Search for health, wealth drives marine engineer to organic farming
By Juan Escandor Jr. BASUD, Camarines Norte---Search for good health and wealth drives a marine engineer to establish organic farm mainly for the production of dragon fruit, a ‘miracle’ fruit he Google-searched that is reported to possess enzymes that prevent cancer and other health maladies. Arnold Ferrandiz, 48, a marine engineer working abroad, actually was thinking about his retirement home where he can live comfortably with sustained income to maintain his lifestyle while waiting for the sunset. For almost three decades since he graduated from the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, Ferrandiz had been assigned in different countries in a foreign shipping company and saved more than enough to build houses for his parents and in-laws from his earnings for years working in foreign lands. He also owns two more houses in Metro Manila. About 16 km from the town center of Daet town, where Ferrandiz was born and raised, he was able to find an ideal site of about 5 ha of undulating property located near a second-growth forest on the hill named Sosong Dalaga, in Tuac, Basud, Camarines Norte at the boundary of the Bicol Natural Park. Argel Ferrandiz, 50, Ferrandiz’s elder brother who manages the marine engineer’s farm, said for the 3,200 dragon fruit plants at present the capital alone reaches P3M. He said for one dragon fruit cutting trained on a specially designed concrete post about 5 feet in height with a crown of old motorcycle rubber tire, it cost them P1,000 per piece which they had contracted to a dragon fruit farm cultivator from Ilocos. Argel said daily operation of the farm including food and wages of 11 farm hands cost them at least P100,000 a month. Looking ahead 10 years from now, he sees a full-blown farm producing not only dragon fruits but also strawberries, mangosteen, and grapes all raised using organic methods. On the sideline, he is also raising native hogs fed with chopped dragon fruit stems mixed with other organic ingredients. A dragon fruit plant that weighs about a kilo sells at P150/kilo at prevailing price at maximum of 50 years of productive stage makes Argel smile at the bright prospects. He noted that demand for dragon fruit is high such that more than 100 kilos of their first produce after two years in operation were quickly disposed of to buyers in just a day. Argel said the fruiting months of dragon fruit starts on May up to October. “The dragon fruit can be induced to bear fruit using chemical foliar from October to March, but we do not use non-organic input and would rather opt to give rest to the plants and condition them for the next fruiting months.” He boasts of the sweetness of the dragon fruit produced in their farm because of the use of organic inputs that they themselves produce inside the farm. Argel shared that they use fish gills they bought in the market for P20 per kilo, fermented them with an organic compound called ‘hatake’ to extract fish amino acid and sprayed to the dragon plants to nourish them and act as foliar. He said they also apply indigenous micro-organism (IMO) from the extract of fermented rice that they spray on the dragon plants to drive away pests. Then they apply organic fertilizer made of carabao dung and vermi casts and rice hull. Argel said they are waiting for the Department of Agriculture to give them a Certificate of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to qualify as supplier to the mall market. He said the GAP is awarded to farms upon compliance of requirement including water source, farm components like toilets, reception and packing areas and tool house.