By JAMES TABABA
At 54 years old, Amelia Rosales has dedicated her life to farming. She began in 1986, at the age of 18, following her parents’ footsteps. With limited education, she viewed farming as both her livelihood and a form of business, successfully supporting her family of nine.
Rosales and her husband cultivated various vegetables on three hectares of land in Mamala, Sariaya, Quezon, passed down from her parents. In 1972, they were taught how to grow cabbage, expanding their crops to include sweet potatoes, carrots, radishes, and more. They originally sold their produce to traders or middlemen but have since transitioned to a central market and institutional buyers through their association.
As the president of their association since 2010, Rosales has attended numerous seminars and trainings, building connections and resources for her community. With a business mindset, she ensures that her clients’ needs are met, whether for herbs or other produce.
As their sole source of income, farming has allowed Rosales and her husband to support and educate their seven children. She is proud that their success in farming demonstrates its potential as a viable business.
Challenges in farming
Rosales faces challenges when they suffer financial losses, such as when their crops are affected by storms or extreme heat. During these times, they struggle to make a profit and find it difficult to source the capital needed for the next farming season. Fortunately, they now have the government’s support through the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist and the Regional Office. The Department of Agriculture is also consistently partnering with them. It has been a significant advantage for them to be part of an association, as the government’s assistance is directed to these organizations rather than individuals.
When it comes to natural disasters, Rosales acknowledges that they can’t do much about them. As farmers, they don’t stop working even during storms. They wait for the storm’s intensity to pass and then fix their fields. If their crops are completely destroyed, they immediately plant new ones to ensure they don’t end up empty-handed during the harvest season.
Despite the hardships that come with farming, Rosales remains steadfast in her determination to provide for her family. “Walang ‘di kakayanin basta nakikita ko mga anak ko (There’s nothing I can’t endure as long as I see my children),” she shared. “At nilagay ko sa isip ko na, ang dami kong anak, kailangan ko silang mapagtapos. Kailangan ko silang suportahan bilang magulang (And I made it a point to remember that I have many children, and I need to ensure that they finish their education. As a parent, I need to support them).” Her unwavering commitment to her family and her farm is a testament to her strength and resilience as a farmer.
The importance of farm associations
Rosales is the president of the Samahan ng Magtatanim ng Gulay ng Mamala Uno, established in 2010. As a member of an association, they can access resources unavailable to individual farmers. The association plays a crucial role in connecting farmers to institutional buyers, who provide a more stable income compared to relying solely on the local market. Rosales has secured a strong partnership with her institutional buyer, the association is supplying over 5 tons of cabbage per week, alongside other produce like sweet potatoes, carrots, dill, and basil. She explained that the difference between having an institutional buyer and not having one is the level of certainty in earnings. With an institutional buyer, farmers can more easily calculate their income. Aside from the support they receive, they also get to meet various people who can be beneficial to their endeavors.
Farming as a business
Treating farming as a business is essential because “kung ang ilalagay mo lang sa isip ay basta pagsasaka lang, parang walang paroroonan (If you only think of farming as just farming, it might feel like there is no future in it)”.
According to her, proper financial management and data analysis help farmers understand their profitability and adjust their strategies as needed. She emphasizes the importance of recording daily farm activities, with her happiest farming experience being a high-priced radish harvest that brought joy to her family.
Rosales cultivates various crops simultaneously, providing a safety net if one crop fails. This strategy has allowed her to support her children’s education, proving that farming can indeed be lucrative.
Rosales advises farmers not to rely on a single crop but to cultivate a variety of crops to secure alternative income sources. They plant various crops simultaneously, such as cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots, radishes, and bok choy. This means that they don’t just plant one type of crop, but instead diversity in farming. If they don’t profit from radishes, for example, they can still make up for it with sweet potatoes and cabbage. If their cabbage crops aren’t successful due to a storm, they still have sweet potatoes planted. This means that they never end up with nothing.
Open to new ideas and techniques, Rosales is constantly experimenting to optimize her farming practices. She employs Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), avoiding excessive pesticide use. Her unique marketing technique involves sending text messages to friends and acquaintances, offering her produce at friendly prices.
She emphasized the need to treat farming as a business, as it ensures a sense of direction and proper financial management. Rosales highlighted the importance of collecting and analyzing data to understand whether the farming strategies are profitable. If not, farmers should adjust their strategies accordingly, just as she has done with her herb crops.
Rosales dreams of a time when her money will work for her. As an entrepreneurial farmer, she now has employees working for her. Although she still provides guidance and support, she appreciates their help.
She is known for being generous with their wages, sharing profits when they have a good harvest. She believes in being kind, as the returns will be abundant. “Maging mabait ka kasi ang balik sa noon ay sisik, liglig, at umaapaw, (Be kind because it may come back overflowing with abundance)” she said.
Rosales believes that farming can be quite profitable. “Yung iba lang ay Minamata-mata lang yung mga magsasaka pero ang totoo niyan ay hindi ganoon kadali ang magsaka pero masarap din naman kapag kumita. And dami kong anak pero napatapos ko, iyon ang isang basehan na ang pasasaka ay maganda. (Some people just underestimate farmers, but the truth is that farming is not easy, although it can be rewarding when you earn from it. Despite having many children, I was able to support them all and send them to school. This is one of the reasons why I think farming is a good profession.)”, she said.
Agriculture and youth
Rosales shared that her children were initially afraid of farming and found it to be a difficult profession, so they were encouraged to pursue their education. However, as they began working, they developed an appreciation for farming and asked her not to sell their land, as they planned to return to it when they retired.
Rosales acknowledged the challenge of engaging young people in agriculture, noting that many prefer other jobs. She believes that those who are interested in farming can still pursue it even after finishing their studies.
In Rosales’ view, there is no issue with her children becoming farmers if they have completed their education, as it equips them with knowledge and an understanding of modern technology. She observed that some farmers continue to use outdated practices, while young people who have been educated can keep up with new technologies and innovations.
A proud mother and farmer
Rosales takes pride in her profession as a farmer. “Samantalang noong una, ako ay hiyang hiya dahil ako ay isang magsasaka lang, Parang ang liit-liit ng tingin ko sa sarili ko. Ngayon hindi na, proud na proud ako ngayon bilang isang magsasaka. Kasi bilang isang magsasaka, madami ang nakikinabang sa katulad naming mga magsasaka (Before, I used to feel very embarrassed because I was just a farmer. I had such a low opinion of myself. But now, I am very proud to be a farmer. As a farmer, many people benefit from us farmers.)”, she said.
She takes great pride in her profession, as farmers provide for many people. “No farmer, no food,” she says, emphasizing the importance of their role in providing food for the population.
Rosales feels deeply grateful for her current life and wants to help others. “Napakalaking utang loob na loob ko sa Diyos ang nangyari sa buhay ko ngayon, kaya tutulong ako. Yun yung isa kong paraan sa pagbabalik (pasasalamat). Yung pagtuturo sa co-farmer kung paano aasenso, kung paano gaganda ang buhay (I have a deep sense of gratitude towards God for what has happened in my life, so I want to give back. Teaching my fellow farmers how to progress and improve their lives is one way of showing my gratitude),” she said.
As a businesswoman, farmer leader, mother, and wife, Rosales balances her various roles through proper time management. She believes that to succeed, one must have the desire and determination to achieve their dreams, including saving money and ensuring funds for their children’s education.
“Kung gusto mo umasenso, nasa sa ating mga babae yun. Gustuhin mo at trabahuhin mo, talagang mararating mo. Yung pangarap, pangarapin mo (If you want to succeed, it’s up to us women. If you want it and work for it, you will definitely achieve it. Dream your dreams.),” Rosales said.
Amelia Rosales’ story showcases the potential of farming as a sustainable and profitable business, providing for her family and community while overcoming challenges with resilience and determination.
Photo courtesy of Amelia Rosales and James Tababa