Hacienda Luisita farmer beneficiaries go vegetable farming, learn marketing know-how

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web tarlac01The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), in collaboration with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), offered agrarian reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita another farming alternative— vegetable production—and marketing know-how to become competent and skilled entrepreneurs.

DAR Undersecretary for Support Services Rosalina Bistoyong said the department sees the need for these farmers-turned-landowners to learn additional skills and knowledge to prepare them for greater challenges ahead—sustaining farm productivity and improving their business acumen.

Under its agro-enterprise project, the DAR tapped 27 agrarian reform beneficiaries belonging to Barangays Bantog, Lourdes, Pando and Motrico, to become lead growers and trainees in vegetable production and entrepreneurship.
“This is just the initial phase. Eventually, the project will cover the rest of the 10 barangays of Hacienda Luisita,” Bistoyong said.

web tarlac02Prior to the farmers’ training, the DAR conducted soil testing in all 10 barangays of Hacienda Luisita and found out that the crops best suited to the type of soil there are red chillies, string beans, squash and sweet potatoes (camote).

“To find out what’s really hot in the market, we also conducted market studies and went to Balintawak, Divisoria and in Urdaneta market in Pangasinan. We learned that there’s a big demand now on red chillies,” said Bistoyong

The agro-enterprise experts from CRS shared with the agrarian reform beneficiaries the technical know-how of producing chilli peppers and other vegetables. The lead growers also underwent a 4-month intensive training on market study, product packaging, cash flows, and the basics on business marketing and bookkeeping.

At the recent harvest festival in Barangay Bantog, Tarlac City, the 27 lead growers proudly exhibited and sold their fresh red chilli peppers to residents and tourists.

web tarlac03Farmer Celina Palo of Barangay Lourdes used 500 square-meters from her land and planted red chillies. “Before planting chillies, this plot of land was idle and full of garbage. After 2 months of growing chillies, I’m earning P10,000 a month from it.”

“Hands-on training in planting the crop up to learning the ropes in business managing was a very big help. We didn’t just study in the classroom, we also conducted market studies, spoke to traders and business people. Now I know how it is to negotiate and conduct business,” said Palo who now does her own marketing.

Farmer Roberto Dizon of Barangay Motrico attests to the benefits of growing chillies. “The capital is cheaper and after two months, the chillies are ready for harvest and selling. The most I love about chillies is that it takes about 8-10 months before the plant dies. While it’s alive, you continue harvesting chillies every 4-5 days. That means I earn money 5-6 times in a month!”

Dizon said that in one harvest, his 500 sq. m. plot yielded 25 kilos of chillies. “At P160 per kilo of chillies, I earn P4,000. So, if I were harvesting 6 times in a month, It would earn me P24,000. Because of this very good turnout, I’m now planning on expanding this business by planting more chillies and adding string beans and bitter gourd (ampalaya) to my farm,” Dizon added.

When asked how the farmers would be able to sell their harvested crops to the market, Bistoyong said the DAR linked the farmers to buyers and traders in Divisoria, Balintawak and Urdaneta Market in Pangasinan.

“At present, the 27 lead growers sell their chillies to traders in these markets. But some of them, like farmer Celina Palo, now have other buyers that she has negotiated on her own. The trainings have given her the confidence to conduct business like a pro,” Bistoyong said. (Pniky Roque with Photos from Manny Trinos)

Photo 1: Undersecretarty for Support Services Rosalina Bistoyong welcoming guests and farmers during the harvest festival.

Photo 2: Taiwan red chillies

Photo 3: Undersecretary Bistoyong with Joe Curry of CRS and Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Ileona Pangilinan pose with the 27 lead growers of Hacienda Luisita.