We hear it said quite often: “There is no money in farming.” This is the reason why very few young people will ever think about taking a course in agriculture. But is it really true that there is no money in farming?
To answer this question, I would like to share with you real people that I have met and decided to tell their story (with their permission of course) that “there is money in farming.”
The first one is a retiree; the second is a young executive who got a burnout in the corporate world; and the third one is your ordinary tindera selling fish balls.
Let me start with the first one. Upon reaching the right age, he retired from his job as an executive director of a nongovernment organization that undertakes projects all over the Philippines. He decided to go back to his hometown called Mahayag in Zamboanga del Sur to do farming. So he bought a piece of 8.6 hectare property planted to coconut but was full of talahib. Without much know-how about agriculture, he was practically bankrupt until the idea of doing organic agriculture came to his mind. At that time, organic agriculture was not popular but he started experimenting and reading about the subject matter. He intercropped his coconut farm with durian and raised some pigs and cows. He had saved enough money from his farm income and built a house that cost 1.5 million pesos some years ago. With more income, he started buying land adjacent to his farm and created new farm enterprises like rubber, free range chickens, lanzones, mangosteen, tilapia, and hito.
When he heard about the Farm Business School, he decided to set up one and converted his farm into a school. Students do their on-the-job training right there because the various farm enterprises are in place. So now, he is teaching young people how to be millionaire farmers.
The second story is about a young IT executive who experienced a burnout. Call that a crisis of the forties. So he decided to leave his job in Manila, bought a 0.8 hectare raw land in Majayjay, Laguna though he is from Pangasinan. When he quit his job, he was earning more than P300,000 a month. He did not know anything about organic agriculture. So he started by attending seminars while developing his farm and immediately applied what he learned.
Today, his farm is the first to be accredited by the Department of Tourism as a farm tour destination and he has received a number of awards from the Department of Agriculture, including the most outstanding organic farmer last year. He also converted his farm into a training center. Foreigners too come to attend his programs. When I met him a few months ago, he told me that his income from the farm earns him more than his IT job.
The third story is a lady from San Ildefonso, Bulacan. She finished only elementary and she married when she was 17 years old. At that time, her husband worked as a truck driver. To support their family, she sold fish balls from her house just beside the elementary school of their barrio.
One day, a person dropped by her store. Since he was not from the place, she asked him what he was doing in the area. It turned out that the fellow was an agricultural extension worker and he came to their barrio to recruit people for a training program on vegetable production. So she volunteered to join. She started her “farm” with a few square meters of land that used to be the school’s garbage dump.
Today, she is known as the “seedlings queen of Bulacan.” You can see from the garage of her house that she’s got an SUV, a van, and some service vehicles to deliver vegetable seedlings to her clients. She also decided to open a training center right inside her farm with a very nice two-story building and four other dormitories to accommodate participants.
But she did not stop there. Early on when her business started to grow, she decided that she should share her blessings with her kababayans in the barrio. So she organized a cooperative of vegetable farmers. She told me that when they started, people usually came for their meetings in tricycles or simply just walked. Today when they meet, a number come driving a vehicle or SUV. Every day, about 80-100 trucks loaded with vegetables come out their area to deliver these to Balintawak or Divisioria. Farmers themselves are the ones selling their produce to these wholesale markets.
About two years ago, she heard about organic farming. So she started attending seminars about it and has since then shifted her farm practices from traditional (meaning using synthetic chemicals for fertilizers and insecticides). She was amazed to see that birds and butterflies have started to visit her farm. She hopes that she can also convince their other farmers in the area to adopt organic agriculture practices because of the health benefits it offers to the farmers and the consumers.
So the point that I want to make is clear. There is money in farming.
But what is truly amazing in the stories of the three successful agripreneurs is that they are too willing to share what they know. They even went to the extent of starting a school in the case of Mr. Rogelio Saniel from Mahayag or organizing training programs in the case of Mr. Ronald Costales from Majayjay and Ms. Daisy Duran from San Ildefonso.
There are more successful agripreneurs that I have met from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao and they too are willing to share what they know. This is a very different attitude from typical business people in other industries that they “keep their secrets.”
The big difference in the attitude probably lies in the fact that people involved in farming know that the problems faced by farmers are too big and those who have succeeded felt a certain debt of gratitude to God and they realize they have the mission to help those who have less in life. Many of these successful agripreneurs have been tapped as farms-schools partners for the programs offered by the Farm Business Schools. They take in students as on-the-job trainees and they mentor them while they are in their farms.
I am confident that with people like them around, they will change the face of agriculture in this country and they will serve as inspiration for young people that indeed there is a future career for agripreneurship.
There are many retirees, corporate workers under stressful situations, and ordinary people out there trying to make both ends meet. These stories told here should challenge everyone out there that there is money in agriculture.
Have you ever considered a second career as an agripreneur?
(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is a member of the MAP Agribusiness and Countryside Development Committee, the Project Manager for MAP’s Farm Business School project and dean of the MFI Farm Business School. Feedback at <firstname.lastname@example.org> and <email@example.com>. For previous articles, please visit www.map.org.ph)
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