Mimaropa farm learning sites boost cooperation
Published: March 1, 2020 10:15am | Puerto Princesa
Farm schools in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) have banded together to further boost cooperation and exchange of ideas in an effort to strengthen the government’s partner in promoting agriculture, electing a set of officials who will steer the organization in the interim.
The formation of an organization of farm schools and learning in the region was among the highlights of the 2020 Regional Learning Sites in Agriculture and Schools for Practical Agriculture (RLSA-SPA) Summit at Yamang Bukid Farm in Barangay Bacungan, Puerto Princesa City last Feb. 24-28.
Br. George Maria, Yamang Bukid Farm vice president for community affairs, was chosen as president of the 40-plus member alliance.
“Our mission is to help others, especially the youth to learn and love farming. This is a huge responsibility for me,” said Bro. Maria, 23.
“As a young farmer entrusted by LSAs in Mimaropa, it is with all humility for me to work with the inspiration founded by the farming schools ahead of us. It is my joy to cooperate with the leadership of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) under the mandate of the Department of Agriculture in its various programs aimed at attaining food security and uplifting the lives of our farmers,” the former seminarian-turned-farmer added.
Maria said farm schools should not be seen as a diploma mill for young people who want to get a national competency certification even without learning anything.
The association was widely supported by farm owners in the region.
Randy Eusebio, a 57-year old owner of a 21-hectare farm in Oriental Mindanao hoped the group would help empower small farm owners and upstart farm schools.
“I expect to see sharing of ideas, knowledge and technology between the member-farms and unity among us in our resolve to strengthen the agriculture sector,” Eusebio said.
Elected as vice president was Derwin Evangelista of Longfield ALC in Oriental Mindoro.
Rosario Clemente, of Oriental Mindoro’s Lasquety Farms was chosen as secretary.
Other elected officials were Roger Rada of Rada Eco-Farm (Oriental Mindoro) as treasurer and Rafael Constantino Seno of Agrea Farm in Oriental Mindoro as auditor.
The public information officers (PIOs) were Randy Balderas of Mamburao Integrated Farms for Oriental Mindoro, Heidi Guverra of Guevara’s Farm for Marinduque and Porfirio Diaz for Palawan.
For DA-ATI in Mimaropa, farming schools and agri-learning sites are in demand because the government is setting aside over P700 million yearly for scholarships and other assistance to those who want to study agriculture through farm schools and learning sites.
Pat Andrew Barrientos, DA-ATI Mimaropa center director, said the agency is eyeing to accredit at least three farming schools or learning sites per municipality throughout the country. Currently though, there are just about 30 of such institutions nationwide, well below the actual need.
Among the latest to get the ATI nod as learning site is Maria’s Yamang Bukid Farm, a 20-plus hectare farm known for its sunflowers, organically-grown vegetables and herbal plants and an employer to nearly 300 people. 90 percent of whom are former illegal loggers and wildlife poachers in Barangay Bacungan.
A huge incentive to farmer whose farm will become a learning site is a monthly revenue of upwards to P140,000 per batch of at least 25 scholars.
In spite of this windfall, Brother Maria urged his fellow farm school advocates to not lose sight of their bigger role to help the farmers.
“I challenge myself to encourage all farming schools to live as one team with a mission of becoming factories of dignified farmers who can develop into agripreneurs,” he said.