Finding his Niche from Governor to Congressman to Farmer

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“Ladies and Gentlemen, the new President of the Northern Mindanao Organic Agriculture Association, Mr. Leo Loreto Ocampos.” 

The applause was deafening. A proof that the decision is a popular and a unanimous one. As he rose to assume his new duties, he cannot help but recall the journey that has led him to this point in his life. 

“Humility has served me well. I want to become a farmer and I know I need help if I want to be successful.”

These are the famous words of former School Administrator, Governor and Congressman turned farmer. Despite his stature, he humbled himself and sought help. He is man enough to admit that he knew next to nothing about farming.

In less than two years, from someone who mistakenly labeled the Romaine lettuce variety as pechay in his farm, he has become an expert not only in organic crop production but also on free-range chicken for the highlands. He can even discuss “toe to toe” with experts on organic production and vermicomposting.

Costly Lesson

The road to success was not easy. For his free-range chicken production, he paid a high price. “It is my Tuition Fee”, he quips. Around 3,000 heads of an improved breed of chicken died before he came up with the technology applicable to be grown for high elevation. He learned a very significant lesson from that. He says technology is location-specific. Growing free-range chicken in the lowlands is very different in the uplands. A costly lesson indeed, but one he treasures and shares freely so that others may not meet the same fate. Of course, he admits that there are “celestial beings” who helped him along the way. Dr. Eldani Fernando, a veterinarian who also grows his free-range chickens, albeit in the lowland was and continues to be a big help.

Finding his niche

“In everything that you do, you have to find your niche.” This mantra has guided him successfully through life. As a farmer, he tried growing lettuce but later found out that the people in Misamis Occidental are not big on lettuce. He found it hard to market his produce. So he changed his product.

“Don’t be a copycat. What work for others may not work for you.” He studied the market and found out that that lechon manok is very popular but are sprouting everywhere. Competition is stiff. On the other hand, native chicken is always popular in the market because of its taste. So he combined the two and the Hoyohoy Native Lechon Manok is born. Here he found out that the market has virtually no competition in as far as native lechon manok is concerned. However, he found it hard to mass-produce native chicken. He went for the next best thing, free-range Hubbard chicken. These birds, which originally came from Europe are well suited to Philippine climatic conditions with better growth rate, high feed conversion, higher meat yield, and faster time to attain slaughter weight compared to the native chicken. Its taste is comparable to the native chicken. Gov. Leo first tried to offer it in his restaurant. Its popularity and acceptance have encouraged him to commercialize.

Continuous Learning

Gov. Leo does not rest on his laurels. Being in the academe before his foray in politics, he knew the value of learning. Thus, he continues to join training conducted by the Agricultural Training Institute and in fact, he proudly announces to anybody who listens that he has an NC II on Organic Production. He is proud of this achievement because it was earned the hard way. They have to be cosseted in training on organic agriculture production and were then tested in various competencies such as organic feed formulation, concoction making, etc. Proof of how the training impacted on him is his being an organic practitioner at present.

Making money in Ginger

Another major crop that Gov. Leo went into is ginger. He believes that every person should set a goal in numbers. To be able to earn P2M in nine months, he targeted ginger. To meet this target, he needs 3,000 sacks planted to ginger. His capital for this is only around P30,000 – P 40,000.

Diversification

Diversification is the key to Gov. Leo’s continued success. He is an astute businessman who saw the potential of buying and selling, albeit on a larger scale. He also advocates for passive income, specifically going into the stock market. His Freedom Academy, another business he put up with his daughter April, a financial adviser who gives training on Financial Literacy, teambuilding, etc. The products on his farm are also diverse. There was a time that he produced potted ornamentals which he marketed as a significant gift for Valentine’s Day. He said, this is a viable alternative for roses, which dries on after a few days. These plants, if well-tended will last you for years. A fitting gift indeed!

Gov. Leo owns and manages Hoyohoy Organic Farm also known as Hoyohoy Highland Stone Chapel Organic Farm & Adventure Park in Tangub City. It has become a welcome respite to those who seek solace, wild adventure or simply a getaway from the mundane and the daily grind of a routinary life. 

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