Ruth Abañiel selects good quality of eggplants from her plantation.

A group of entrepreneurs have engaged local farmers from one of the city’s remote barangays to distribute their vegetable products direct to the consumers through a farm-to-table marketing scheme.

The group has devised a marketing plan they had dubbed Mabuhay Farmers Market, which involves packaging the farmers weekly produce in baskets and selling them fresh.

Emman Agas, one of the organizers of the project, said they started to immerse in the community in Barangay Langogan in June and were buying vegetables for over a couple of weeks. The group studied the main problem of the local small farmers when it comes to marketing and selling their products.

One of the farmers walked for over an hour to deliver their agricultural products to the buyer.

“Iyong produkto nila, kami nag-try na magtanim din before. Mahirap pala pagsabayin ang production and marketing. Kung kami nga nahirapan, how much more ang mga small farmer? Ang mga produkto nila ay hindi naibibenta ng maganda sa merkado kaya nabibili sa kanila ng mura. Iyon ang gusto namin mabago,” he said.

The vegetables produced by farmers will be bought based on their rate. It will be placed inside a basket or ‘bayong’ made by the residents in Community Based Sustainable Tourism (CBST) sites under the supervision of Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) and a community in Brgy. Luzviminda.

Aside from the marketing assistance, the group composed of Emman, Paul Lamban, and Rix Rafols said they are also teaching the farmers to shift to organic farming.

Farmer Juliette Rhea Yongzon, 36, said the scheme will help them avoid spoilage of their produce which has become a major problem for them.

Juliette Yongzon prepares the harvested vegetable from their garden.

“Dati nilalako-lako namin. Mahirap din kapag maramihan na gulay, hirap din (sa) buyer kaya ang kinakalabasan ay binabarat na lang ng buyer ‘yong farmer dito kapag marami na kasi sobrang dami na ng supply ng gulay. Ang iba, nabubulok na lang,” Yongzon said.

She said that the unsold vegetables end up as food for backyard-raised hogs.

Yongzon said that the limited buyers and the growing number of farmers producing vegetables had a negative impact on their sales.

“Kaya kapag kinuha ng buyer kahit mura, ibibigay na lang kaysa hindi mabili, mas lalong sayang. Kahit mababa ang presyo, sige na lang, para mabili,” she added.

Good quality vegetables are sorted by farmers to entice customers in Poblacion area.

“Buyer talaga ang problema, kasi ngayon lang kami nagtanim ng maramihan. Iisipin mo, saan mo ibibenta tapos ang daming naggugulay. Halimbawa sa akin, nilalako-lako ko lang diyan, paano kung sa dami ay hindi na nila mabili kaya nag-aalangan kami magtanim ng marami kasi walang sure buyer talaga,” she further explained.

Farm to Table
The project aims to show the concept of farm-to-table from farmers to customers in the Poblacion area. This assures small farmers like Juliette that their products will not be wasted or bought at a low price.

“Para sa amin ay malaking tulong din talaga kasi siyempre mas ma-i-encourage kami na magtanim ng marami, iba-ibang klase kasi may sigurado nang bibili ng produkto namin. At hindi na kami mahihirapan na maghanap na buyer,” she said.

Juliette and other women of their community in Barangay Langogan choosing vegetable for the weekly harvest.

Every Friday, the group gets the harvested products from farmers, and the vegetables placed in a bayong will be delivered to the consumers who ordered from them for P200 on Saturday or can be picked up from their office, depending on what is convenient for the consumers.

They will also launch the vegetable subscription for a continuous supply for a month. 

“Ang P200 ay assorted vegetable, kung ano ang produced ni farmer, ‘yon ang ilalagay sa bayong. Surpirse siya sa customer, hindi na sila pwede pumili kung ano ang na-produce. Isang way din para ma-appreciate natin ang farmers, ‘yong produced nila. Kung ano ang na-produce nila, ‘yon din ang gusto namin ihain sa kanila (consumer),” Agas said.

Agas and Lamban said they have begun training to establish a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) in the province that could certify organic farms.

“Isa sa challenges ay ang volume ng production nila. Gusto man namin tulungan sila lahat na mabili ang produkto, doon kami medyo nahirapan kasi nasa stage pa lang kami ng promotion. Pinapakilala pa lang namin ang konsepto, ‘yong Mabuhay Farmers Market sa mga consumer,” Agas said.

They are selecting good quality vegetables as they are just starting to introduce the concept of their projects. But they still consider those second-class vegetables, he added.

He emphasized that their goal is to convert the farms into organic farming that will produce chemical-free vegetables for consumers. They are also assisting the farmers to enrich their soils for sustainable farming.

“Gusto namin na mabili ang produkto ni farmer sa magandang presyo tapos si consumer ay makabili ng mas affordable din. Magiging successful siya kung susuportahan ng consumers ang aming programa kasi meron kaming pagdadalhan ng produkto ni farmer,” he said.

The group will also help the farmers to calculate the cost analysis to compensate for their expenses and mark-ups for the farmgate prices. They envisioned the project as a social enterprise where the farmers have their participation.

“Regardless ng presyo sa bayan ay ‘yon ang kuhaan namin sa kanila. Hindi sila maaapektuhan ng supply and demand sa pagbaba ng presyo, naka-fix sila. Kapag naibenta namin lahat, ang buong sales, net income, 20% ay ibabalik namin kay farmer as profit share nila tapos ‘yong 10% noon ay cash, 10% i-invest namin sa insurance para in case magkaroon sila emergency ay hindi nila magalaw ‘yong kinita nila,” he said.

Farmers benefits
The group is currently assisting six farmers in Langogan. Juliette plans to plant more vegetables with the assistance of the group especially in shifting to organic farming.

Like Yongzon, some farmers like Ruth Abañiel, 46, is positive about the impact of the group’s intervention on their community. Abañiel used to supply eggplants to the market for two years but was affected by the water supply problem and changes in weather.

“Regular kami magpadala (noon), dalawang beses sa isang linggo. Nahihinto lang kapag nahihinto rin kami sa pagtatanim halimbawa kapag nafi-failure kami. Ilang beses pa lang din kami nagtatanim ng gulay. Nagka-failure kami gawa ng sobrang init tapos pangalawang tanim namin ay sobrang ulan. Na-stuck ang tubig diyan, iyon ang pinagmumulan na namamatay ang tanim,” Abañiel said.

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is one of the junior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.