Two agriculturists thrive during the pandemic by growing ornamental and food crops at home

Ma’am Dory devoted a small area of her farm to growing succulents.

By: Rinzo D. Valdevieso

The world is facing an extreme challenge brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Food security has been compromised and the stability of the world’s economy has been threatened.

While the agenda of COVID-19 is still at a sizzling point over matters being discussed on the table of our political leaders, there has also been much attention brought to the promotion and practice of agriculture, particularly growing food in one’s own space.

And that exactly is what these two women are doing outside of their professional expertise in sugarcane research.

Ma’am Dory’s backyard garden

Dr. Dorotea A. Delos Santos, 67, Ma’am Dory to her Sugar Regulatory Administration family, obtained both her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Agriculture at the University of the Philippines – Los Baños specializing in Crop Production and Management. For almost four years since 2007, she served as Manager III at the Regulation Department. Later, her career shifted to the Research Development and Extension Department at SRA-LGAREC where she also served as Manager III until 2011 when she retired.

Ma’am Dory proudly posing with a bunch of radish freshly harvested from her farm.

For Ma’am Dory, retirement didn’t mean moving away from agriculture. In fact, one can say that she grew even closer to the land. She engaged in backyard farming at full blast last 2017, concentrating on  succulent production. At the beginning of 2019, she diversified her backyard farming, planting crops such as squash, eggplant, sitaw, patola, upo, winged bean, sugar peas, papaya blue ternate and pineapple in a roughly estimated 300 square meter area.

Household food wastes were decomposed and used as fertilizer so that nothing would be wasted, only recycled. What’s interesting in the kind of practice Ma’am Dory promotes is that she wasn’t thinking of making a profit when she started, so it came as a surprise to her when she started making money.

Ma’am dory checks on some of her succulents.

In fact, in 2019, due to abundance, she sold 30 pieces of squash (harvested from only two seedlings) measuring 3-5 kg each at Php10.00 per kilo. She just wanted to give them away, but customers insisted that her crops must be sold, not given.

Ma’am Dory believes that once someone is an agriculturist, they will always be an agriculturist. She is certain that if people were able to maximize their resources, they can produce their own food without depending on the availability of the market, which at this moment is at risk because of the COVID-19 crisis. She says that time is wasted if land is idle for a very long time when you can use your capacity to produce your own food instead. She feels young and stress-free at 67.

Ma’am Nenen’s backyard farm

Another woman worthy of imitation is Teresita B. Banas, or Ma’am Nenen, a Senior Science Research Specialist and Nematologist working as an OIC of the Production Technology and Crop Management Section at SRA-La Granja Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Brgy. La Granja, La Carlota City, Negros Occidental.

Ma’am Nenen’s hobby of tending to ornamental plants at home has also become a source of income. (Photo courtesy of Mrs. Dee Arr Paglumotan)

Ma’am Nenen, 67, graduated with her Master’s Degree in Nematology in Gent University, Belgium. After finishing her degree abroad, she happened to visit the Keukenhof Garden in The Netherlands where she witnessed the plate-like anthurium plants beautifully thriving in European soil. In 1998-2000, she gradually started to collect ornamentals, with anthuriums, bromeliads, and succulents as her core produce. In 2018, after joining relevant social media groups, she began to see her passion grow, eventually becoming profitable.

She was able to deliver her ornamentals across Negros Island at low and friendly prices. This year, she is starting to diversify her backyard farm composed of a third of her 700 sq.m. lot by planting crops such as upland kangkong, ampalaya, eggplant, pidada (Sonneratia caseolaris (L.) Engl.), siling labuyo, lemongrass, sibuyas-dahon, papaya, sunflower and bonsai bougainvillea.

Kitchen wastes such as vegetable and fruit peelings are decomposed and used as fertilizer. She also utilized cement sacks as containers for her soil medium. All of these practices are for her own satisfaction and to inspire other people sharing her passion.

Ma’am Nenen tending to the small plot where she grows fruits and vegetables for her family. (Photo courtesy of Mrs. Dee Arr Paglumotan)

Ma’am Nenen believes that this is the perfect time to be industrious in planting your own food so that you are reassured that what you eat is safe not only for yourself, but for the rest of your family as well.

Most people today engage in farming at diversity in order to generate income and to satisfy their basic needs on a daily basis, but these two women show that farming doesn’t have to refer to just crops or livestock, but to ornamental plants as well.

These women show us that, at a crucial point of our lives where self-isolation for the good of the public is important, productiveness in what we do should never be an option – it should always be an absolute must.

Photos by Rinzo Valdevieso unless indicated

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January to February 2021 issue. 

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