Farming in its simplest form – The Pat Acosta Success Story

Pat Acosta, A Pioneer in Organic Farming in Benguet (photo by Ben Natividad)

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet - Pat Acosta can be considered a peculiar farmer.

This statement can be a little bit exaggerated but no one can deny that he is one of the pioneers in the emergence of organic agriculture in the province of Benguet. If one examines the methods he uses in his farming it may be as he terms it “going back to the basics of agriculture,” where farming shouldn’t be as complicated as it may seem now. Organic farming according to Acosta can be described as simple farming, no need for chemical fertilizers as well as pesticides and all you need to worry about is the health of your soil.

Going against the conventional

Organic farming is the answer to conventional farming where crops are often sprayed with chemicals that may cause some serious health conditions for farmers and consumers. Since the Department of Agriculture (DA) promoted the use of organic farming, the demand for organic products is increasing. People became aware of the health benefits that these products bring. For Acosta, he was ahead of his time, he was already well into organic farming before DA launched its program on Organic Agriculture. “Natuto ako ng organic farming on my own, walang nagturo sa akin,” (I have learned organic farming on my own, nobody taught me)," Acosta said. Even personnel from DA learned from his practice “I taught a good number of them as far as the practice is concerned,” Acosta added.

Principles in Organic

In organic agriculture where your soil is the foundation of your farming, Acosta believes that fertilizer should also be in the important list to consider.

“The fertilizer aspect basically answers the whole success of the plants and farmer,” Acosta noted. 

In Acosta’s farm called “The Master’s Garden,” grass is the main substrate of his compost to where his fertilizer come from. He says that he does not use manure for his fertilizers and noted that they “don’t have it in our farm.”  He further explained that in the Philippines which is a tropical country, grass is readily available all year round so the supply for it will not be lacking.

“And so this is what the foundation of our teaching, using grass which is everybody’s resource as our compost substance,” Acosta noted.

Another thing that makes Acosta different from other organic farmers is that he never uses animal manure for his fertilizer. “Now we don’t use manure because manure is defined as waste so why do you use waste to grow plant that you would eventually be eating,” Acosta stated explaining why he does not use manure for his fertilizer.

The farm and its beginning

“Everything you see here is the fruit of our experimentations, trials and hard work basically,” says Acosta. It was in 1999 when he first planned to establish his farm. The farm located along Brgy. Pinalyok, Puguis in La Trinidad is just 3,000 sq.m. and its main crops are salad greens and vegetables. According to Acosta, the objective of the farm “is to make it as productive as possible,” and to prove that with a minimal number of personnel the farm can operate very well. “For the past ten years we’ve been operating with only two personnel,” Acosta said. In a simple Filipino farm scenario, it is usually the father and the mother together with their children who works in the farm and this is what Acosta wants to replicate.

Marketing his produce

For Acosta, he did not really choose the crops that he grows, he claims that “the market dictates basically what you will grow and it should grow in your area” and since Benguet has a temperate climate and a high demand for salad greens and vegetables, these were the main crops he grows in his farm. The Master’s Garden produces six varieties of lettuce as well as some culinary herbs.

“We are lucky to have penetrated Manila already but in a way we have to sacrifice the local market,”Acosta said. But for Acosta it’s a blessing in disguise that his produce is not available in Benguet because it became an opportunity for others especially those he has trained to market their produce locally.

Right now Acosta says that about 98% of his produce is directly sent to Manila under the trade name KIAs Organic Green the Master’s Garden. These can be found in select SM supermarkets, Megamall, Robinsons Supermarket and Rustans.

Sharing his knowledge

Acosta has been teaching his practice of organic farming since 2004, he decided to venture into training farmers since at that time there was no one who was teaching the ways on how to have an organic farm. “Kawawa talaga ang magsasaka na gustong magbago na hindi naman pwede, na-trapped sila in the chemical maze or the chemical scene all their lives,” (We pity the farmers who want to change but felt trapped in the chemical maze or the chemical scene all their lives),"  Acosta said.

Also, Acosta claims that his “3,000 sq. m. farm cannot feed a barangay, how much more the world” and only by spreading his knowledge in organic farming is his own way of helping the country attain its goal of food sustainability, “that’s how I logically decided to teach,” Acosta added.

Doing it his own way

Pat Acosta is a pioneer, a visionary. It takes courage to go against the current and go the other direction – this is what makes Pat Acosta different. He is a peculiar farmer but in a good way. He is his own man when it comes to farming, he does it his own way, and it proved to be effective. Sometimes peculiarity has its advantages.