The Hagahag Farm is certainly a pride of Goa and the whole province of Camarines Sur when it comes to organic farming. Owned by a sexagenarian, Mang Edilberto Abad, his age and the remoteness of the farm did not deter him to develop his 2.5 hectare upland farm into an organic showcase. His upland farm in barangay San Pedro is a 6 kilometers trek from the main road of Goa, along a narrow unpaved, rocky bypassed road accessible only to carabao-drawn carts or “door-to-door” motorcycle.
His farm is guaranteed organic area by a second party certification as it was certified by the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) for the period October 2015 to October 2016.
He personally does the farm planning, scheduling and budgeting for his farm. He also maintains a simple record of the farm activities.
In the past years he became very busy as his farm has been opened to visitors and is now serving as barangay-based model farm and participatory technology demonstration area where he teaches fellow farmers and students on organic farming.
But amidst his busy schedule, he can still devote his time to affiliate in various organizations. He is the president of San Pedro -Aroro Magsasaka Siyentista ng Sustenableng Agrikultura Association (SPAMSAA) from 2011 to present. He is also the president of Organic Vegetable Growers Association (OVGA) in Goa from 2014 to present. He is a farmer-trainer and inspector of MASIPAG and Board of Director and Inspector of Goa Agri-Producers and Processors Association (GAPPA), among others.
As early as 2010 even before the DA and LGU has introduced the organic agriculture program, Mang Edilberto has attended a training on Organic Vegetable Production which was conducted by an NGO, the Plan International Bicol. In 2012, he has attended a training course on Organic Corn based Farming given by the Agricultural Training Institute. In 2013, he completed a Season-long FFS on Organic Rice Production conducted by the ATI and LGU Goa; and a 5-day training on Organic Agriculture ICS for Small Group given by DA Organic Agriculture Program and ATI. In 2014, he finished another Season-long FFS on Integrated Diversified Organic Farming System conducted by ATI RTC 5 and LGU Goa. Mang Edilberto has in his collection a compilation of certificates he received from his other seminars and trainings.
Aside from his formal trainings, Mang Edilberto also strives to develop his own innovations.
It was 12 years ago when he first took home a bee colony from the wild. Over time, he learned to use culture bees in coconut shell beehives. He learned to split the mature colonies into new hives and expand the chambers by adding more coconut shells.
Each beehive is fixed on a raised structure and covered with an improvised crown to protect the colony from rain and strong sunlight. The naturally constructed hives teem with bees and blend scenically with the trees around his house.
He practices a self-learned technique of applying green manure. Noting that crops under kakawate(Gliricidiasepium) trees and on its litter-fall grow well, he puts kakawate leaves in the soil during land preparation. He attributes this to the nutrients
particularly nitrogen in the leaves. He also incorporates aromatic leaves in the soil to control the pests.
He also does his own method of trench composting. In a 1-foot deep trench, he puts dried coconut fronds and husks, then covered with soil. He would sow the seeds or transplant crops when the organic matters start to decompose. Organic fertilizers are no longer applied except for dried leaves to serve as mulch. He said initially the crops performance gradually improved. Mang Edilberto plants on the bed vegetables, ornamentals and spices for two consecutive cropping seasons. When the organic matters are completely decayed, he would put another layer.
He intercrops indigenous vegetables and herbs under trees. On open fields, he does crop rotation of annual crops and companion planting with aromatic plants to ward off pests. He plants tomatoes in the first cropping season, followed by bell pepper and then peanut. Along hedge rows he plants aromatic herbs such as lemongrass and citronella.
His farm showcases simple/indigenous farming practices that are replicable by small farmers like him.
At first he did not plant high-value crops as he thought that in organic farming the crops are susceptible to pests, as there should be no pesticides applied.
The Municipal Agriculture Office set up a series of trainings for farmers in the area, including Mang Edilberto. They studied the production of natural inputs including plant- based nutrient sources and oriental herbal nutrient (OHN) and other botanical pesticides. This encouraged him to produce other high-value crops and natural farming inputs, the materials for which are sourced within the farm. He ferments nutrient-rich parts of farm- based fruits and plants. In two weeks, the fermented plant or fruit juice are sprayed on crops.
Today, Mang Edilberto’s diversified integrated organic farm showcases a sustainable local food system encompassing poultry, livestock, crops, beekeeping, vermiculture and others – from production to processing, distribution and consumption, to resource/waste recovery. He has cacao, coconut, vegetables, upland rice, rootcrops, ornamentals and apiculture.
He maintains a butterfly farm and more than 300 bee colonies of stingless bees (Trigonabiroi) under the trees. Each hive produces two bottles of honey in a year. He took measures to ensure a healthy environment for plant pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Stingless bees favour the nectar from coconut, which abound in Hagahag Farm. With the farm’s pristine upland environment, honey from the nectars taste almost sweet although ordinarily stingless bees are known to produce sweet-sour honey.
He cultivated host plants for butterflies –citrus, neem tree, and lagaylay. The leaves of these plants are food for the butterfly larvae. Likewise he planted flowering plants as food source for the bees. Pollinators play an important role in ensuring fruit productio n.
Perennial crops grow in the farm. In open spaces, fruit tree species such as cacao are integrated. He planted insect repellants such as marigold or Amarillo in vegetable areas to drive away insects that feed on solanaceous crops particularly tomatoes and eggplant. He also planted aromatic plants which repel insects – lemongrass,anis, neem tree, and kakawate.
Composting areas are established around trees. Farm wastes such as excess greens and grains are fed to organically grown hog and a 20-head brood of free-range native chickens.
Factors that insure Hagahag Farm’s sustainability include reliance on on-farm inputs and family labor, seed banking, on-farm marketing that accommodates barter- system with other community members.
The Municipal Agriculture Office tapped the Partido State University’s help in packaging the honey. This enabled him to market the honey at competitive prices, at the same time serving more clients in need of this healthy produce.
Trigonabiroi honey is rich in vitamins and minerals, traditionally used in treating coughs, cold and stomach upsets. Science has proven its natural antibiotic properties.
Today, he sells the Hagahag honey in a roadside store he recently put up outside the Hagahag Farm. He also sells his produce in the town market and even to customers outside Goa. Demand for the Hagahag honey often exceeds the supply.
Ironically, people in the barrios are used to buying fruits and vegetables in the market. Thus he sought to supply first his barangay with the fresh fruits, vegetables and root crops he produces. He sells these to consumers in the barangay at low prices – prices they can afford. Although the prices are very low, Mang Edilberto still earns profits since he does not incur transportation costs.
Produce that are not bought in the Hagahag store are sold in the market at prices higher than those in the barangay yet still at par with those in the market. Organically grown foods have longer shelf life owing to the good quality of the produce.
Mang Edilberto and his daughter, an agriculture student, are documenting the production of organic hog vis-à-vis a commercially grown one in terms of differences in weight and production costs to reach a desired weight
In addition to helping secure food sufficiency at the barangay, he also helps educate the people in the area with the help and guidance of the Municipal Agriculture Office.
Mang Edilberto was elected by fellow farmers as officer of the Goa Agri-Producers and Processors Association (GAPPA) – a federation of the barangay-based organic producers’ organization in Goa. GAPPA officers and selected members have undergone two (2) phases of training on Internal Control System (ICS) conducted by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) in partnership with NICERT. GAPPA has produced its ICS Manual and pilot-testing the imple mentation of the ICS system in preparation for actual installation.
As member of several non-government organizations, his farm hosted weekly barangay classes in sustainable agriculture. Since 2013 he has been conducting weekly farmer field school (FFS) on integrated diversified organic farming system.
Today his farm serves as a barangay-based model farm and participatory technology demonstration area where he teaches farmers on organic farming. A larger hut was constructed to accommodate a bigger number of farmers.
A seedling nursery supplies the farmer students with planting materials for their own farms. The Hagahag Farm also serves as production area for indigenous species.
Mang Edilberto helped generate local jobs, particularly in employing labor to maintain the production of coconuts and various kinds of vegetables. About 10 motorcycles for hire (habal-habal) incur additional income with farm visits and trainings regularly held at Hagahag Farm.
The farm’s unique technical initiatives encouraged local technology adoption, making positive changes in the life and livelihood of at least six farmer-adopters within the San Pedro as well as two farmer-adopters outside the community. The farm inspires a lot of farmers and visitors.
Hagahag Farm is one of the most visited agro -tourism sites in Camarines Sur.
His visitors’ logbook is a silent witness to more than 500 visitors composed of farmers, farmer-leaders, researchers, students, businessmen. In June 2015 Mang Edilberto Abad was recognized by the LGU as a Model Organic Farmer. And in 2016 he was recognized by Agriculture Secretary Piñol as finalist in the Search for National Organic Agriculture Achievers.
by Lovella Guarin and Prima Lou Imperial