AFTER two major setbacks suffered from heavy rains and floods from Habagat and a typhoon, the 108 farmer-trainees of Barangay Doyong in Calasiao, finally harvested their high-value vegetable crops and watermelons, produced after seven months of field trainings conducted by the SM Foundation and Harbest Agriculture Inc.
The farmer-trainees of Batch 172 of the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan program of SM Foundation began their training in June and were supposed to finish after 12 weeks but because of the damage wrought by floods in July and by typhoon Ompong in August, they were forced to extend the training up to January.
From an original 120 trainees, only 108 completed most of whom are determined to pursue their newfound knowledge and farming technologies in their backyards and willingness to share their acquired training on new farm technologies with neighbors.
The techno-farm in Barangay Doyong—owned by trainee Bernardo Morales – was one of the 24 villages that remained flooded for over three weeks.
Morales said “our graduation is a recognition that we are learned participants and that “we became united in our newfound skills of growing vegetables” in an area that used to be planted solely to rice and corn.
Stephen Ballesteros, 29, the youngest but most active advocate of farming, used to be employed in a hospital to maintain the IT system (as he graduated from an IT course). After three years, he decided to get into farming in the land of his father (an agriculturist).
He finds farming not just a stress-reliever but a great fulfillment in seeing the seeds grow into marketable sizes and earn from the products while at the same time supplying freshly-harvested vegetables on the family’s table. He began being passionate about farming in 2017—after his hospital job and while completing the requirements for a cruise line (also as IT employee).
Helped by internet courses and tutorials as his guide, he constructed a greenhouse inside their family’s 4,000 square meter lot. He now heads the Assosasyon ng Samahang Maggugulay ng Barangay Doyong.
Bernardo Ferrer, at 69 is the oldest participant and has been farming for 50 years with no intention of giving up for as long as he lives. “Salamat at sa edad kong ito meron pa akong dapat matutunan at yan ay nakamit ko dito KSK. “
The KSK Batch 172, the first to graduate in 2019, harvested their upo, watermelon, lettuces, sili pangsigang, eggplant, patola, tomato, upland kangkong, ampalaya, squash and okra early Wednesday which they sold to each other and some were used as ingredients for the cooking contest held during the harvest program.
On graduation day, the participants were brought to SM City Rosales and taught how the vegetables are packed, priced and stored. Most, if not all of them, stepped foot inside the mall for the first time.
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