It was already past midnight when we arrived at Delmor Integrated and Diversified Farm in Barangay Pinamangguan, Kadingilan, Bukidnon. Judging from the long hours of our travel visiting and monitoring other farms, I feel like diving straight to a ready-made bed any time soon the moment young farmer Ren Rey Delgado welcomed us in his 1.3 hectare farm.
It made sense to me now, his dedication and single-mindedness to equip himself with more learnings is unmatched. With four-hour long distance on a motorcycle, I can only imagine at the end of the day, the body sore he has to endure just to attend trainings (I was told later he’s used to it, so no worries).
In my conversation days earlier with agriculturist and 4H point person Cristine Galupo, I learned that Ren Rey is a 4H member with an already existing farm he managed which showed so much potential to level up as an agritourism farm site showcasing a diversified farm featuring his income-generating tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).
I personally enjoyed interviewing Ren Rey for his no nonsense point of view and practicality. When I ask a question, he takes his time to think it over and answer it as short and sensible as possible. He draws his answers from life experiences which taught him invaluable lessons.
Taking a cue from his parents who have been farmers all their lives, he learned from them the value of hard work and perseverance at an early age of seven. Including some of their farming ways which he uses now to his full advantage. The knowledge he gained from the trainings he attended, he blends it with the aged-old and time-tested farming practices he learned from them.
Having not completed his college degree yet, he makes this as a challenge to propel him to strive harder on what he aims for and aspire to do. “I stopped my studies and work to help support the family. There were times that I was a libod-suroy (nomadic and carefree) kind of a person, but that was already behind me now since my life nowadays is focused on farming. If time and chance allow me, I will continue my college degree soon.” Ren Rey affirmed who is now 27.
It was his involvement with 4-H that got him really engaged with farming. It was through 4-H that opened his sensibilities the importance of farming and somehow ushered him to utilize and take advantage of some of their underutilized lot.
“It would be a missed opportunity for me to just leave some of our lots not being utilized for farming, and I want to show people that there is future and fortune in farming. At first, I was not convinced that there is money in farming since the common misconception here (in the barrio) is that farmers are among the country’s poor. My neighbors are also farmers but they have different commodities as source of income, so yes, I am in good company”, Ren Rey shared.
Casting the net
From the get go, the interest and knowledge he had in terms of sustaining his tilapia venture came in handy because from the modest income he had, he was able to get a livelihood out of it. From the seven ponds of tilapias which ranges from 150 square meters to 300 square meters, he is able to earn an income of 30 thousand pesos per pond in every harvest of 300 kilos.
Ren Rey’s slow and steady success in his tilapia venture also generated compliments and praise from other more experienced farmers as well as upcoming ones. This prompted Ren Rey to share his tilapia farming knowledge to them. Aside from sharing farming tips and knowledge, he also gives them fingerlings for them to propagate. Indeed, from his good deed and generosity, Ren Rey have managed to fish other farmers to follow suit---to thrive and persevere amid numerous setbacks!
In the Philippines, several species of tilapia that have been introduced into local waterways are farmed for food. According to the Philippine Journal of Science, tilapia is the second most important farmed fish produced in ponds, cages, and pens next to milkfish (Chanos chanos). While the milkfish is an indigenous fish, the Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) was first introduced in the country in 1950 from Thailand followed by the Nile tilapia (O. niloticus) in 1972 and other species (O. aureus, O. hornorum, Coptodon zillii, and Sarotherodon melanotheron).
“It was a good move for us to establish fishponds and not rely on with rice earnings since we can profit from rice after 90 days pa”, Ren Rey shared.
In the surrounding vicinity of Delmor Farm are cash crops such as rice, string beans, ampalaya, eggplant, sweet potato, peanuts, scallions, cucumber and livestock such as native chickens, pig, goat, and ducks. There were also ponds of carps as his other means to augment his income.
“I have now four pigs and thanks to ATI, I learned how to castrate them based from the trainings I have attended. I also have four cows, as well as two goats given by the Department of Agriculture (DA). Among the crops that I like planting and propagating yearly are string beans, ampalaya, and kamote because they are my best sellers and they give me steady gains despite the lack of water supply. After harvesting my tilapia, I water my crops with fishpond water since I consider it as liquid fertilizer,” he beamed with pride.
To date, Ren Rey has four farm workers who help him with the day-to-day task and operation in his farm and other expansion farms. Talking about levelling-up big time!
A work in progress
The future of Ren Rey is not carved in stone. In fact, he acknowledges that he himself has a lot to do and is a work in progress. He also admits that there is so much he wants to accomplish in order for him to improve also. When pressed with the question of what valuable lessons he has learned over the years in his personal and farming life, his answer is to never give up.
“I have my share of failures and disappointments, we all do. What is important is to treat each day as a chance to do better next time around. What I do in the farm is reflective of my daily undertakings. If one harvest season is not much of a success, I will work hard next time”, Ren Rey declared.
Among the farmers he admires and look up to as model farmers are organic farming practitioners Junah Bayag of Jaya Secret Garden and Reynaldo Gil “Datu Makadingding” Lomarda of GreenMinds Incorporated, for their farming knowledge and selflessness in sharing tips and farming guides.
“I am still learning more and collecting farming technologies since others just develop their farm without finding out first if their farm area is suited for such crops. I am thankful for the farming technologies I learned from attending ATI trainings like the formulation and coming up of concoctions as natural insect repellents as well as the integration of livestock and high value crops in the farm”, Ren Rey said.
At the moment, Rey Rey is starting to venture in processing his farm produce such as coming up with jars of chili oil from a bounty harvest he got from his Astig chili variety. He now has 1,500 hills which he got the seedlings from Cebu. Chili oils are popular condiments and are known for its antioxidant properties.
“10 years from now, I want to be known for something I have discovered or learned along in my farming journey. Since farming is my passion and this is what I really want. Bisan pa ug kapila ko ma-failure. Ako gyud ni ibangon kay mao ni akong gusto. (Even if I fail many times, I will work on it since this is I really want to do). If willing and gusto gyud nimo mahitabo, buhaton jud nimo.”
In his parting words, Ren Rey stressed the importance of practicing natural farming, “Unsaon man na imung kaugmaon, kung dili ka ma-ugmaan. Step by step. Take little but sure steps. I don’t use harmful chemicals here in the farm since we do not advocate conventional farming here.