Monday, April 29, 2013

From Ordinary Poultry To Leisure Farm (Taiwan)

EVA TSAI with the barbecue chicken
she prepared for the Philippine visitors.
Leisure farms can create new opportunities for people in the countryside. Just like what we have seen during a tour of the same in Taiwan from April 23 to 28.

Leisure farms are just like what we are beginning to call agri-tourism destinations in the Philippines. They are farms that offer more than just the usual farm produce.
At the Daken Leisure Farm in the village of Daken in Tainan county in southern Taiwan, we have witnessed the progress that three generations have achieved. From simple conventional growing of broiler chickens, the Tsai family, from the grandpa and grandma Tsai to Papa and Mama Tsai, and then to the three wonderful Tsai sisters, the poultry farm has metamorphosed into a thriving destination of local and foreign tourists.
In 2012, according to Papa Tsai, some 30,000 local visitors flocked to the Daken Leisure Farm. And then there were also 5,000 foreigners who wanted to savor the invigorating environment that the leisure farm offers to visitors. Most of the foreign visitors came from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. And now the Taiwan Leisure Farm Developers Association is also targeting Vietnam and the Philippines as two other sources of foreign visitors.

While raising poultry may be a good source of income, there are also bumpy situations when there is an oversupply of chickens or if the cost of feeds is high, and profit could be jeopardized. And so the enterprising farmer has to create new sources of income.

And that is just what the Tsai family did some 20 years ago. Besides raising chickens, they started barbecuing their fowls. And since they had come up with such juicy and tasty “Litson manok”, the word spread fast and people flocked to the farm to partake of the juicy grilled chicken seasoned with aromatic herbs.

As visitors grew and grew, the Tsais also had the bright idea of adding lodging and other facilities. They now have 40 rooms with comfortable amenities, usually filled to capacity during weekends.

To this day, the barbecue chicken is a major attraction at the Daken Leisure Farm. The chicken is now free-range and so it is regarded as a healthy meat. One grilled bird costs the equivalent of P750 in Philippine money. And a lot is consumed during weekends when families bring the  whole family for a feast of the famous Daken “Litson Manok.”

Of course, there are many other gastronomical delights. Aside from the baby pig lechon, there are creative concoctions of Ruby Tsai, the chef in the family. There are bamboo and mushroom cuisines, pineapple and sweet potato preparations, bamboo shoots which the place is famous for. And there is also the ubiquitous herbal tea that is served in every meal.

The Taiwanese government has been promoting the establishment of leisure farms in the countryside as a means to increase the income of people on the farms. One of the contributions of the government toward this end is the construction of roads so that the leisure farms become accessible.

Aside from road construction, the government has been providing consultants who could provide some insights to the leisure farm owners. The consultants could suggest how they can make the leisure farms more attractive to target customers. They could suggest additional activities that will bring more income to the owners.

Among the attractions in the leisure farms in Taiwan are the DIY or Do-It-Yourself activities. In the case of Daken Leisure Farm, visitors can learn to make souvenir items out of pieces of bamboo and wood available in the farm. The visitors can also learn about the different herbal plants that are either culinary or medicinal or both.

At the frontyard of the the lodging facilities, the children as well as the adults, could be fascinated by the many tame animals that just run around. These include native chickens with their brood, very friendly pigeons that will alight on your palm if you have something to feed them, rabbits, ducks and others.

Of course one could also take to the hiking trail with some 800 steps to the top of the mountain where there is a view deck that enables one to see the lush vegetation all around, down below. And then one can try taking the rope bridge across a ravine. Or one can take the cable car to cross the same.

The hiking trail goes back near where one had started. And at the end is a spa where aching nerves could be refreshed with a gentle massage, complete with aromatherapy.

What is admirable about the owners of the leisure farms, not only the Daken Leisure Farm but also the others we visited, is that the owners are very hands-on. They are very humble and very friendly.  They are also very hard working. These are traits that aspiring Filipino leisure farm owners could as well learn to acquire.
Papa Tsai and Ruby, the chef in the family.
One of the lodging facilities at Daken
Leisure Farm in Daken Village
Plump and juicy barbecue chicken
Naturally grown pigs.

ZAC B. SARIAN and two friendly pigeons.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Papaya Grower in Bago City

Jun Hilado (left) and Zac B. Sarian
In farming, as in any other business, one has to be creative in order to become a winner. Just like our new friend Sergio “Jun” Hilado of Bago City who spent 30 of his 55 years in Manila. And for 14 years he was vice president for operations of a well known management firm in the city.
Then in 2000, he decided to give up his corporate job to return to nis native Negros so he can become a full-time gentleman farmer. While sugarcane is his main crop in the 80 hectares that he operates today, he is more excited about growing his Red Royale papaya. Before that, he was growing the very popular Red Lady variety.
He likes papaya because the gestation period is relatively short compared to some other crops. And once the papaya has started producing ripe fruit, harvesting is usually twice a week and so the cash flow is continuous for several months.
Jun says that papaya is really a profitable crop to grow, especially if one can avoid the virus that now and then attacks some plants. He has been trying to outwit the virus by planting in a new area each time.
In 2010, he planted just half a hectare to Red Lady. He really had a good crop because for four months, he harvested from his plants two times a week. And in each harvest he usually got 800 to 900 kilos. He sold most of them at P20  a kilo he grossed P16,000 to P18,000 per harvest, or P32,000 to P36,000 a week. As per his record, he spent only about P80,000 on that half hectare crop.
Later, Jun decided that his papayas should be better in quality and packaging than those of other growers in Negros. That way, he could command a higher price. So what did he do?  He designed an attractive label which he stuck on each fruit. Just by doing that “Red Sweet” label, Jun was able to command a price of P25 per kilo instead of the P15 or P20 that most “viajeros” would offer the papaya farmer per kilo.
He has also designed a scheme that motivates his workers to work fast and efficiently in the farm. It is also a scheme that allows the workers to be able to bring home some money every time a particular work is finished. Say one hectare has to be weeded. He tells his workers that the budget for weeding is P1,200. And so, if four workers can finish weeding in one day, they can already receive their share of P300 each  when they go home. There are many other chores that could be budgeted similarly.
Jun Hilado's label for his papayas
Jun has also come up with his own organic fertilizer to reduce the cost of chemical fertilizers. He used to spend P21,000 on chemical fertilizers per hectare. Now, with his own organic fertilizer, he saves about P5,000 per hectare on fertilizers.
His organic fertilizer consists of chicken manure, mill ash, mudpress and rock phosphate.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

May Agriculture Magazine Cover

SHEILA ROJO, a registered nurse from Zambales who attended the Allied Botanical Field Day in Tayug, Pangasinan, is on the cover of the May 2013 issue of Agriculture Magazine.

  She is shown with the long pods of one of the outstanding sitao varieties developed by Allied Botanical in its 23-hectare research farm in Tayug.

You will read a lot of interesting features in the May issue aside from our report on the Field Day in Tayug.

You will read about a Nueva Ecija planter who made millions from hot pepper grown in just 2,000 square meters.

The May issue will be off the press before the end of April. Make sure to get your copy. Agriculture Magazine is the most widely circulated publication of its kind in the Philippines. It is available in bookstores, convenience stores and the distribution network of Manila Bulletin nationwide.

HORTI SOCIETY Officials Inducted

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala (left) inducted recently the new set of officers and trustees  (2013-2014) of the Philippine Horticultural Society at his office in Quezon City. Those inducted, from left: Immediate past president and ex-officio board member May Caballero-Dumlao, new president Adoracion S. Bernabe, vice president Patricia Fernando Regalado, corresponding secretary Norma Karasig Villanueva, recording secretary Noel Vincent Canicula, treasurer Remedios Rodis Santelices, assistant treasurer Edna Felipe, assistant PRO Betty Rivera, PRO Butch Duque and auditor Orlan Velasco.

Friday, April 19, 2013


This is Zac B. Sarian, agriculture editor of Manila Bulletin. I may not be able to attend to your texts, e-mail and calls immediately from April 23 to 28, 2013. That's because we will be in Taiwan visiting at least 5 big leisure farms. One of them is a big farm in the highlands with about 3,000 kinds of herbs. Of course, you will learn about what we gather in this blog as well as in the Bulletin publications.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

RAMIE AMARDECER - Farmer Hero In Negros

Ramie Amardecer and Zac B. Sarian in
Ramie's sweet corn plantation.
Meet an enterprising high-value crop producer who is East-West Seed Company’ farmer hero in Western Visayas.
He is 40-year-old Ramie Amardecer of Bago City who studied to become a diesel mechanic but who decided to become a full-time farmer instead.

He has been farming for the last 20 years, earlier together with his father but farming in those earlier years was not so profitable because the ordinary varieties yielded very low.

He is very thankful that he came to know the technicians of East-West who introduced to him the hybrid seeds and also gave him the proper training in growing the same.

Morena eggplant, a hybrid by East-West, has become his favorite since he first planted it in 2009. In his first cropping, he planted 3,000 hills in March. About 50 days later, he started harvesting the fruits of his plants. He did that every Monday and Friday until the end of November.

His plants were so fruitful, he was able to harvest 1.2 to as much as 2.2 tons each time. Usually, he was able to sell his harvest at P35 per kilo. In short, he was able to make P700,000 from that cropping.

From this windfall, he bought three motorcycles and a tricycle. Two of the motorcycles were for his two sons while the other one is for his own use. The tricycle, on the other hand, is for the service of his workers.

His expenses were not much. The seeds cost him about P900. The other expenses went to land preparation which was done with a carabao, fertilizers, pesticide, irrigation and labor.

Not long after, he also discovered another money maker from East-West Seed. This is the Macho sweet corn which has also become his favorite up to this day. Macho produces big ears that are very sweet, and well liked by consumers.

He now produces sweet corn on a staggered basis – planting a kilo of seeds (about 7,500 seeds) every one to two weeks. This usually gives him about 6,600 marketable ears. Because he grows them very well, he could get as many as 3,000 first class ears that fetch P8 each, 3,300 Class B ears sold at P6, and 300 third class. On the average, he grosses P46,000 from a kilo of seeds that costs him P1,800. The growing period is only 65 to 75 days.

Ramie has demonstrated that one does not have to own the land to become a successful farmer. There are many lands that are available for rent. He rents 1.3 hectare in Brgy. Lagasan at only P5,000 a year. On the other hand, he rents the two hectares in another place at P15,000 a year per hectare. That’s still very reasonable to him. After all, he is getting high yields from the hybrid seeds from East-West.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sweet Kamias Multiplied In Teresa

The Sweet Kamias is now being propagated in big numbers at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. This is in answer to the clamor of enthusiasts to have at least a few plants in their farm or garden.

The Sweet Kamias is not sour as the ordinary variety is. But it has a very nice flavor. That is why Ms. Adela Ang of EDSA Garden House has commented that it is a very good material for vegetable salads.

The fruit can also be eaten fresh right after picking. It is very delightful to the taste. With proper care, the seedling should bear fruit in three or four years.

The Sweet Kamias is a prolific bearer. The fruits are, however, smaller than the sour variety. But they are plentiful.

The seedlings are now available at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery. Call Rose how you can acquire some at 0915-434-4216.

Mango Festival In QC: April 19-21

The Aani Mango Industry Network (AMIN) headed by Antonio S. Rola is staging a mango festival from April 19 to 21 at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.

The festival features exhibits not only of the carabao mango but also imported varieties like Golden Queen and others from Thailand and Florida (USA).

The event also features lectures and demonstrations as well as free consultations with experts and market matching. 

Ricardo Buenaventura: Hybrid Rice Farmer

Ricardo Buenaventura
Ricardo Buenaventura, 55, of Tabacao, Talavera, Nueva Ecija, has demonstrated that hybrid rice can be grown at a very modest cost.

He is shown in this photo with his bumper crop of SL-8H hybrid rice just before harvesting recently. 

He was able to produce 11,704 kilos in 1.1 hectares at a cost of only P3.20 per kilo. Since the selling price was P15.50 per kilo, he made a profit of P12.30 per kilo.

He has proven that hybrid rice is profitable to grow, especially during the dry season cropping. (Photo by Melpha M. Abello)

Friday, April 12, 2013

PINATUBO - Hottest Chilli In Town

Allied Botanical Corporation claims to own the hottest chilli in town. Called Pinatubo, it is said to have 180,000 to 200,000 scoville heat units. Scoville index is the measure of hotness in chilli, named after Wilbur Scoville of the United States who developed the heat index in chillis. 
Thailand's hot pepper is said to have only 90,000 scoville heat units while the ubiquitous Tingala has 120,000 scoville heat units, according to Mike Castillo, technical services specialist in food processing of Allied Botanical.

Mother's Best and Mama Sita are among the companies that are processing hot chilli in the Philippines.

Pinatubo is said to be a very prolific variety. 


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Unusual Indigenous Tomato

Henk Pascha and a profusely
flowering indigenous tomato plant.
The Lanchang Experimental Farm of East-West Seed International in Chiang Mai Thailand collects indigenous germplasm from various parts of the world which it grows under greenhouse conditions.

  A high-tech laboratory of the company at the Simon Groot Research Station in Sansai, Chiang Mai, analyzes the characteristics of each plant material. It can detect its purity as well as if it has any disease infection.

In photo is Henk Pascha, senior plant breeder, posing with an indigenous tomato that grows very tall and is profusely blooming. They will use this as a source of desirable characteristics of future hybrids that they will develop.

The Lanchang Experimental Farm is developing pure lines that they can use as stud plants in their breeding program. 

Sweet Corn Germinated In Seedling Tray

New techniques of growing high-value crops, like sweet corn, are being disseminated to the local farmers in Murcia and Bago City in Negros Occidental, thanks to the demonstration and training center in Brgy. Cansilayan, Murcia put up by the Energy Development Corporation. One of the techniques is growing sweet corn seedlings in seedling trays using the proper germinating medium. This technique is much better than planting the seed direct in the ground. Photo shows technician Arnel Caunto with seedlings germinated in seedling trays that are about ready for planting in the field.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vibrator For Pollinating Tomato

You can pick up many novel farming techniques if you visit the Lanchang Experimental Farm of East-West Seed International in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Like this practical but very doable  technique of pollinating tomatoes with the use of a battery-powered vibrator. Here, a lady worker places the tip of the vibrator on the flowering stems of the tomatoes. The flowers are shaken and pollination is effected. Instead of using bees and other insects for crop pollination, this is an alternative.

Unusually Tall Hot Pepper

Many unusual vegetables are being grown in the Lanchang Experimental Farm of East-West Seed International in Chiang Mai, Thailand. These include the hot pepper in photo that grows up to 10 feet tall under greenhouse conditions. The variety is very prolific, producing fruits from the bottom up to the top. Photo shows Henk Pascha, senior plant breeder, with the very tall tomato. At the Lanchang Farm, they are also developing pure lines used in developing hybrids that are superior in many ways.
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