Thursday, 18 March 2010

A professional goes farming

Manila Bulletin

Expect something great when a professional who is a management expert goes into farming. The farm project would be something that is well studied and focused. She will have a well defined roadmap towards her particular goal.

That’s what we had expected when we first met Rowena Unas in late 2008. We did not have any doubt that she was serious in getting into farming. We were pretty sure she had a lucrative job abroad as management consultant to business firms in China and elsewhere, but then she wanted to slow down on that consulting job and do something different.

It happens that she got a seven-hectare property left by her father who was a long time mayor of the town, and that’s exactly what she wanted to develop. It’s a big challenge but despite comments from some quarters that the farm could not be transformed into something productive, she was sure of her decision to go into farming.

From the very beginning, she had wanted to grow organic vegetables not just as a hobby but as an honest-to-goodness business. We advised her to meet people who are key players in the vegetable industry. We told her to visit the experimental farm of East-West Seed Company, which she did. We also connected her to Harbest Agribusiness where she and brother Eric attended a short course on off-season vegetable production. They also attended a similar course at East-West Seed.

Advised that water is very important in farming, she did not just have somebody build a deepwell. She had an expert to conduct a hydrological study of her farm. The study was so revealing, she had a lot of water underneath because the water from Silang and Tagaytay flows towards her place. Now, she has a submersible pump that could provide her the water she needs El Niño or no El Niño.

She has constructed not just a farm house but a farm mansion complete with amenities. She wants to make sure that her husband who is doing big dredging business in the Philippines will not miss the comforts of a hotel. She also wanted to make sure that her brother Eric will be comfortable as her assistant in running the farm.

She stays on the farm so she has a daily presence there together with Eric and his wife. They are still in the experimental stage in their farming. They want to find out which crops have money-making potentials. Rowena is convinced that Diamante Max tomato is one winner. From a 1,000 square meter, they had grossed P40,000 so far and they still have some more harvests to come. Although the price in the market was low (average P15 per kilo), they still managed to get that amount. If the crop was during off-season, that would have been much bigger. Anyway, they plan to grow tomatoes year-round.

Another potential money maker is squash. Their Gracia squash yielded a lot of fruits and the cost of production was low. What disappointed Rowena was the eggplant which was damaged by pests.

Rowena knows very well that one does not expect to make a bonanza from farming right away. But with proper management in production and marketing, she is convinced there is future in her new-found project. She sees other future possibilities. The farm could someday become a tourist destination. Bottled water could be another source of income. But for the meantime they have to discover the different crops they could rotate throughout the year.

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