Mergene Ferrer, a business administration graduate, found himself at a crossroads, deciding between an office job and venturing into farming. Inspired by his late father, a farmer, and the hardships of life, Mergene dreamed of owning his own business one day. Thus, he chose the path less traveled by young generations today, and embarked on a farming journey, seeing it as an opportunity to develop their land.

In 2017, Mergene started his quail production, but the unexpected arrival of the pandemic forced their operations to halt. It was a setback, but Mergene was not the type to give up easily. Hope was reignited when he learned about the Young Farmers Challenge (YFC) Program from a friend’s Facebook post, a program of the Department of Agriculture to encourage young people of today to embrace agriculture as a business career.

Although he didn’t make it to the first batch due to incomplete requirements, he didn’t give up and didn’t lose hope. In 2022, he submitted his business model canvas and emerged as one of the provincial awardees. Thus began the humble beginnings of Kahit Munti Integrated Farm, his enterprise.

Kahit Munti Integrated Farm is a 3,000 sqm area farm situated in Brgy. Nilombot, Mapandan, Pangasinan. With a cash grant of P50,000 as initial startup capital, he set out to realize his vision. His luck continued when he later got chosen as a regional winner, receiving an additional P150,000 cash grant. He used these funds to develop his farm further. The following year, he was again one of the lucky contenders to win in the YFC upscale and received a P300,000 grant.

With the cash grants, Mergene’s innovation shines through in his diversified farm where he grows not only pinakbet vegetable but hydroponically grown lettuce, free-range chickens, and processes calabash into various products such as calabash fruit drink, juice, tea, and wine and even fabricate incubators that he also sells. He turned an underutilized local resource, calabash into a thriving business, helping his community not just by buying the fruit from them but also those suffering from various ailments, as calabash is also known as miracle fruit.

Driven by his do-it-yourself spirit and a passion for innovation, Mergene crafted his own range of incubators, offering quality products at an affordable price ranging from P6,000 to P180,000, depending on the capacity. From small-scale to commercial, his made-to-order creations found homes as far as Caticlan in Aklan province.

Through the Young Farmers Challenge, he not only received financial aid but also gained recognition on a national scale as it helped him expand his business and broaden his market reach, catapulting his products into households across the Philippines. He now sells his products through the Kadiwa stalls, online platform like Shopee and Lazada, as well as their Facebook page.

Today, Mergene’s farm yields him a monthly income of P40,000 to P50,000 thousand pesos. Yet, his ambitions soar higher as he envisions his farm by 2028 as an agricultural learning site for young farmers like him, a leading technology innovator, advocate of integrated farming, and enterprise development hub towards the promotion of sustainable and profitable agriculture in Region 1. He also hopes to export his products internationally someday.

Now as he awaits the completion of the processing area he is constructing, he is working towards getting his products approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and is collaborating with the Department of Science and Technology for product labeling.

Though his agribusiness journey faced setbacks due to the pandemic, Mergene’s passion for agriculture never faltered.

Reflecting on his journey, Mergene acknowledges that the Young Farmers Challenge program has been instrumental in his success. Without it, he might have been an employee instead of an entrepreneur and a business owner. The program not only helped him establish his business but also provided a stable source of income for his family while allowing him to spend time with them every day. His business also creates jobs in his community, helping others in the process.

From a dream of having a small farm with various crops to making it a reality – that’s the story of Mergene Ferrer’s integrated farm! His journey serves as an inspiration to many, proving that with determination, innovation, and a little help, dreams can indeed become a reality.