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July 9, 2017

In farming, millions start with one quality seed

Philippines is primarily an agricultural country. The popular folk song "Magtanim ay 'Di Biro" (Planting rice is never fun) tells about the difficulties of the life of the farmers, bent over the entire day, to plant.

Farmers are the 2nd poorest work force in the country next to fishermen, reason for which the current generation shies away from pursuing a career in agriculture thinking that it is a difficult and unrewarding profession.

However, farming is a field where there are endless opportunities. In fact, vegetable farming could help you get out of poverty. Recently, I had the chance to experience to be a farming in one day. I joined the East-West Seed “Great Journey” listening tour in Bulacan to meet and greet farmer nominees in the Search for 35 Farmer Heroes, as part of East-West Seed’s 35th anniversary celebration. East-West Seed is an integrated vegetable seed company and one of the 10 largest seed companies in the world. The winners of the search will serve as ambassadors and role models in the vegetable farming industry.

East-West Seed hopes to be able to influence more people to get into vegetable production. 

Two of the Farmers Heroes nominees shared their interesting and profitable vegetable farming journey:



Johnny Gatuz, 55, a former OFW, shared with us how he now makes more money by growing papaya and other high-value crops in Brgy. Kaingin, San Rafael, Bulacan than when he was an Overseas Filipino Worker ( OFW ) in Saudi Arabia.

His father was a traditional farmer and they hardly made ends meet. This prompted Johnny to seek for the proverbial greener pastures and worked as a construction worker in Saudi Arabia where he worked for five years as a construction worker. While there, he realized that the life of an OFW is not easy at all coupled by the fact that he was not also earning significantly. He flew back home, fell in love, got married and fell in love anew with farm life.




He started by renting out a one-hectare farm land which he planted with pumpkin, okra and sitaw.

As a newbie farmer, he wasn’t earning enough. His breakthrough came when he discovered East-West Seed and started using their seeds in his farm. His yields doubled and the quality and consistency of his crops were so much better.


Johnny now owns several hectares of farm land, farm machinery, a tractor, his own motorcycle for transporting his crops to the market. He also has sufficient savings for his family.



To pay it forward, Johnny hires his neighbors to help him during planting and harvest seasons. He is also very generous in training other would-be-farmers and is, in fact, responsible for converting a jobless, “tambay” neighbor into a successful vegetable farmer.




Rowena Manalo, 41, of San Ildefonso, Bulacan was also raised in a family of farmers.

At a young age, she and her siblings were already trained how to do farm work. As she reached adulthood. She worked as “biyahera” of the vegetable harvests. As a “biyahera,” she transports the bundled produce from the farm to the market, specifically the “bagsakan” which is the Balintawak Market in Quezon City.

Such was her simple life until she fell in love and married Jun, also a farmer, when they were both 21.

Inspired by the success of other farmers, Rowena and Jun decided to have their own piece of land where they could also plant vegetables as their means of livelihood.

As other start-up farmers, the young couple rented out a half-hectare farmland and with a very small capital of P5,000 which they borrowed, they bought ampalaya and sitaw seeds and went straight ahead with planting these I their small farm lot.


But their journey was not easy.

“Lagi kaming umiiyak noon. Kasi tuwing dumadaan kami sa mga taniman, nilalait, iniinsulto at pinagtatawanan kami ng mga beterano ng magsasaka at sinasabi nila na ano ba ang alam naming sa pagsasaka. Hindi sila naniniwala na kaya naming palaguin ang aming sakahan,” Rowena said as she started to tear up.

“Bayaan mo, pagdating ng araw, atin lahat ang lupang ito,” her husband Jun would always tell her.

Her husband’s word proved to be prophetic as the couple now owns seven hectares of land, two tractors for rent, a grocery, agri store, a water refilling station and their own lovely house.

Rowena attributes their success to three things: their faith in God, the love in their marriage that never wavered and their love for the farm and hard work.

“Nagsimula kami sa binhi ng EWS na sitaw at ampalaya at nagulat kami dahil mas nagging mabunga at maganda ang quality ng aming mga ani. Sinundan naming tio ng talong at mais,” Rowena said, recalling their “breakthrough” moment.

Last 2015, Rowena shared that they hit their first million through an abundant yield high-quality mais grande.

There is something so humbling about seeing these farmers working hard to give us the most basic of our needs. Johnny and Rowena, with East-West Seed show us vegetable farming is a very profitable business and it is an industry that continues to grow.


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