Tarlac Is Going Organic
In October last year, Gov. Victor Yap officially launched the ‘Natural Tarlac’ program which aims to make the province a major producer of organic farm products. Organic farming, of course, involves the growing of crops without the use of synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Instead, farmers use bio-organic fertilizers, botanical pesticides, beneficial microorganisms, and other techniques of natural farming. Livestock raisers, on the other hand, don’t give antibiotics to their pigs, chickens and other farm animals.
The governor has good reasons for wanting the farmers to get into organic farming. For one, there is an increasing trend towards the consumption of organically grown food products. Organic products command a higher price in the market and this will enable farmers to earn more from farming. Besides being safer for the farmers, they can save on production inputs because chemical fertilizers, pesticides and veterinary drugs have become very expensive.
Recently, we had occasion to visit some of the organic farmers in Tarlac in the company of provincial agriculturist Edwina Tabamo and former provincial agriculturist and now consultant Lucrecia G. Ilaga. We visited the bio-organic fertilizer factory of Dr. Ronaldo Sumaoang in Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac which produces Durabloom that is now used by many farmers in the province. We also visited the organic papaya plantation of Sta. Ignacia Vice Mayor Reynaldo Modomo who also manufactures his own organic fertilizer.
Vice Mayor Modomo has planted 1,000 Red Lady papaya in the family’s farm in San Berga, Tarlac City. The plants are fertilized with nothing but his own organic fertilizer and are very fruitful today. He also raises tilapia the organic way. He fertilizes his ponds with his own product to stimulate the growth of lablab as natural feed for the fish.
Even before the launching of Natural Tarlac, a number of farmers have been engaged in organic farming. One of the most outstanding is Leonardo Antonio, a retired banker who went into pig farming and some other businesses after giving up his job in 2004. He now runs his organic pig farm in Brgy. Samot, Paniqui with a population of 40 sows and a bigger number of fatteners and weanlings.
Antonio’s pig farm is remarkable in a number of ways. For one, the visitor will not smell the usual foul odor encountered in most piggeries. This is because the inside and surroundings of the hog houses are regularly sprayed with beneficial microorganisms that suppress the growth of harmful microbes that cause the offensive smell. He himself prepares the lactic acid (lactobacilli) for spraying by fermenting rice bran for three days. He takes 10 kilos of rice bran and immerses it in three pails of water in a covered plastic container. After three days, he harvests the liquid for spraying.
He feeds his pigs with a commercial ration that has no antibiotics. A big feed mill outside Tarlac produces the feed for him. He also ferments the feed for at least eight hours before feeding it to his pigs. In the evening, he puts one pail (10 kilos) of feed in a covered plastic container then adds three pails of water. This is what he feeds to his animals in the morning.
Leonardo explains that the fermented hog feed is much easier to digest. And since it contains a lot of beneficial microorganisms, it is good for the health of the animals. He said the lactic acid cleans the gut of the pigs, thus enhancing their immune system.
The animals are given wet feed after weaning them at 45 days old. Before that, the piglets are given dry creep feed starting on their sixth day up to the time they are weaned. The creep feed is also without antibiotic.
Usually, the fatteners each consume three bags of feed (50 kilos each) before they are sold at 80 to 85 kilos. Each bag costs R1,100. Producing fatteners is profitable but Leonardo observes that there are months when the price of pork is higher. That is why he fattens more of the piglets that will be sold when the price of pork is usually higher. These are the months of November up to May when many towns have their fiestas.
In one year, Antonio produces about 800 piglets. Selling the piglets at an average of R2,200 to R2,500 per head is also profitable. They are sold by the kilo. For the first 10 kilos, he charges R2,000. The weight beyond that is priced at R100 per kilo.
There are other organic farmers in Tarlac. One favorite crop is mushroom (Volvariella and oyster mushroom) in the towns of San Jose, Gerona, Paniqui, Bamban and Pura. In San Jose, according to Edwina Tabamo, Christian Yap is now producing dried mushroom so that the excess production could be preserved. The mushrooms, fresh and dried, are now sold in supermarkets and in the public markets.
Other organic products are organic rice in San Jose, planted both in upland and lowland farms. Then there are the organic bananas and papayas produced by Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan and Dante Buscayno in Capas town. Their harvests are being bought by traders from Metro Manila.
Organic vegetables are also produced in many parts of he province. Dr. Rene Sumaoang is multiplying his Indian malunggay which produces yardlong fruits and growing them organically. In Concepcion town Fred Gonzalez who produces his own organic fertilizer also grows carrots, celery and other high-value vegetables organically.
Then there are the members of the Goat and Sheep Producers Association of Tarlac (GASPAT) who are raising their animals without the use of antibiotics and other synthetic drugs. These include Angie Mendoza, Jeffrey Lim, former Tarlac vice mayor Noel Soliman and Gil Consul. Besides raising goats for meat the natural farming way, they are also producing organic goat’s milk.
The campaign for natural farming in Tarlac goes on and more and more farmers are getting sold to the idea.
By Zac B. Sarian