By Henrylito D. Tacio
Edglenn “Ondo” C. Genotiva is 29, but he started farming when he was only 10 years old. Growing up, however, he dreamed of serving the country either as a policeman or a member of the military. Unfortunately, his parents were against it.
“My mother was against the idea,” said Ondo. “So, I thought of becoming a seaman. But still, they didn’t approve of it. So, I settled on taking agriculture as my parents as my father was a farmer himself.”
Ondo is the third and youngest child of Edwin and Shirley Genotiva of Purok 3, barangay Kapatungan in Trento, Agusan del Sur. His brother Sherwin is the eldest of the siblings, with Erwin as the middle child.
“I was still a little kid when I learned that my father is a farmer,” he recalled. “We didn’t have a farm, but he maintained the rice farm of Helen Castillo. That was how he supported us in those days.”
Later, his grandfather from his mother side lent his father a rice farm. This meant their father could harvest an extra six to eight sacks per cropping season. Because of this, the family was able to meet their basic needs.
The family was very frugal when it came to money, so much so that his industrious father was able to get a mortgaged rice field. He used the land to the fullest and he was able to send the children to school.
Sherwin graduated from high school but Erwin was able to finish college with a course in agroforestry. Afterwards, Erwin decided to help his father in tilling the farm. The family continued saving money until they were able to purchase additional land.
Ondo attended the Agusan del Sur State College of Agriculture and Technology in Bunawan. He took up aBachelor of Agricultural Technology (BAT), a four-year “ladderized degree program” that focuses entirely on plant and animal technology.
“During weekends and holidays, I helped my father and brother in maintaining our farm. I did farm work like planting, weeding, and harvesting,” he said.
Years later, they were able to acquire another property, which was planted to corn. They didn’t hire any helpers. They plowed the land, planted it with corn, and harvested the crop themselves, until they were able to purchase more lands.
“All in all, we now have eight hectares of land,which we utilize in growing various crops,” Ondo said.
After graduating from college in 2017, he applied in a chemical company as a field technician. It was here that met a supervisor who encouraged him to plant vegetables. But he completely ignored this advice as he was not interested in it.
But as a field technician, Ondo came across some farmers who were vegetable growers. Some farmers also asked him about vegetable growing, so he started doing some research on vegetable production.
He found vegetable growing a profitable venture. He asked his parents to let him grow vegetables in some areas of their farm. He told them that there was money in it. But they answered that vegetable growing was not a sure venture.
Although his parents didn’t approve of his idea, Ondo continued learning about vegetable production. He interviewed vegetable farmers and took some ideas from them. “One of these days, I will definitely put into practice what I have learned from them,” he told himself.
Ondo resigned from his job and transferred to another chemical company. This time, it brought him to barangay Kapatagan in Digos City and barangay Balutakay in Bansalan, Davao del Sur. He found that farmers there were planting high value vegetables, which were being supplied to supermarkets, malls, and high-end hotels.
“I met some of these farmers and my interest in vegetable farming was again ignited,” he said.
Every time he went home to Agusan del Sur, he always told his family about his experiences with farmers who grow vegetables. “There’s really money in growing vegetables,” he told them.
When he joined another chemical company, he was assigned to the Caraga Region. “We conducted caravans in Butuan City, Las Nieves, and Surigao, where I encountered vegetable growers again,” Ondo said.
Three years of persistence
He could no longer control his interest in growing vegetables so he asked his brother to allow him to plant vegetables in his area of the farm. After three years of persistence, Erwin finally relented to his pleadings.
Still working in a chemical company, Ondo planted eggplants and ampalaya (bitter gourd). On why he planted those as his initial crops when he went into farming, he replied, “It’s challenging and the income is good, especially when the price is high. In addition, you have an income every other day for a week or even a month.”
He got his seeds from Tagum City. He planted one hectare of eggplants and another hectare of ampalaya. “It was in January 2020 that I planted the vegetables,” he recalled.
By March, the country went into lockdown as it was the start of the Covid-2019 pandemic. “Since we were not allowed to report for work, I concentrated on my newfound interest: growing vegetables,” he said.
Ondo thought growing vegetables would be easy. It wasn’t. “I encountered so many hardships during those times. I had to learn about fertilization, watering and pest management. I also experienced what they called ‘failure,’” he said.
“I experienced being desiccated under the heat of the sun and dampened by intense rain,” he recalled. There were some instances where he walked in muddy soils or flooded areas.
But all these did not deter him from what he thought of as a profitable venture. “I didn’t surrender because I believe God will give me some knowledge in vegetable production,” he said.
Since it took him time to take care of his vegetables, he decided to quit his job and focus on growing vegetables. In October 2022, he turned himself into a vegetable farmer. It’s a decision he never regretted.
It’s not only him growing vegetables now but the whole family. He farms about three hectares. Aside from eggplants and ampalaya, he also plants sweet pepper, cucumber, okra, string beans, and hot pepper.
He also plants corn. “I practice crop rotation to avoid pests and diseases,” he said. After corn, he plants the area with mung beans.
Since vegetables need extra care – from growing to harvesting – he hires some people to help him. “Because of this endeavor, I was able to employ some people who are looking for a job,” he said.
Ondo sells his harvested vegetables to public markets in Bunawan, Trento, San Francisco (all in Agusan del Sur) and as far as Surigao del Sur. “I based the prices of my vegetables from the prevailing prices in the market,” he says. “From January to April this year, for instance, the price of ampalaya was P70 per kilogram while it’s P60 for eggplants.”
During summer, he plants less vegetables. “I plant hybrid corn and sweet corn,” he said. “It’s because during summer, the harvests are plentiful and the price goes down. So, I relaxed growing vegetables and by August, I started planting vegetables again. By the time the rainy season comes, the demand is high and the price goes up. This is until the month of April.”
Last June, the provincial office of the Department of Agriculture named him as the Outstanding Young Farmer in the annual Gawad Saka search. He will be representing the province in the forthcoming regional search.
“I was really surprised I was chosen,” he said. “I want to thank God and my family for their total support in what I am doing.”
When asked about his future plans, he replied: “I want to inspire and teach other young farmers. I also want to have my own farm and to employ more people.”
Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio and courtesy of Edglenn Genotiva