Patria Zamora or simply “Pat” to her colleagues doesn’t mind being called “The Carrot Queen”. In fact, it makes sense because carrot, according to her, is her preferred vegetable crop. “It’s the most marketable so I always plant them. They have fewer pests, they don’t require too much fertilizer so they are easy to manage compared to other vegetables,” explained Pat.
Pat is a farmer-cooperator in Brgy. Linut-od in Argao, Cebu, one of the sites for the project, “Community-based Partcipatory Action Research (CPAR) on Vegetable-based Integrated Farming Systems” which is being implemented by the Central Visayas Integrated Agricultural Research Agency (CENVIARC) and the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA), Province of Cebu. Pat is also a member of the KAMALI (Kabulugan ng mga Mag-uuma sa Linut-od) which to date, has 40 active farmer-members.
Mr. Florentino T. Calinawan, Jr., project leader and R&D coordinator, OPA, Province of Cebu, explained that the project hopes to improve farm productivity resulting to increased income of farmers. “To do this, we must capacitate the community members with practical vegetable-based farming systems and introduce to them specific interventions not only on crop production but also on the application of appropriate soil and water management technologies.
Pat was one of the 15 farmer-cooperators who underwent training and capacity-building on crop production management, livestock integration, integrated nutrient management, integrated pest management, and soil/water conservation and soil fertility management. They were also taught proper recordkeeping. The knowledge she gained from these technical know-how enabled Pat to capacitate herself on farming which she is now applying in her half hectare land.
The 75-year old Carrot Queen, although not a farmer by profession, has grown to to like tilling the land and growing crops as time went by. Prior to being a farmer, Pat worked in an insurance company as an underwriter. After being a widow and meeting his second husband, their family settled in Argao. Farming has then become their main source of livelihood. Together with her husband, she’s into farming for 32 years now.
A carrot-terific life as a farmer
Pat did not immediately start as a farmer when she settled in Linut-od. “I was then a plain housewife. It was my husband who was into farming. Although I helped him a bit, it was not a full time job, until I learned the potential and benefits of growing crops,” she revealed.
“Aside from being a low input crop, carrot grows best in high elevation areas like Linut-od,” said Pat. Learning much about crop production through CPAR, she is into multicropping system. “I also grow cabbage, sweet potato, spring onion, but mainly, I plant carrots.”
All her harvested carrots are being marketed in the city or the nearby localities. Those that she calls “reject carrots” they eat. “I market all my produce locally. Someone gets my harvests directly from my farm, I sell them and they were the ones who sell them in the market. The price from which my carrots are being bought is the same as those being sold in the Carbon Cebu City Market. My carrots then become instant cash,” Pat said.
“After 3-4 months, I can harvest the carrots. On the average, I harvest around 100-150 kilos (one parcel/box) which costs around P20-25 a kilo. Sometimes the carrots can go as low as P10 per kilo or as high as P30 per kilo depending on the market demand. After carrots, cabbage, sweet pepper (for salad), chili pepper. We plant spring onions for family consumption,” she happily reported.
When asked about her production cost, she proudly said, “I don’t put chemical fertilizer in my carrots. So it’s cheap to produce. I just plant and harvest.”
Before and after CPAR
One of the distinctive features of CPAR projects that are being implemented nationwide is that they transformed lives, both productivity- and profit-wise. Mr. Calinawan, CPAR project leader, could not agree more. “Before CPAR, farmers here in Argao have this wrong practice of replanting the hybrid seeds. They also have this impractical and inefficient method of applying fertilizer. Application is trial and error. They don’t cover their after they apply, they just treat it as toppings on the soil,” he explained.
In terms of cropping production, Mr. Calinawan admitted that Argao farmers were mainly into rice. But when CPAR came, part of the intervention introduced required the farmers to adopt appropriate crop production on vegetables like multi-cropping and livestock integration. “Technological intervention required to adopt appropriate technologies on vegetables. Land areas are mostly sloped causing the soil to erode and uneven distribution of moisture in the soil due to the hydrology level in the upland. One component of the project is soil and water management,” he added.
The most important intervention in CPAR is teaching the farmers on recordkeeping. “Before they do not keep records, they just wrote their data on the back of the calendar and then after a month go by, it’s gone. It’s not organized, in CPAR, farmers are taught to recordkeep everything for their reference.”
On a personal level, Pat confessed how her life changed when she become a CPAR cooperator. “Before CPAR, I was just a plain housewife. Now, I have a steady source of income. Back then, were just depending on coconuts. I harvested them every three months. Now, I alternate carrots with rice and then anoher vegetables so my income increased along with my production.”
In terms of lifestyle, Pat said “my life now is easy going. I have livelihood. Every time I need to go to the city, I can go because I now have money.”
“I am so greatful about CPAR. I learned so many things about farming. I encourage my fellow farmers to do the same. Just look at my own vegetable garden and you know what I am talking about,” she concluded. ### (Rita T. dela Cruz, DA-BAR)