Advocating organic agriculture is one thing, but teaching how to maximize your organic farm is another, and this is what agripreneur Ramon Dayrit Penalosa Jr.
This is how I look at what the Penalosa Farm is doing in their business. Ramon Dayrit Penalosa Jr. banks on maximizing his nearly 4,000 square meter property in Victorias City, Negros Occidental by using “Integrated Natural Farming” system.
Ramon is advocating for more farmers to learn about the system. If the 60 percent population who are into agriculture will be more productive in terms of crop output and income.
This way, our country can really progress and won’t be bothered importing crops from other countries.
The Accidental Farm – Penalosa Farm
Like Ramon Penalosa Jr., who happens to be an accidental “agripreneur“, stumbled on agriculture after their former business, bus transport system, closed down. The family was left with a property that used to be a garage and repair area for vehicles.
“We had to think of something that would make our property be more productive. So we tried something far off from bus lines,” Ramon said.
And now that he learned all these things, he is now into farm tourism. Where the Penalosa Farms’ primary strength is showing the “student-tourist” the ways to organic farming.
LEARNING THE FARM LANGUAGES
Farmers, as he explains, should not take farming just merely planting a seed into the soil. One has to understand that in order to be successful in farming, that you have to understand the whole concept of business.
For farmers to reap the full potential of his property, a farmer has to learn four (4) basic things:
- Language of the Soil – this pertains knowing the base of all the crops. Knowing how to properly nourish and condition of the soil can increase chances of good crops. Like knowing composting, vermiculture, etc.
- Language of the Plants – understanding your crops, its characteristics, weaknesses and strengths and the nourishment it needs plus the necessary inducement to its hormones to make your crops do a specific thing once treated or hormonal usage.
- Language of the Animals - knowing the livestocks, the specific jobs you need to do on the animals to make use of them more, giving farmers more “milking-cows” in the farm
- Art of War against pests and diseases - the farm is not always “free” from attacks from the enemies, and knowing your enemies well, can make a farmer more effective to counter any infestation on crops and livestock. LIke intercropping system where a farmer can plant “attractants” that make pests infest or attack specific crops to woo the pests away from the plants we want to earn from.
A FARMER’S SOURCES OF INCOME
Mr. Ramon Penalosa reiterates that conventional farming methodology is done and out. That farmers nowadays should look into farming on a different perspective – from a businessman’s point of view – changing a farmer into agripreneur.
An agripreneur needs to look into many different aspects of agribusiness, like marketing, production, management, selling, etc. What the farmers have just been looking into is the production side or farming as a production unit.
He mentioned that for farmers to fully grasp the potential of his farm outputs from livestock and crops, farmers need to understand that they have ways to earn money.
- Farm to Market - is the conventional way of selling the raw vegetables or fruits or livestocks straight to the middleman or market.
- Farm to Kitchen - farmers can process the raw meat or crops to something that is ready-to-cook, like cutting the pork into slices/pieces for cooking or preparing a selection of vegetables ready to be cooked for a specific dish.
- Farm to Plate - farmers can process the food to make it ready-to-eat meals, like prepared salad selection from garden vegetables.
If many farmers will just try other sources of income, then, they can realize that they earn as much as three times what they have been used to earning, just by value-adding.
This is the goal that farmers should look into, according to Ramon Penalosa. Agri people need to diversify as well as to the streams of income and the products or services that any farm-based businessmen depend on.
For instance, Penalosa Farm has been an attraction to people who want to know more about organic agriculture. It is also a restaurant for those who would be staying in their place.
Even a few hundred square-meters of lot, Mr. Penalosa was able to convert it into a hostel or inn time for visitors, utilizing mostly farm-based materials. This is actually a model unit for farmers on how they can maximize their lots.
He notes that with a country so rich in agriculture, yet, we are not able to capitlize all our natural resources. Thus, we suffer always in our food security. It is an irony that even if we have so much agricultural land, we do not produce enough crops for the whole country to benefit. Not even our own seeds, nor own fertilizers.
Ramon also stressed that if farmers will just depend on external sources for their resources (like synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, hybrid seeds and other farm inputs), the Philippine agriculture is bound for failure. No wonder, he says, that with just one hit on the farm, farmers are at a lost.
In the case of Penalosa Farm, they are able to produce own organic farm inputs, like fertilizers, biotechnology, and the likes. Plus ready-to-eat outputs.
Ramon Penalosa stressed the importance of farmers being responsible. The fact that farm outputs are ALWAYS dependent on the farmers themselves. Penalosa quotes: “There is no farm without a farmer.”
To be honest, there are more info to be shared. But it is best that you get from the horse’s mouth, from Mr. Ramon Penalosa, to appreciate the lessons better.
But I can’t end this article without quoting him, of what I believe is the BEST lesson that he ever shared to us in a half-day tour.
Mr. Penalosa said, and this should be the mantra of every farmer:
A farmer who does not know how to pray, is not a good farmer.
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