Young entrepreneur June Batao-ey, 25 of Brgy. Vicente, Galimuyod, Ilocos Sur once dreamed of becoming an engineer, a dream that his parents also want for him for they don’t want him to work under the scorching heat of the sun and till the land like what they do as farmers.

Indeed, fate has been good for young June as he lived his dream and became an Agricultural and Biosystems Engineer in CY 2021 after passing the Board exam. However, much as he wanted to pursue his career in the corporate world, fate had taken him to apply his acquired skills and knowledge in his own farm when he had chosen to follow the footstep of his batch mate Engr. Geneva Gañalon, one of the recipients of the Young Farmers Challenge (YFC) Program of the Department of Agriculture.

YFC is the DA’s latest program for the Filipino youth to run their own agricultural businesses by providing them financial grant assistance.

Seeing the big opportunities that the YFC Program to young farmer-entrepreneur like him, without second thought, June sought the assistance of the Local Government Unit of Galimuyod as he also prepared immediately the needed documentary requirements of the Program.

Luckily, he was chosen as one of the provincial winners and topped the regional finalists with his J’s Capsicum Greenery Fruits and Vegetables Farm enterprise under the YFC Start-Up Entrepreneurs in CY 2023.

Starting his business enterprise was a challenge for June. But, he was able to successfully establish his project through the help of the YFC program as it provided him capital where he no longer needed to acquire loan from the coop in their barangay with 18 to 24 percent interest rate.

From the Php80,000 grant he received as a provincial awardee which he used to buy farm inputs like seeds, fertilizer and diesel for irrigation and plastic mulch, he was able to start his enterprise and it changed him to what he is now, a determined, passionate, and innovative young agri-preneur.

J’s Capsicum Greenery Fruits and Vegetables Farm is a 2,500 sq.m. lot nestled in a remote area of Brgy. Bitong. Here, various varieties of pepper such as Green Bell pepper, Sultan F1, Django F1 and Red Hot F1 were planted which provided June and his family a generous income. As to why he chose pepper to plant, June considered the accessibility and availability of the market on this commodity. Sacred Heart Savings Cooperative, one of the most successful coops in the region (where he is a member) is engaged into contract growing with the Jollibee Foods Corporation as consolidator of bell pepper and onion in Galimuyod.

Having this institutional market, it offered June a real good price for his produce. With the 2,500 kilos of pepper being absorbed by Jollibee per week, June and his fellow bell pepper producers in Galimuyod enjoy a premium price for their commodity.

Aside from the accessibility to market and the good price on his commodity, June, as a member of the coop, was given access to trainings and seminars to update his farming knowledge and skills, especially on Good Agricultural Practices that he applied in his own farm.

For June, farming is a risky business. But having armored with faith in God, diligence and a desire to bring change, he effectively managed his time and effort to work things out in his chosen field.Problems on pests and diseases, lack of capital and climate change as well as natural disasters were properly managed with his resiliency and adeptness to practice new farming techniques. He is all indebted to the YFC Program as he was able to widen his horizon by establishing good networks and linkages to people and organizations that have somehow helped in realizing his potential as a young farmer-entrepreneur.

“Napakalaki ng tulong ng YFC sa akin kasi noong nahirapan akong maghanap ng trabaho, saktong dumating itong YFC. Ito na ang naging trabaho ko, full time employed ako sa sarili kong farm,” he said. (YFC has greatly helped me because when i was having a hard time looking for a job, YFC came along and now I am full-time employed in my own farm.)

Sharing his thoughts why he is so grateful to have learned the YFC program, June said that it has opened wider opportunities for him to become a well-rounded business-minded farmer. On his impact to the community, June being the source of inspiration to his neighbors and barangay-mates, he was then elected as the third councilor in their barangay during the recently held barangay elections.

Indeed, June has now come a long way. He may have missed the opportunity to fulfill his parents’ wish to work away from the scorching heat of the sun, but he will never regret pursuing his passion in farming. And if he is to choose between being employed to a routinary 8-5 pm office work or that of farming, without second thought, he would still choose to stay in the farm with ‘his peppers’.

“Pipiliin ko pa rin sa farm kasi dito mas healthy, mas presko ang hangin. Masaya kasi yung nakikita mo ang paglaki ng mga pananim mo, hanggang sa paghaharvest, pagdidilig..masarap sa pakiramdam. Pag may mga challenges, unti-unti mong nasosolve. Napakavaluable na marami kang learning thru experience,” (I will still choose farming because it is healthier, with fresh air. I am happy when I see my crops growing, from watering them to harvesting, it feels really good.) he said.

Having this in mind, June is now planning to make his farm a well-known agri-tourism farm in Ilocos where he could display some innovative farming technologies such as drip irrigation and precision farming that are in line with his expertise as a licensed agricultural engineer.

Truly, the YFC program serves as a vehicle for progress to the most deserving young agripreneurs who wanted to realize their dreams and aspirations.