By Henrylito D. Tacio
With the high cost of living these days, it pays not to depend only on your main job. Try to do something on the side. That is what Wilbert C. Galo, a 47-year-old aide of Ricky Inodioan, the vice mayor of Santo Tomas, Davao del Norte, does.
“Even though I have a job at the local government unit, I still farm because I know there’s money in farming, especially if you have technical know-how and the drive to do it right,” he said.
Galo became interested in farming when he was still a kid. “Actually, I grew up on a farm since my parents were rice farmers. They also planted some vegetables like string beans and eggplant. In fact, my father was named as an outstanding farmer in 1986 by the municipal office of the Department of Agriculture.”
The younger Galo was one of the beneficiaries of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). His little farm – only 3,000 square meters – was actually part of a banana plantation before. When he acquired the land, it was an abandoned area.
Galo started developing the farm in 2021. He hired some people, mostly from his family and some friends, to smoothen the area. Canals were covered. Mounds were leveled. Since it was expensive to hire a tractor, he and his helpers used only spades and forks to transform the land into a farm.
In April of the following year, he did land preparation. After doing so, he planted various crops like calamansi, table grapes, and tomatoes. He considers grapes as his “future crop” since it takes some time before they bear fruit. Another reason for planting grapes: “If in case the farm will be among those to be tapped for agritourism, I can serve grapes to my visitors.”
Right now, he plants only pechay, which is a saleable vegetable in the area. Pechay is used as one of the main ingredients in local dishes. Pundits say the leafy vegetable contains vitamins and minerals that can boost the immune system.
Economically, planting pechay improves food supply, makes people healthy, and helps people earn some money. Before he planted pechay, he made sure there’s a ready market for it. “I supply pechay to 12 stores in the public market at least two times a week,” he said.
Aside from those mentioned earlier, he has other reasons why he grows pechay. He considers it a “fast crop” as it can be harvested any time from 25 days and onward. The growing season also fits his day off from his work at the municipality.
As an intercrop, he plants radish. Once he has harvested the pechay, he waits just a little bit longer since radish has to be harvested before they reach 45 days old. “Like pechay, radish is also a fast crop,” he said.
In the past, he followed the planting calendar when it comes to vegetables that bear fruits like tomato and ampalaya. With leafy vegetables, however, he doesn’t follow the planting calendar guide.
Pechay germination is easy to do. He buys seeds from the market. He prepares the seed tray where he places the seeds and covers it with a small amount of soil. He waters it and waits about two to three days for the seedlings to come out.
While waiting for the seedlings to grow further, he prepares the land area where they would be planted. He says pechay can grow in partial shade, but they need to get direct sunlight (at least four hours) in order to grow faster and healthier. And in his farm, the pechay can have all the sunlight it needs.
He transplants the seedlings directly onto the prepared land when they are big enough and can grow well in the soil. After transplanting, he waters the crop immediately.
According to him, the application of organic fertilizer is necessary since it influences its growth and yield, especially on the leaf area and fresh weight. Every week, he fertilizers the plants with 50% organic fertilizer and 50% commercial fertilizer.
Pechay needs much water during its growing period. He waters the plants early in the morning to prevent sunscald. This is also to make the foliage dry before the night. He uses a sprinkler in watering the plants.
“I have a problem with water since I am using a hand pump because we don’t have electricity yet in our area since the farm is far from the highway,” Galo said.
In order for him to have harvests throughout the year, he tries to divide the farm into three parts: one part is newly-planted, the other part is ready for harvesting, and the remaining one part is where harvesting is being done.
Although he does most of the work, his 22-year-old daughter also helps him in doing other farming chores. “During the time her husband is off from his work, he also helps in doing other farming jobs,” he said. “All of us are working together in farming.”
His day off from his work at the municipality is every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. During other days, he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. so he could do some work at the farm. “I try to manage my time well,” he said.
Galo harvests pechay every Wednesday and Saturday. During the months when there’s plenty of rain, he could get 100 kilograms per harvest or 200 kilograms per week. During the summer months, the yield is less as he could harvest only 85 kilograms per harvest or 170 kilograms per week.
He himself does the quality control of the harvested pechay, although his daughter can also do it. Those which he considers first class, he sells them at P60 per kilogram. Second class is valued at P55 per kilogram while the third class is sold at P50 per kilogram.
As for radish, he can get 20 kilograms per harvest and he harvests twice a week also. Selling price is P40 per kilogram.
The Sundays and holidays are reserved for fertilization, growing seedlings and planting.
When asked about the problems he encountered in farming, he replied, “Mostly about the weather condition,” adding that it may be due to climate change. He also has a problem with diamondback moths during the months of December up to February when there is too much rain. Thus, he sprays the crop with yellow label chemicals 15 days before harvesting.
Although his farm is small, he still manages to make it profitable. “My farm is small but the income is big,” he said. “This is because everything is being programmed – from bed setting to planting, from watering to harvesting. I use farming tools which I personally make.”
The success of his farm did not go unnoticed. In fact, he is tapped by the vice mayor to train interested individuals. “I conduct training, especially to those who are interested in farming,” he said. “Right now, I am training 46 farmers.”
The farm is also the venue of some lakbay aral (study tour) programs of the government. He is grateful for that but what he really wants is for the farm to be an agritourism destination so that he could build a functional area for training and learning.
All that glitters is not gold but gold could be in the form of crops, too. “Gold could be excavated not just six feet or more below the ground,” he said. “Actually, it’s shallower to dig. All you have to do is plant the tilled soil with crops after digging. A lot of people want to uplift their standard of living but they don’t want to work hard.”
Photos courtesy of Wilbert C. Galo