Age has no limit when one is to dream, because with hard work, diligence and persistence, dreams do come true!

Just like in the case of Mr. Conrad Soriano, 62 years old and a native of San Jacinto, in the province of Pangasinan, who dared to dream at his age, and worked hard in fulfilling his dream.

Mg Conrad started to dream of being a successful cacao farmer when he reached the golden age of 50. He wished to have a cacao plantation that would bring him quality and bounty harvest and a seizable income. For many, it must have been too late to aspire for such given his age. But he is determined to pursue this newfound desire as a farmer.

Mg Conrad is a Marine Engineering graduate. However, fate have moved him into a seemingly different world as he became more engrossed in mango contracting and trading, gardening and landscaping, and now into cacao growing.

It all started sometime in the year 2010, when a balikbayan went for a visit to his garden and ordered 1,000 seedlings of cacao for planting.

“Nagkasundo na kami sa presyo, bibilhin niya ng P30 kada seedlings. Unfortunately, hindi niya binalikan sa araw ng usapan. Saka niya binalikan after how many months. Siyempre, di ko na binigay kasi kinailangan kong i-rebag dahil lumaki na siya. Nag-upgrade na ako so, I need to increase the price, e ayaw niya,” Mg. Conrad recalled.

The unfortunate event paved the way for Mg Conrad to decide and look for means to recover. Having a supportive wife, he managed to plant the 1,000 seedlings on undeveloped land owned by a family friend.

It was on May 17, 2011 when they started to plant the seedlings. “Noong nagtatanim kami, pinagtatawanan kami ng kapwa ko magsasaka. Kasi ang cacao, parang stick lang yan e. Sabi ko, hayaan nio lang kasi ito ang gusto ko, kasi itong itinatanim ko, ito lang ang pwedeng gawing tsokolate.” Mg Conrad said as he recalled how his colleagues reacted seeing him planting the cacao seedlings.

Persevering despite the mockery, Mg Conrad is determined to succeed as he nurtured a dream to make Pangasinan a center of Cacao production not only in the region.

It was never easy for Mg. Conrad to start. Having limited knowledge of cacao farming, he sought the assistance of agricultural technologists at the local and regional offices of DA.

One of the people whom he recognized as his mentor and motivator is the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant and Industry’s (DA-BPI) Director in the region, Dr. Benjamin Andaya. Through Director Andaya, he was able to learn the basic technologies in cacao production. DA has provided him support through seminars and training in cacao production, in tandem with the Local Government Unit of Pangasinan and the cacao experts from BPI Manila who served as the resource speakers in the training.

Having acquired the knowledge and skills in cacao growing, he was inspired to continue developing his cacao area with favorable remarks from BPI experts.

“Natuwa talaga ako, naoverwhelm kasi sinabi nila sa training na alagaan ko ang aking cacao kasi naikot na daw nila ang buong PIlipinas pero nandito lang pala ang potential cacao grower sa Pangasinan,” Mr. Soriano beams with pride.

Using the Criollo variety of cacao, which he considered as among the best-tasting variety, Mg. Conrad pushed for an area expansion. From the 8,000 sq.m. he planted, he further expanded his area to 3.5 hectares and developed more than 16 hectares in Dasol, Pangasinan. Today, he is venturing into another area expansion, this time in Anda Pangasinan with around 29 hectares out of the 50 hectares that he and his partner are working on.

With the extensive area expansion of his cacao production, Mg. Conrad is currently working on the establishment of a manufacturing plant for cacao tablea and later on for processing into chocolate. He also relates his gratitude to the Department of Science and Technology for giving him the necessary processing tools and equipment on making tablea.

Bearing the name Cocoa Federico, Mg Conrad is strengthening an organization with whom he shared his plans to further develop the cacao industry in Pangasinan. He is likewise in close coordination with the Organic Agriculture and High Value Commercial Crops Programs of DA-RFO I for the provision of technical assistance as well as production inputs necessary to carry out the goals and objectives of the association that he is leading.

Seeing his dedication and determination to develop the cacao industry in the region, several interventions were poured out to him. Among the latest interventions he received from the DA is the farming tools and equipment like drip irrigation system and a multi-cultivator.

His farm also served as a demo farm for new production technologies especially on organic agriculture practices where cacao enthusiasts would learn the many benefits of cacao growing and processing.

Considered a perennial crop, cacao gives an all-year-round income after three years of waiting. To maximize his farm’s income potential, Mg. Conrad intercrops avocado, banana and papaya which provides good shading for his cacao. This system enabled him to increase his income while waiting for his cacao to grow and harvest its fruits.=

While other farmers are challenged in marketing their products, Mg Conrad is somehow grateful to the Local Government Unit of Pangasinan and to the Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Division for providing him access to market his products through the trade fairs and exhibits he was invited to participate on.

Likewise, The Monarch, a prominent 5-star hotel in Calasiao, Pangasinan serves as a stable market for his tablea and other private individuals have been dealing with him for the possible market on his produce.

Asked about his secret to success, Mg. Conrad has this to say. “Wala naman talagang sikreto e. Magpakasipag ka lang. Huwag mong sayangin ang oras. Ikot-ikutin mo lagi ang yong mga tanim para alam mo kung pwede nang iharvest. Magpakasipag ka. Kasi kung sasayangin mo lang ang oras, wala kang mararating at matutupad na pangarap,“ Mg. Conrad said.###

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