Veberly Jubilo and Frederick Uyaan, a young couple from Balaoan, La Union, were once employed by the government and a private company, but amidst the pandemic, they made the bold decision to resign from their jobs and return to La Union to venture into mushroom farming. With a strong belief in the potential of agriculture and a vision to bring about change in their farming community, they established Vel Seirra Integrated Farm on September 7, 2020.

Originally known as La Sierra Mushroom Farm, their farm started small with just 100 fruiting bags of fresh oyster mushrooms. The couple saw an opportunity when they came across the Young Farmers’ Challenge program on Facebook, which offered start-up capital to young individuals interested in agriculture or agribusiness. They seized the opportunity by entering their mushroom farming enterprise and started crafting their business model canvas and necessary documents for the program.

With determination and hard work, Veberly and Frederick progressed through the competition, receiving cash grants that they put back into developing their mushroom farming business. Their efforts paid off as they emerged as provincial and regional winners and were among the top 15 finalists at the national level in the Kabataang Agribiz Competition of the Department of Agriculture. In addition, they were also one of the three winners in the Regional YFC Scale-Up category.

As novice entrepreneurs, the journey of Veberly and Frederick was not a smooth one, as they encountered challenges such as the adverse effects of climate change on their production volume, and the unfamiliarity of their local community with oyster mushrooms.

Nevertheless, they saw these challenges as an opportunity to educate their community and introduce them to the benefits of oyster mushrooms. The couple started introducing various processed mushroom products and even offered free tastings within their neighborhood to change people’s perceptions. Gradually, they gained acceptance and support from their community.

With their teamwork, Veberly and Frederick overcame these hurdles and received assistance from various entities, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Trade and Industry, provincial and local government units, the Agricultural Training Institute, and DMMMSU-ATBI. Through this support, they were able to enhance and expand their farm.

To expand their market presence, they participated in trade fairs and Kadiwa to showcase their products. Their efforts yielded results as oyster mushrooms became popular locally, resulting in increased orders from consumers. As their farm grew, they utilized online platforms like Lazada to expand their market reach, allowing them to deliver their products to places such as Palawan, Davao, and other parts of Mindanao.

Their success did not end there. The couple’s innovative mindset and willingness to experiment led them to diversify their product offerings. They started producing and selling processed mushroom products such as mushroom nutriwine, mushroom chili garlic oil, mushroom alamang, mushroom kropek, mushroom chicharon, mushroom tempura, mushroom dinakdakan, and mushroom tocino. They also delved into rabbit farming, poultry production, vermicomposting, and even onion production – a first in their area. They now have four types of onions: red and white onions, spring onions, and lasona, all of which are well-suited in their area. This diversification not only increased their income but also contributed to the sustainability of their farm.

In their mission to transform the farming system and assist fellow farmers in discovering alternative income opportunities, the Uyaans also include microgreens that can be grown in small spaces and strawberries, which are under research to assess their feasibility in Balaoan.

Their farm currently serves as a learning site accredited by the Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Training Institute, facilitating the dissemination of knowledge and technologies with other farmers. They have become mentors and advocates for sustainable agriculture, inspiring both young and old individuals to explore the potential of the sector.

Despite facing social challenges and personal struggles, the Uyaans persevered, improving the quality of their products, expanding their operations, and providing livelihood opportunities to their community. Starting from scratch, their entrepreneurial spirit and efforts began to bear fruit as they witnessed their mushroom farm grow with the help of the YFC Program.

Today, Vel Seirra Integrated Farm boasts more than 5,000 fruiting bags housed in a concrete structure, with an additional 2,000 fruiting bags sold to other mushroom growers each month. The couple has also invested in equipment like manual and electric baggers, as well as buildings like growing house facilities, a receiving area, and a training area.

From their initial 100 fruiting bags to a flourishing enterprise generating a monthly gross income of P50,000 to P70,000, the couple is now helping their community, albeit not permanently, but providing livelihood opportunities to out-of-school youths, mothers, 4Ps members, and relatives who wish to earn and learn.

As they look forward to the future, the couple envisions Vel Seirra Integrated Farm as the leading producer of fresh mushrooms and fruiting bags in Region 1 by 2028. They also aspire to make their farm a model within their municipality, inspiring other young entrepreneurs to venture into the field of agriculture.

In the midst of the global pandemic, Veberly and Frederick Uyaan courageously dared to dream, took risks, and ultimately reaped their sweet rewards. The name “La Sierra,” which translates to mountain ranges, encapsulates the couple’s journey – a challenging climb towards a deeply fulfilling achievement. Truly, success is within reach.