Farm school in Isabela prospers with the help of integrated farming systems

The farm school offers four TESDA programs. It is an ATI-certified learning site located in Purok 2, Marasat Grande, San Mateo, Isabela.

By Vina Medenilla

In the province of Isabela, you’ll find a farm that is more than just an area for food and animal production.  

In 2.8 hectares of land, RAMI’s Integrated Farm also offers training services that can accommodate hundreds of learners. The farm is an ATI-certified learning site for agriculture (LSA) and is an accredited institution by TESDA.

A one-hectare rice field serves as a demonstration area where trainees can develop their technical skills in rice production. At the farm’s center, there are four training halls, a farm office, plus a Farmers Information and Technology Services (FITS) kiosk.

The remaining land is planted with fruit trees and inhabited by farm animals. Fruit trees are strategically planted around the farm school and in the dikes of the rice field.

1000 sqm space is devoted to chicken raising, another 500 sqm is for chicken layers, 1000 sqm houses 50 heads of pigs, and half a hectare pasture is for small ruminants like goats. Their 2000 sqm solar-powered fish pond is stocked with tilapia.

Sustenance of the family 

RAMI’s Farm was established as a backyard endeavor in the 90s. It was named after husband and wife Raffy and Mila, who are the farm owners. 

Both were government employees who became farmers. It was in 1982 when the two started a semi-commercial piggery. Two years later, they became certified rice seed growers. 

Owing to agriculture, the couple was able to send their children to good universities. 

The farm has been the bread and butter of the founding family ever since. Now, their son PJ Guillermo, 30, has been taking charge of farm operations. 

Rufino Ruffy Guillermo (leftmost) and his son PJ Guillermo (rightmost) with the farm trainees.

Guillermo said, “As a child, we were trained to become farmer-entrepreneurs. Our parents taught us how to raise chickens, harvest kamote and munggo, and other farm activities that provided us with an additional allowance while schooling.”

After taking leave from his day job as a certified public accountant, he attended training sessions on crop production, processing, and entrepreneurship to acquire knowledge in these aspects. Seeing the potential of agriculture, he decided to continue managing the family farm amid the pandemic. 

“Since my parents are getting older now, my vision to turn our farm into larger and commercial scale has catalyzed during the pandemic. As a social entrepreneur, I also fully understand the need for the young generation to be more engaged in agriculture in order to solve the problem of the aging farmers and food insecurity,” he added.

Integration of farm elements and modern farming techniques

The Guillermo family ensures that the farm’s components benefit from each other. For instance, vegetable trimmings are used to nourish the livestock. Animal waste is processed and used as crop fertilizer. This practice allows them to maximize all their resources and by-products, thereby reducing their production costs.

Although the farm uses diversified systems, two crops they predominantly grow, based on volume and area of production, are high-quality inbred rice seeds like NSIC Rc 222 and the 400 and 500 series varieties. 

Intercropping of two or more crops is a common practice at RAMI’s farm. In their banana plantation where cardava, lakatan, latundan, and señorita varieties are cultivated, they grow mung beans, too. Under the coconut trees, there are coffee shrubs. 

Free-range chickens and goats roam around the fruit trees as well.

A solar-powered irrigation system is installed to ensure the availability of water for the fishpond, vegetable garden, rice field, and domestic use all year-round. This allows the farm to cultivate off-season vegetables. In addition to this, the farm uses water-saving technology for the rice field.

A half-hectare fishpond for tilapia and hito production.

Observation wells, a technology that is used to monitor groundwater, are also positioned in the rice field for alternate-wetting and drying (AWD).  This management technique is practiced for the efficiency of irrigation water without having to decrease yield. 

RAMI’s farm consults with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) for the rainfall forecast that is essential for crop programming. 

Animal production 

The farm rears Dekalb White and Dekalb Brown for egg production, as well as Rhode Island Red and native chickens for meat and egg production.

This Isabela farm houses four chicken breeds, which include Dekalb White and Dekalb Brown, Rhode Island Red, and upgraded native chicken.

It also houses hogs, particularly large black, large white, and native pigs.

It formulates low-cost feed for the swine while ensuring that their nutrition isn’t compromised. “The average daily gain is almost comparable to pure commercial feed,” Guillermo said. 

Madre de agua, madre de cacao, and other forage crops are fed to free-range chickens. But for layers, commercial feeds are given. Duckweeds are for the tilapia.

Where does produce go? 

At the moment, the vegetables are mostly grown for the consumption of the founding family, farmhands, and farm school students. 

But eggs, tilapia, and pork are usually put up for sale. In cases of overproduction, tilapia is processed into tapa, and the same is true for the pork, which they process into longganisa and tapa. 

Among the farm elements, the most profitable is rice seed production, followed by swine, then chicken eggs, and fourth is tilapia. 

On top of the products, RAMI’s farm offers training services on agricultural courses like production of high-quality inbred rice, organic agriculture production NC II, and Rice Machinery Operations NCII. Pick and pay activities can also be availed of for select crops and produce. 

“It also helps that we’ve diversified our operation into a farm school in 2019 to help thousands of farmers to improve their practices and technologies through capability building and extension programs,” Guillermo added. 

At this point, the family is expanding their farm operations in Echague, Isabela, where they are developing a 20-hectare sugarcane plantation, five-hectare banana plantation, and eight hectares for rice seed production. 

Thanks to modern technology and the family’s joint hard work, the small backyard piggery grew into a farm school, an area for food production, a livestock farm, and soon, into an agritourism site. 

Photos courtesy of RAMI’s Integrated Farm School.

For more information, visit RAMI’s Integrated Farm School.

This article appeared in Agriculture Magazine’s November 2022 issue.

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Vina Medenilla
Vina Medenilla is a content producer for Agriculture Monthly magazine. She is a graduate from Miriam College with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. Fashion, photography, and travel are some of the things she loves. For her, connection with nature is essential to one’s life.

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