Mr. Benito and His Venture in Organic Agriculture
Mr. Benito Santos started as a conventional farmer in 1995. But after attending seminars and symposia on organic agriculture, he decided to apply the cultural practices he learned from CLORFA and MASIPAG. In 2007, he gradually converted his farm to organic agriculture from 30:70 (30% organic: 70% conventional); 40:60; 50:50; 75:25 until he reached 100% full organic conversion in 2013. His motivation in shifting to organic agriculture is to provide safe and healthy food for his family. He believes that synthetic chemical farming is harmful to the environment.
Mr. Benito Santos, from San Rafael, Bulacan has been in farming for 20 years and had attended numerous trainings on organic agriculture. He was able to share his learnings and experiences on organic agriculture to a larger audience after he was tapped by the Municipal Agriculture Office as a resource person in various trainings.
As a member of different groups and organizations, he is actively involved in the Municipal Agriculture and Fisheries Council (MAFC), Central Luzon Organic Agriculture Farmers’ Association (CLORFA), and Nutritional Farming Association. With his passion in agriculture, Mr. Santos was awarded as the Outstanding Local Farmer Technician of Central Luzon in 2015 during the National Convention of Local Farmer Technician.
Mr. Santos owns a 1.5 hectare diversified and integrated farm which is rice-based, with vegetables, livestock and poultry. His farm is largely rain fed with limited irrigation from his man-made irrigation system. He markets his produce through the Sabariaga Rice Mill and sells vegetables to neighbors, friends and interested consumers. Eggs and free-range chicken are sold at the 8 Waves Waterpark, a local resort.
During the wet season (August-November) and dry season (December-March), one hectare of his land is planted with rice and 0.5 hectare is planted with diverse vegetables. The choice of vegetables he plants depends on their ease of management, their market demand and value. Patola (Luffa aegyptiaca) is planted from December to March, sigarillas (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus) in May to August, and pole sitao (Vigna unguiculata sesquipedalis) from September to November. In addition, Mr. Santos also plants papaya (Carica papaya), bittergourd (Momordica charantia), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and chilli pepper (Capsicum annuum).
During land preparation, Mr. Santos applies 40 bags of animal manure, 60 bags of rice hull, 10 bags of vermicast per hectare, and rice straw, from the previous crop harvest, in the field. In addition, other organic fertilizers made from available local resources are applied. He recommends using malunggay leaves in making fermented plant juice because he contends that it has high nutritional content. Fresh leaves of Malunggay (gram for gram) has 7x more vitamin C of oranges, 4x more vitamin A than carrot, 3x more potassium of banana, 4x more calcium of milk and 2x the protein of yoghurt.
For pest management, Mr. Santos prepares a mixture of 4kg neem tree leaves, makabuhay, chilli and 4 Liters of water which he ferments for 3 to 5 days. The dilution ratio for spraying is 1 Liter of the concoction mixed with 16 Liter of water or 1 knapsack sprayer. This botanical spray is used only as needed. He also plants tubli (Derris elliptica) and kakawate (Gliricidia sepium) around the farm for their insecticidal properties. Mr. Santos owns carabaos which are used as draft animals, 50 free-range chickens, and 12 ducks that provide food and income from their eggs and meat.
The main challenge for Mr. Santos is the lack of market for his organic produce. He finds it difficult to compete in the existing market when he adds a price premium of PhP 1.00 per kg for his organic produce. He plans to obtain organic certification to have wider market reach and to get higher price. However, he thinks that the adjacent farms, using agrochemicals, may contaminate his farm and may pose a problem for the certification.
Now that Mr. Santos is in full swing on organic farming, he plans to apply for organic certification to assure his buyers that his produce are free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and thus boost his marketing strategy. He also plans to continue conducting research on new organic farming technologies to further improve his farm production in a sustainable manner. Likewise, he will continue extending help to other farmers by sharing knowledge and lessons he learned from organic farming.