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While most elderly women were spending their free time hanging around with friends, playing mahjong or bingo, Martina “Tina” Reyna was getting a head start in her agribusiness venture, gathering compost materials from the four corners of her farm, then producing organic fertilizer, planting various farm crops and selling her harvest to different fastfood chains in Tacloban City and nearby towns.

Tina hails from Llorente, Eastern Samar and married to Atty. Antonio F. Reyna with three grown-up children, Peter Fermin, Jose Antonio, and Maria Teresa.

As early as 1982, she resigned from the government service, particularly from the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) and had gone on to establish her family’s 49-hectare farm or what is known now as the La Granja Farm located at Brgy. Diit, which is just 7 km away from Tacloban City Proper. Being an agriculture engineering graduate, she considered herself well-equipped to pursue her passion for farming. Though she felt to be academically prepared for it, she did not right away plunge into farming until a challenging point in her life happened in 1990s. It was the time when she was invited be her former Israeli classmate and friend to visit for 18 days the Promised Land of Israel also known as God’s chosen country.

While in Israel, Tina keenly observed that despite the vast expanse of desert with moonscape rock and sand, Israel’s dramatic greening of its unproductive areas with brackish water was indeed a technological and biological breakthrough. Accordingly, it portends a revolution in the management of their land and water resources in desert environments.

“That experience I have in Israel was an “eye-opener” because is Israelis could produce bountiful crops, how much more of us in the Philippines which abound with water and fertile soil?” Tina exclaimed.

Since the time she switched her career from a government employee to an ordinary farmer, Tina managed to transform their “once-upon –a-time” idle lot into an organic farm which now boasts of vast production of high value vegetables, fruit trees, root crops swine and native chicken including the indigenous palay locally known as the Kalinayan variety.

All crops grown in La Granja are natural/organically grown with fertilizers and bio organics pesticides made from vermiculture and concoctions from farm and household wastes.

“I’ve worked extremely hard to put myself in a position where I have the freedom to decide what kind of crops I must grow. What you see now in La Granja are actually products of my long years as a farmer-adopter of new farm technologies. The overall landscape and the crops you’re witnessing and enjoying nowadays are exactly how I want it to be,” Tina happily said.

Tina’s market outlets for her organic vegetables and root crops are not far and rare. They are mostly based in Tacloban City and nearby municipalities. The majority is composed of high- end restaurants such as Max’s, Canto Fresco, Zanzibar, Ocho, and even Korean Monastery in Palo, Leyte.

“I must admit, I’m pretty exhausted trying to meet all the demands of our patrons”, Tina said. That’s why I am very grateful to the Department of Agriculture for opening up a lot of opportunities for farmers like myself”. Accordingly, among the various assistance given to her by the DA include planting materials, 2,000 pcs of ube corms or yam, farm tools to sustain our farm such as, UV film, black nets, polytechnic hose, plastic tray seeds, and other related items.

Asked about her true net income per year, Tina just gave her endearing smile and said “so far our net income last year has reached not fewer than P1.38 Million,” just enough to sustain our farm enterprise. Besides, I also employs five agricultural technicians as well as 12 other ordinary farm workers.

After the onslaught of ST Yolanda where her farm was greatly damaged, Tina strived to rehabilitate La Granja with the help as well of the Department of Agriculture. Being and Agricultural Engineer, she learned to accept things as they are and take time as a challenge to be more involved and make things more efficient.

She is proud because of the many wonderful things going on now in La Granja, aside from being top source of fresh vegetables and fruits, organic fertilizer and vermi worms, it is now considered an influence area, a fitting venue for farmers’ training and workshops on organic and sustainable farming.

Today, Tina feels so blessed and honored to be nationally, and even internationally recognized as an Outstanding ToFarm Woman Farmer. Recently, she also received Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certification from the Department of Agriculture as testament of her exemplary performance in the practice, application, and promotion of organic agriculture and of course, her selfless dedication to share her knowledge and skills to small farmers and even agriculture students who came to her farm for an “On-The-Job Training”.

As an informal educator, she finds fulfillment in teaching others. Thru her caring and nurturing hands, anyone who comes to La Granja, gets out with valuable lessons learned.

By Francisco C. Rosaroso