“Sisimulan ko sa aking sarili na patunayan na sa pagsasaka, maaaring makakaprodyus tayo ng pagkain, kikita at mababago ang ating buhay na nakasanayan kahit maliit lang ang ating lupang sinasaka. I want to serve as a living testimony that farming is good and profitable.”

Mr. Antonio Fontanilla, Jr., 23, of Sitio Malacañang, Brgy. Bugbugcao, in the town of San Juan, Province of La Union, exudes positivity during an interview with the DA-RFO I for being the top three regional winners of the Young Agribiz Challenge of the Department of Agriculture.

Antonio, a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University in Bacnotan, La Union is among the top graduates of the University last April 2020. He is the owner and manager of a small piece of land which is now called the ABF Integrated Farm in San Juan, La Union.

Driven by his passion for farming, his original plan of entering the academe after graduation did not push through as fate took him into something better than what he wished for – to have his own business enterprise, and be his own “boss”.

He has been very thankful to the DA’s Kabataang Agribiz Challenge under its Competitiveness Grant Assistance Program that provided him great opportunities and privileges especially in putting up his integrated farm.
Meeting the Kabataang Agribiz Challenge Program

“Nalaman ko po ang Kabataang Agribiz Grant Assistance Program sa pamamagitan ng social media sa facebook po ng Rafis Region 1. Bago ako sumali sa kabataang agribiz, plano ko pong mag enter na sa government service. Kaso lang po, blessedly, interview ko sana kinaumagahan sa DMMMSU-SLUC, nauna naman pong dumating ang kabataang agribiz challenge,” Antonio explained.

The Kabataang Agribiz Challenge is a project of the DA that encourages young entrepreneurs to start their own small agri-based enterprises by providing them the necessary capital that they would want to put up. By so doing, this opportunity would provide them (the youth) to become more productive individuals while helping the government to improve the value chain in the agriculture and fisheries sector, thus advancing the country’s economy.

Seeing the potential of the program to his business proposal, without a second thought, Antonio immediately prepared the required documents prior to his application to the Program. Passing the rigorous process of application, his efforts paid off when he won as one of the top three winners at the Provincial level.

Getting strong support from his family and community became his driving force to succeed in his chosen endeavor.

Antonio has set his mind into involving everyone in his neighborhood in his journey as young entrepreneur as his way to encourage them to see farming as a good income opportunity. “It’s a challenge for me as an agriculture graduate na makita na naghihirap ang aking mga kababayan. Naisip kong usesless itong kurso ko if hindi ko mapataas ang estado ng buhay sa community namin. Gusto kong ipakita sa kanila na may pera pala sa agrikultura,” says Antonio.

Practical Farming Strategies and Innovations employed

True to his words, in such a short time, and with the financial assistance he received through winning in the Kabataang Agribiz challenge, Antonio gradually developed the 196 sqm lot of his grandmother which he was able to expand to 396 sqm into something productive and worthwhile. Planted with solanaceous crops such as talong, sili, kamatis and pechay, his farm showcases various production technologies and breakthroughs in agriculture Here, he executed the various learnings he derived from school and personal experiences as a young farmer. His farm served as his own “laboratory” to explore further what he can possibly do to improve his productivity as a farmer.

Featuring the drip irrigation system, a technology originated from Israel that can be used to control water of up to 90-95 percent, it has also helped his farm minimize soil erosion, weed control, disease control, and even leaching of nutrients from the soil.

Also, his demonstration area that shows intercropping of various commodities provided him a back-to-back harvest maximizing the potential income from his farm.

The hydroponics, which produces lettuce is considered as one of the futures of agriculture where crops are produced without using soil is also an added attraction in his farm.

His scaled-up and modular nursery showcase practical ways how backyard farmers can produce thousands of seedlings using this technology.

“Ginawa ko po na pwede siyang mabaklas para yong mga farmers, malayo man ang mga farm nila, pwede na nilang i-assemble mismo sa kanilang mga farm at kung bumagyo naman, pwedeng pwede na lang baklasin para hindi naman masira ang mga nakatanim dito,” Antonio added.

Minimizing his cost of production, Antonio adopted soil analysis in his farm using the practical soil test kit of the University of the Philippines, Los Banos. This is to check the status of his soil, thus helping him to decide what kind of fertilizer he would use and the right amount as well as the right time he would apply in his crops.

The use of plastic mulch also helps in the management and control of weeds and diseases on his plants while at the same time conserving the moisture content of the soil. Truly a smart farmer, he does not use a high level of concentration of fertilizer. Ten liters of water plus a handful of complete fertilizer is enough to fertigate his plants. Incorporating the commercial fertilizer with that of organic fertilizer like the animal manure and rice straw in managing his farm, his eggplants, sili and kamatis grow robustly and give him abundant harvest.

Applying all these production techniques in his farm gave him the edge over the other contender of the Challenge. The unique and scientifically-based farming practices he implored in his farm got a nod from the regional judges as he was able to demonstrate how lucrative and productive his area though how small it is.

Based on his figures, with the more than P200 worth of fertilizer he used in the first batch of his production, he obtained more than P21,000 income from his nursery production alone.

As per computation, with the 128 per hole of the seedling tray, sold at P2 per seedlings at 50 trays maximum production, he has at least P256 income per tray. This is aside from his production on his solanaceous crops and other plants.

Being able to provide quality seedling materials for farmers in his locality, Antonio has helped his barangay mates to practice backyard farming as most of his seedlings were patronized by his neighbors and adjacent barangays.

Enjoying most of his time doing all the errands on his farm, Antonio plans to expand his area with the installation of a greenhouse and even incorporate animal production like goat and rabbit plus vermicomposting and fish tank culture.

With all the blessings and opportunities that he is now gaining, Antonio is truly grateful to God almighty, his family, the community, and to the Department of Agriculture especially the Kabataang Agribiz Challenge Program.

“Sa mga kabataan po na tulad ko, kung may mga naiisip kayo na negosyo na may kinalaman sa agrikultura na wala pa o hindi pa popular dito sa atin pero kulang kayo ng capital, huwag kayong mag atubili na makipag-ugnayan sa DA dahil malaking tulong po ito upang maiangat ang buhay natin at matutupad ang ating mga hangarin sa buhay.

“Kung may maliit kayong lupain, hindi imposible na mapalago ninyo ito kung yakapin ninyo ang biyaya mula sa agrikultura, basta magtiyaga at magpursige lamang kayo.”, he added.

“Kagaya ko ngayon, akin na lamang po ang oras ko and at the same time, boss ko ang sarili ko sa enterprise na ito,” he ended.##”

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