By JAMES TABABA
Mergene Ferrer, at the age of 28, is the owner of Kahit Munti Integrated Farm in Mapandan, Pangasinan. Mergene’s interest in farming was deeply influenced by his father, Generoso Ferrer Sr. Mergene’s father, recognized as one of the most outstanding farmers and a top rice yielder during his time, inspired Mergene to follow in his footsteps. Despite graduating with a degree in business administration majoring in operations management from Pangasinan State University, Mergene’s heart was always drawn to agriculture.
Diversification and integrated farming
Mergene’s journey into farming started in 2017 with quail farming due to its quick return on investment. The goal was to expedite the development of the farm. From quails, he expanded into free-range heritage chicken breeds such as Black Australorp, Rhode Island Red, and Sussex. Goats and a variety of vegetables were also added to the mix.
Kahit Munti Integrated Farm practices integrated farming, where animal waste is converted into organic fertilizer to nourish their crops. Crop residues are repurposed as supplemental feeds for their chickens, creating a sustainable and efficient ecosystem.
The farm offers a diverse range of products, including quail eggs, ready-to-lay quails, and various vegetables. However, one of their standout offerings is products made from calabash, a fruit known for its numerous health benefits. The calabash is a gourd-like fruit that is rich in essential nutrients, including dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is known to support digestive health due to its high fiber content, aiding in regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. It is also a good source of antioxidants, which help protect cells from oxidative stress and reduce the risk of cancer. The products produced from calabash fruit that Mergene offers include fruit drinks, tea, wine, and C2H (calabash, calamansi, and honey).
“The reason we are developing these products is because we have an abundance of calabash trees in our area,” Mergene said in Tagalog. “I noticed that the fruits were simply falling from the trees, which prompted us to explore ways to bring them to market while also helping local residents who have calabash trees in their backyard.”
Adopting technology for a modern farm
Mergene envisions incorporating technology into agriculture, starting with hydroponics, and later implementing a drip irrigation system. His goal is for the farm to serve as a model for the community, showcasing the possibilities of modern farming.
The operation of their farm had to be temporarily halted due to a series of unfortunate events. Initially, there was the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) just as they had planned to raise pigs on the farm, with housing already constructed for them.
Following that setback, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The primary market for their quail eggs were kwek-kwek vendors, who saw a significant decline in business as face-to-face classes were suspended, resulting in fewer students – their main customers. Consequently, the demand for quail eggs plummeted, and they were forced to cease their operations.
However, during the quarantine period of the pandemic, Mergene and his family took the opportunity to acquire new skills. They learned how to craft egg incubators, capitalizing on the increased demand for free-range chicken. Despite facing challenges in their business, they persevered. They began offering incubators with capacities ranging from 56 to 10,000 eggs, eventually establishing themselves as renowned fabricators in the Pangasinan region.
Mergene participated in the Young Farmers Challenge program in 2021, where he emerged victorious at both the provincial and regional levels. The Young Farmers Challenge (YFC) Start-Up is a program by the Department of Agriculture that provides competitive financial grants to Filipino youth looking to start new agri-fishery enterprises. The financial grant played a key role in the recovery of Mergene’s farm.
Advocating for family, environment, and community
Mergene advocates for family, environment, and community. His farm provides fresh, pesticide-free produce to families, contributing to a healthier lifestyle. Through organic farming practices, the farm minimizes soil degradation, supporting environmental sustainability. Lastly, by inspiring young aspiring agripreneurs, Mergene aims to contribute to the growth of the local community.
“Our goal is to open the farm to the public next year, transforming it into an agritourism destination and an agricultural learning center,” Mergene said.
A vision for the future
Farming instilled the virtue of patience in Mergene through the careful observation of seeds from planting to harvest and the nurturing of eggs into chickens.
“Farming requires a great deal of patience, but witnessing progress brings me immense happiness, and I don’t mind the passage of time; it’s incredibly fulfilling,” Mergene said.
Recognizing that agriculture often fails to captivate the interest of most young people, Mergene has a message of encouragement for them.
“My advice to the youth is that anyone can become a successful farmer,” Mergene said. “What’s essential is putting in the hard work, adopting the right mindset, and acquiring the necessary knowledge. Knowledge can be gained through learning. If you’re willing and farming is truly your passion, you can thrive in your agricultural business. There is significant potential for financial success in agriculture.”
Photo courtesy of Kahit Munti Integrated Farm