After retiring from her 17-year-stint as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), Evelyn De Guzman-Breguera experienced difficulties in finding local job opportunities, especially in her home province of Pangasinan. However, spending days alongside farming communities, as well as the inspiration of her father, who is also a farmer, paved the way for her to develop an interest in farming.
Starting a new life as a farmer after being away from home for nearly two decades is not an easy thing to do, but De Guzman-Breguera did not let her lack of experience stop her from trying this new venture. She started by attending a series of training about organic farming and other agribusiness-related seminars until she finally got the full will to establish Abundance Farm in 2018. De Guzman-Breguera is currently the president and administrator of Abundance Agri-Tourism and Training Center, also known as Abundance Farm.
Developing the local community through sustainable farming
Her family’s hometown, Dasol, is a 3rd-class municipality in the province of Pangasinan. Aside from being known for salt production, many townspeople also farm different kinds of flatlands crops, such as rice. De Guzman-Breguera and her siblings developed their inherited stagnant piece of land and turned it into a family farm. “There is so much I believe I can do to empower farmers to promote sustainable farming,” she shared.
Aside from a source of income, their family also wanted the farm venture to be anchored in promoting organic farming as a sustainable livelihood. They started by planting different kinds of herbs such as basil and marketed the products in the region in 2018.
Abundance farm specialized in organic farming methods
What started out as growing herbs blossomed into rice cultivation and honey production. In 2019 Abundance Farm became an Accredited Technical Vocational Institute as Farm School, then a Certified Learning Site for Agriculture by the Department of Agricultural-Agriculture Training Institute (DA-ATI) in Ilocos Region. “We are DA’s partner in providing training skills in organic agriculture program, agriculture entrepreneurship and rice production to better enhance our farmers with the latest technology that the government supports,” De Guzman-Breguera shared.
The family’s perseverance to further develop their organic farming methods eventually qualified them to become one of the first Certified Organic Farms in the country under the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) by Bureau of the Agriculture and Fisheries Standard (BAFS).
Ensuring sustainability by empowering younger generations
When talking about sustainability in agriculture, it is not enough to just tackle farming methods or materials, it is also important to engage the next generation of farmers. Abundance Farm has already been planting seeds of interest in farming to younger generations. “We have been actively sourcing young farmers among the primary beneficiaries in our agriculture programs,” she shared.
As a Learning Site for Agriculture, Abundance Farm also engages local youth through immersions and skills training. They also connect aspiring young farmers with the DA’s youth-serving projects and activities. “Farming can be a rewarding career, it is an opportunity to become an advocate to end hunger and alleviate malnutrition as well as helping the sector adapt to climate change,” she shared.
De Guzman-Breguera believes that the government should focus on strengthening the agriculture sector and support RA 11511 (Act Amending the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010) to alleviate the concerning rise of young farmers who have lost hope in farming. “There should be more support to farmers to be sustainable, not only financially but ensuring environmental sustainability through organic agriculture,” she shared.
The family initially planned to expand into agri-tourism by 2021. However, the pandemic took a toll on their finances, leading them to put the plans on hold until 2023. Their 22 employees before the pandemic have been reduced to 12 as they continue to recover from the financial challenges.
De Guzman-Breguera shared, “To be a successful farmer, [you need] to love what you do, and practical experience is [really] important to appreciate farming deeper, of course plenty of courage and determination but a thorough grounding in the science of calling is necessary. A farmer should have a sense of business, take advantage [of] every opportunity to learn, make a habit to practice to eventually become passionate about it.”
Photos courtesy of Evelyn De Guzman-Breguera