By Vina Medenilla
Shawnie Dhale B. Bitso, proprietor of Sanagi Agri Tourism Farm, belongs to a family of mushroom growers and sellers. As a result of his upbringing, Bitso has grown to love and appreciate mushrooms as well.
He further developed a liking for agripreneurship after visiting numerous Learning Sites for Agriculture (LSA). These are farms that have been accredited by the Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) to teach farming skills to small farm owners and employees.
Going all out in mushroom farming
Inspired, Bitso left his position as an account manager in a credit cooperative to try his hand at mushroom production in 2019.
“I started selling my parents’ mushroom growing kits on Facebook Marketplace,” said Bitso. His business had its breakthrough when a customer from Mankayan, Benguet ordered 1,000 pieces of mushroom growing kits.
This experience solidified his decision to go full-time in this endeavor.
Despite the lack of funds at that time, his parents backed him in continuing the venture, which eventually grew and evolved into a productive farm called Sanagi Agri Tourism Farm.
Otherwise called Oyster Mushroom Sanagi Farm, Bitso’s farm is located in 523, Begis, Barangay Poblacion, Tuba, Benguet.
Within a year of operation, the farm successfully received its certification as an Agricultural Training Institute (ATI)’s LSA.
Going to seminars and training offered by public and private institutions allows Bitso to broaden his horizons and network in agriculture.
As of the interview, he mainly grows oyster mushrooms, particularly pink, yellow, brown, white, black, king, and gray varieties. He also produces Baguio and S10 Shiitake mushrooms.
When growing mushrooms, Bitso recommends keeping them natural and not resorting to pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
It takes one and a half months to grow mushrooms. Once they mature, the growing bags consistently produce mushrooms for six months. They need to be replaced with new spawn after that.
The mushroom farmer mists his growing bags twice a day and collects mushrooms daily to prevent spoilage. For every 1000 pieces of mushroom grow kits, he can harvest up to 350 kilos of mushrooms per cycle.
The most challenging part of mushroom production, according to Bitso, is meeting the high market demand coupled with the low availability of raw materials in their area. To manage this, their family accepts pre-orders in order to deliver outstanding service to their new and returning customers.
Other than mushrooms
Coffee, ornamentals, and rabbits also thrive on the farm.
They have pet rabbits like Lionheads as well as rabbits that are raised for their meat, such as Californian, New Zealand, and Palomino breeds.
The rabbits produce five to 11 kits every two months, said Bitso. He also mentioned that not all rabbits provide good meat, which makes certain breeds more suitable as pets.
“We feed them with forage crops like napier grass, sunflower, joyweed, banana leaves, madre de agua, and others that are found here in the mountains of Cordillera. We feed them every morning and afternoon.”
The Bitso family works together in running the farm. Bitso isn’t the only young farmer in Sanagi Agri Tourism Farm; he’s also joined by his two sisters and three cousins who are all from the youth sector.
They sell grow kits, fresh oyster mushrooms, live rabbits, and value-added products like mushroom breadsticks. Seminars are also offered for P2,500 per person.
Looking forward, the young agripreneur aims to invite more youth into agriculture and expand the farm for tourism.
Photos courtesy of Shawnie Dhale B. Bitso
For more information, visit Sanagi Agri Tourism Farm