By Henrylito D. Tacio
Randy “DJRanz” Albores of Bansalan, Davao del Sur was destined to become a priest. In fact, he studied at St. Francis Xavier College Seminary in Davao City, where he finished Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Philosophy (cum laude).
He then voluntarily took his regency to reflect outside the seminary. He was employed by the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) in 1998. After years of reflection, he decided not to pursue his theological studies.
Fate intervened when he was smitten by the beauty of Cherish F. Dawa. He pursued her relentlessly and they tied the knot on May 6, 2000. The couple was blessed with three children: Jessie Ranz (now deceased), Francis Ranz, and Maria Cherish.
With a family to support, he continued working with the CDA. After 15 years of service, he decided to file for early retirement. His work with the CDA paved the way for his current involvement in cooperatives. He is the chairperson of Bansalan Coop, now a billion-peso multipurpose cooperative. He is also chairman of the Provincial Cooperative Union of Davao del Sur.
He also works as a media practitioner— he is the news reporter, disc jockey, and manager of his own radio station at home—social media influencer, and entrepreneur.
In his spare time, he is a farmer, although he is planning to become a full-time farmer once he retires from his present job. But it was not his intention to become a farmer, although he grew up on the farm.
His parents, Julian and Myrna Albores, were farmers; both headed the municipal agriculture department of Bansalan. Julian inherited a five-hectare farm from his father who then divided the farm between his three children: DJRanz, Bimbo, and Aries.
Being the eldest, DJRanz was given two hectares as his inheritance. He learned farming from his grandparents and his parents, who are also both agriculturists. He learned the agribusiness side of farming by attending the Mentor Me Program Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) of the Department of Agriculture and Go Negosyo of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship.
He started farming in 2019 as an additional source of income. Albores Farm and Shrine was originally planted to coconut and since they were old trees, he replaced them with dwarf varieties. He also planted several other crops: banana, dragon fruits, durian, mangosteen, and cacao.
He says he planted dragon fruits just for fun and for content on his vlog. “Actually, I planted dragon fruits just for eating,” he says. “But once the 100 posts of dragon fruits are in full-blast, it can be a good source of income, too.”
The ATI declared him a Magsasakang Siyentista in 2021 for his involvement in the production of herbal medicine. The farm itself was awarded as a learning site for agriculture. “We have trained several farmers who come to our place,” he says.
While most of the farmers in the vicinity plant rice, DJRanz decided to focus on vermicomposting, the processing of organic wastes through earthworms. Making vermicast or worm casting, aka worm waste, is a natural, odorless, aerobic process that is different from traditional composting.
In the beginning, he planted some of the vacant areas to leguminous shrubs (madre de agua, rensonii, and flemingia) and napier grass. Most of the napier grass, however, were planted under the coconut, cacao, and fruit trees.
DJRanz bought seeds of the leguminous shrubs from the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) in barangay Kinuskusan and napier grass from St. Benedict’s Monastery in Digos City. Both institutions raise dairy goats and cattle, respectively.
He uses the leguminous shrubs and napier grass as feed for his earthworms, particularly his African night crawlers (Eudrilus eugeniae). He got his starting stock from the Lao Integrated Farm in barangay Eman and from MBRLC and a supplier from Bukidnon.
He says African night crawlers are very desirable for vermicomposting. They produce absolutely huge castings. They gobble up decaying matter. Some estimate they can eat nearly 1.5 times their body weight each day.
“I was invited by my father, who was then a municipal councilor, in 2016 to be his driver during a Lakbay Aral in Matalam, Cotabato,” he said, recalling how he became interested in vermicomposting. “I analyzed the cash flow of the owner, then I realized that there is business in it. I started venturing in my backyard, then made large-scale production in my farm.”
Vermicast—an organic soil conditioner and a 100% natural fertilizer—is now the main source of income from his farm. About three tons of vermicast are produced each month. He sells them at P10 per kilogram or P100 per bag (at 10 kilograms). The vermicast was one of bestselling items from his farm during the pandemic as people were planting ornamentals in their homeyards.
Aside from the business side, the other reason he concentrated on vermicomposting is “to promote organic and natural farming.” It is his way of supporting the government’s program on organic farming.
DJRanz thinks vermicast is the answer to the problem of high cost of chemical fertilizers. “The release of nutrients from vermicast may not be fast, but in the long run, we are helping improve the condition of our soils,” he said.
Organic farming is considered the future of Philippine agriculture. The Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 defines organic farming as those “agricultural systems that promote the ecologically sound, socially acceptable, economically viable and technically feasible production of food and fibers.”
To help produce more vermicast, he raises goats and cattle in his farm. The manure of both livestock hasten the decomposition of the compost aside from adding nutrients to the vermicast.
But DJRanz never thought of raising goats though. His father bought 15 heads from a local supplier in 2020. Two years later, however, he entrusted the management of the goats to him. Last year, he became one of the beneficiaries of the goat dispersal program of MBRLC.
“The goat was a purebred Nubian,” he says. “We have to return two kids to the MBRLC. The two goats would be given to other beneficiaries.” That’s the multiplier-effect of the program.
Right now, there are 18 goats on the farm. “The original plan was to raise goats for milk. But we found it laborious and took so much time. So, we now sell breeding stock. Others were slaughtered during special occasions.”
In 2022, he added three cattle. Another five cattle are coming; they are part of the program of the National Dairy Authority. “The manure of these cattle will really help me in our vermicasting project,” he says.
DJRanz says that in the future, he wants the Albores Farm and Shrine to be known as a supplier of vermicast in the municipality. In addition, he wants to go into cattle production.
He currently has two farm workers who receive a salary every month. “I can count on them,” he says. “They are efficient and they understand the systems I have told them to do.”
Although DJRanz is very busy with his current jobs, he visits the farm regularly. “I go there almost every day: to work a little and to pray,” he says. “I enjoy the silence of the surroundings and the fresh air.”
If you have the opportunity of visiting the farm, one of the things that can catch your attention is the small replica of the Cebu shrine (yes, that’s where the shrine of the name of the farm comes from). “My wife and I are devotees of Señor Santo Nino de Cebu,” he explains, adding that he was an ex-seminarian. “I put it in the farm to have a place of reflection.”
Those who are interested to visit the farm, the complete address is Purok Pakikisama, Barangay Rizal, Bansalan, Davao del Sur. It is about 5 kilometers away from the town proper.
“It’s not enough to work hard,” he concludes. “We also have to work smart.”
Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
What is your reaction?