ATI-CAR Hosts AEWs and Farmer Leaders from Eastern Visayas

LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET. “Malaki ang difference ng mga nangyayari sa amin at yung mga nangyayari sa mga farmers nila dito” says Mr. Rodrigo C. Enting, HVCDP Provincial Focal Person of Leyte, after their three-day hands-on training and exposure on highland vegetable production in the province of Benguet. According to Mr. Enting, he is amazed with how farmers in Benguet produce and earn given a very limited production area. The training, which is a joint venture of the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 8 and the Agricultural Training Institute-Regional Training Center (ATI-RTC) 8, was conducted to further capacitate the agricultural extension workers (AEWs) and farmers from the highlands of Leyte.
Ms. Concepcion B. Miro, High Valued Crops Development Program (HVCDP) focal person of the ATI-RTC 8, narrated how the training came to be. She shared that DA Undersecretary for High Value Crops and Rural Credit Evelyn G. Laviña visited Leyte and found out that farmers at the Leyte highlands are starting to cultivate highland crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, potato and strawberry. Usec. Laviña then recommended that a training on the production of highland vegetables is necessary for the neophyte industry. Thus, the DA-RFO 8 and the ATI-RTC 8 convened and designed a training where the participants will be sent to a hands-on training and exposure on highland crops in Benguet. After DA-RFO 8 OIC-Regional Executive Director U-Nicholas A. Manalo gave the green light for the training the ATI-RTC 8 coordinated with the ATI-Cordillera Administrative Region (ATI-CAR) for the training itinerary. In turn, the ATI-CAR coordinated with some of its learning sites (LS), the Benguet State University, the Saint Louis University-Extension Institute for Small Scale Industries Foundation (SLU-EISSIF), and the Municipal Local Government Unit (MLGU) of La Trinidad for the said training.
The training participants arrived at the ATI-CAR in the evening of January 29, 2017. The following day, they were brought to the La Trinidad municipal hall where Mr. Valred Olsim, municipal tourism officer, gave a briefing on the profile of La Trinidad. Afterwards the participants started their first day of hands-on training with Mr. Jefferson C. Laruan of the Lily of the Valley Organic Farm. Mr. Laruan’s farm was recently accredited by the ATI-CAR as a farm tourism site. The participants were first oriented regarding the farm, its history, how it operates and its products. The participants spent the rest of the day performing return demonstrations on crop establishment for crucifers with Mr. Laruan. They were also given on-site lectures on mokusako production and utilization, rapid composting and organic strawberry production. 
The delegates started their second day at the Strawberry under the Pines Farm at Longlong, Puguis, La Trinidad, Benguet where they were given another on-site lecture on the production of strawberries using elevated plots and fertigation. The Strawberry under the Pines Farm is owned by Mr. Domingo Amor and is one of the newest LS of the ATI-CAR and DA-RFO-CAR for strawberry production through Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). The participants then proceeded to the Cojuran Farm at Bangho, Tublay, Benguet where another on-site lecture on the production of highland crucifers such as lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower was given. The Cojuran farm, which is owned by Ms. Concepcion Sotero, is another learning site of the ATI-CAR and is the first farm to be certified under GAP in CAR. 
The group ended the day with a facility tour at the materials recovery facility of the MLGU Tublay where organic agriculture inputs such as compost and concoctions are produced. The facility, which is one of the LS for organic agriculture of ATI-CAR, was built by the MLGU of Tublay to cater for the demand for organic agriculture inputs by the farmers in the municipality and at the same time showcase various organic agriculture technologies. 
The third day brought the participants to the BSU strawberry research and production area where they were introduced to the various strawberry varieties. Incidentally the BSU is also conducting a research on the adaptability of these strawberry varieties across different elevations. This served as an opportunity for the participants to ask which variety is most suitable for their area. The delegates were also given on-site lectures and demonstrations on the cultural practices for strawberry such as prunning, runner production, pest management and harvesting. Mr. Cuz Kilakil and Mr. Casmir Ligat served as resource persons during the activity. After delving so much on strawberry, the group proceeded to the SLU-EISSIF for another on-site lecture and demonstration, this time on beekeeping. SLU-EISSIF Director Edmund Benavidez welcomed the delegates and introduced to them what the SLU-EISSIF is all about including its beekeeping venture. An on-site lecture and demonstration on the proper handling of bee colonies followed. The farmer leaders noted that since many of them are also producing fruit crops, pollinators such as bees are indeed very critical in their production process, one of them even bought a starter colony right after the activity at the SLUI-EISSIF.
Aside from on-site lectures, demonstrations and return demos, the participants also noted that there interactions with the farmers they visited are indeed very important. The participants were able to ask as many questions, tips and advice regarding the technology and practices of the farmers they encountered.
During the closing program, Mr. Alex O. Aborita, president of the Leyte Farmers Association expressed his gratitude as he was able to learn more than what he expected. He said, “akala ko strawberry lang pero marami pa pala.” He added “there are many things being practiced here na hindi ginagawa sa amin pero pwede naman pala naming gawin.” He also relayed that “our Provincial LGU will be very happy regarding this as our governor have been telling us that the province of Benguet will be our model in reducing the poverty incidence in Leyte.” Dr. Arlene L. Flores, ATI-CAR Training Center Superintendent II, in reply, thanked the group for all the lessons they learned as she emphasized to them the value of their learning activity. She said, “we are glad to hear your impressions, we believe na mas magandang sa labas ka ng classroom mag-aral, mas marami kang matututunan, hindi lang yung natutunan mo pati na yung mentalidad mo will change, you become broadminded, hindi yung makitid ang pananaw, yung pananaw and napakaimportante dito sa totoo lang at tamang-tama kayong mga leaders ang magdadala ng magandang balita.”
The participants of the “Hands-on Training and Exposure on Highland Vegetable Production and Other Highland Crops” are Mr. Alex O. Aborita, Mr. Diosdado J. Lego, Mr. Rolando B. Pace, Mr. Mateo C. Aborita and Mr. Ramil A. Corsanes from the Villaconzoillo Farmers Association; Mr. Rodrigo C. Enting from the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist of Leyte; Mr. Noel O. Bertis, Municipal Agriculturist and Ms. Aileen A. Baroy ofrom the Office of the Municpal Agriculturist of Jaro, Leyte; Ms. Concepcion B. Miro of the ATI-RTC 8, and; Mr. John Rodulf B. Desdechado and Ms. Virginia Acuin from the DA-RFO8.