian variety and some native ones. Since the family patriarch is an advocate of animal welfare, the goats in BSF have their own sanitary bamboo house and are fed by the staff regularly throughout the day.
“We do not actually earn any income from our goats as of the moment. They are with us for humanitarian reasons. By having them, we remind ourselves to be compassionate towards other sentient living beings. Besides, they give us tremendous joy with their funny antics,” the sisters said.
Apart from the crops that grow on the farm, BSF makes an income from by-products made from its chili harvest. This includes chili flakes, chili sauces, and chili garlic crunch.
The sisters added that they also sell plant-themed eco-friendly items like tote bags, aprons, and harvest bags.
Learning how to manage the farm with the help of others
Prior to BSF, the sisters had little experience in farming which they made up for by researching and accessing any available material on farming knowledge.
“We did experiment with several crops last year to develop the skills needed in order to prepare in growing more crops on a commercial scale. We [also] get tips from our friendly farmer neighbors, friends, experienced staff, and from our grandfather who grew up with exposure from their own farm in Nueva Vizcaya,” the sisters said.
Aside from this, they also completed online courses from the Agricultural Training Institute and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
But when it comes to running the farm, the sisters need not worry since their father created a planting and harvest schedule to ensure that the land is properly utilized.
There’s a daily work schedule for the staff and their main activities include feeding and checking on the goats health condition, watering and pruning the crops, as well as checking the crops’ status like its growth, pests and weed control, and preparation of compost.
“We salute the hard work of our staff and the support we’re getting from our neighbors especially during the lockdown. In the near future, we hope to integrate modern farming practices to improve monitoring and efficiency,” said Jercyl and Fiona Uy.
For more information, visit Batangas Sunset Farm on Facebook.
This article appeared in Agriculture Magazine’s May to June 2021 issue.