By JAMES TABABA
Rodolfo “Jun” Adarlo Jr., a retired mechanical engineer and OFW, thought that he should still live an active lifestyle even after retirement. So, in 2018, he established a farm in Ilat South San Pascual Batangas to keep him moving, provide a sustainable food source, be an avenue of simple income generation, and create employment. He is now the owner and manager of Lerm’s AgriFarm.
Adarlo worked in Thailand as a commercial manager. He observed that vegetables are cheaper there even though Thailand and the Philippines have the same climate. Challenged and inspired by the food sustainability of Thailand, he decided to acquire a parcel of land in Batangas and practice farming after his retirement.
Adarlo attended several farming seminars. He also joined the Batangas Organic Farmer Association, where he learned about different farming systems such as integrated farming, organic farming, and livestock raising. He later received a NC II certification in organic farming from TESDA.
Adarlo practices natural farming. He does not use pesticides and chemicals because his products target health-conscious individuals. Adarlo also makes his own fertilizer. According to him, making their own fertilizer is important—especially since the price of fertilizer has gone up so high in the previous years—to sustain his production of vegetables.
Part of the farm is dedicated to vegetable production—lettuce, cucumber, tomato, yard-long beans, bitter gourd, pechay, and mustasa. They are sold per kilo or sometimes packed in containers as a salad with dressing. The vegetables are often bought by his friend and some small traders.
The rest of the farm is for fruit-bearing plants. With his 200 trees of cacao, Adarlo plans to venture into cacao processing to produce tablea and other chocolate products. He is now preparing to plant more trees and build a facility for drying and grinding cocoa beans. This is in line with the local government’s One Town One Product program and for Batangas to be a cacao hub of south Luzon.
They also tried growing mushrooms, but because of the pandemic, they were forced to halt production due to the limited sources of materials and labor force.
Adarlo practices raised bed gardening, where the plants are planted in a raised bed to manage the soil easily. Net shades are placed above the raised beds to protect the plants from the damage caused by heavy rain and the intense heat of the sun.
He uses worms to create compost and recycle the organic waste from the farm. He also makes different organic concoctions such as fermented fruit juice and fish amino acids as fertilizer supplements.
Pests are controlled by using organic-based pesticides. Insect-repelling crops like oregano and lemongrass are also planted around the farm to ward off insect pests and keep them from damaging the fruits and vegetables.
According to Adarlo, pesticide-free and naturally grown fruits and vegetables should be sold at a bit higher price than regularly grown produce since all inputs are all natural and harder to grow. However, sometimes they cannot compete with the bargain prices of conventionally grown crops.
Adarlo plans Lerm’s AgriFarm to be accredited as an organic farm. However, with the local government, he is still looking for an affordable, alternative accrediting organization.
Helping the community and environment
As soon as Adarlo started establishing his farm, he formed a barangay farming association to encourage an active farming community in their barangay. He also shares his knowledge by being a resource person for mushroom production and organic farming.
In 2019, Adarlo was awarded as one of the outstanding organic farmers of Batangas by the Department of Agriculture. “It [the award] inspired me to disseminate the idea of natural farming to preserve the soil and not to kill friendly organisms because some chemicals kill friendly organisms on our soil,” he said. He added that killing all organisms in the soil will make the soil unfavorable for natural plant growth.
Before the pandemic, a lot of students from Batangas State Universities would visit to the farm to seek help with their research topic and thesis. Adarlo gladly helped them by giving them ideas on how they will apply their field of study in agriculture and environmental conservation.
Adarlo wants to increase his production to create more employment for the local community. He hopes that his farm can be an agri eco-tourism for the tourist to enjoy the farm life.
He supports the reuse, reduce, recycle movement. To reduce waste, Adarlo uses used household materials for storage and seedling trays and recycles agricultural waste by composting.
Farming is an enjoyable activity
After working 18 years in Thailand, Adarlo does not want to go back to being an employee. “This time, I am happy dealing with my own small hobby where I can decide what to do and apply what I learned from my experience in other countries,” he said.
“Farming is fun and promotes healthy living but it needs patience, perseverance, and dedication. When you grow a seed, you cannot short-cut its growth. It should go through the natural way of growing and germination. If you are not patient, you will be frustrated if you set the expectation against nature’s way.”
For people who want to engage in any business, especially for those retiring, Adarlo said, “There should be passion and is willing to gain new ideas related to the business. You must be hands-on. Financial literacy, costing, and budgeting are very important because, as a retiree, our income is limited, so we have to maximize our effort not to cash out so much.” He also suggests taking seminars and training to gain more information on top of their existing knowledge.
Photo courtesy of Lerm’s AgriFarm