I am Zac B. Sarian, a veteran agriculture journalist who also runs a one-hectare nursery of exotic fruit trees. I am currently the Agriculture Editor of Manila Bulletin, a 113-year-old daily newspaper. My agriculture page appears every Thursday and Saturday where I write my Agri Plain Talk column. This twice weekly column has been running for more than 21 years now.
I also edit Agriculture Magazine, a monthly that is the most widely circulated magazine of its kind in the Philippines.
I also write a weekly column in Panorama Magazine, the Sunday supplement of Manila Bulletin. My articles also come out in the vernacular magazines published by the Manila Bulletin like Bannawag (Ilocano), Bisaya (Cebuano), Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) and Liwayway (Tagalog or Pilipino).
LOCAL TRAVELS - I travel a lot to the provinces in connection with my journalistic work because I want to meet and write about actual farmers, especially the successful ones so I can feature their success secrets, their strategies and insights.
FOREIGN TRAVELS - I am often invited to cover agricultural events in other countries. In 2011, I made seven such trips, two times in India, two times in Thailand, once in Vietnam, once in Israel and the latest, December 18 to 22, in Taiwan. In earlier years, aside from the above countries, I was invited to Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, United States, Australia, Nepal, Japan, Germany (2 times) and Singapore.
AWARDS - My journalistic efforts have been duly recognized. In 1974, we received the Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts. This is often referred to as the Asian version of the Nobel Prize. You don’t apply for this award. An incognito search committee does the research on candidates. The Award was established in 1957 in honor of the late Pres. Ramon Magsaysay who died in a plane crash. President Magsaysay was the most loved president the Philippines ever had. And the Rockefeller Foundation saw it fit to initiate the establishment of the annual Award.
Besides the Magsaysay Award, we have received various other awards, including Agribusiness Journalist of the Year Award by the Rotary Club of Manila, Outstanding Print Media Award (three times) from the Department of Science and Technology), Most Outstanding Science Communicator Award from the National Academy of Science and Technology, Brightleaf Journalism Award for Best Tobacco Story in 2010, Brightleaf Hall of Fame Award in 2011 and J. Burgos Biotechnology Award for Best Feature Story also in 2011.
Journalism and farming are closest to my heart. Before enrolling at the University of the Philippines, I worked in my veterinarian cousin’s farm where we raised commercial poultry and piggery and had a small dairy farm. I finished an agricultural high school curriculum in Batac, Ilocos Norte, where I was born. We really wanted to take up journalism at the UP but there was no complete journalism curriculum, only a few subjects which we took as extra subjects.
I finished the Foreign Service course at UP and also passed the civil service exam for Cultural Attache. By that time, I was already editor of a farm and garden magazine published by the defunct Manila Chronicle. Although our senior reporter covering the Department of Foreign Affairs assured me he could get me a job at the Foreign Office through his influence with the then Foreign Affairs Secretary Mauro Mendez, I never entertained his suggestion because I was enjoying my work as agriculture editor at the newspaper.
While with the Chronicle, I was awarded a Jefferson Fellowship in Developmental Journalism in 1971 at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Martial law in 1972 ended my career with the Chronicle but I was subsequently employed as agriculture editor of Business Day, followed by the newly revived Manila Times and the Agribusiness Weekly. In 1991, I joined the Manila Bulletin and although I am now past the retirement age, I remain as a full-time employee. The beauty about the Bulletin is that they don’t retire you for as long as you can do your job. I am very thankful to Bulletin Chairman Dr. Emilio T. Yap because he is giving great importance to Agriculture in his newspaper.
AS HANDS-ON FARMER - In 1985, we bought a one-hectare farm because we wanted to practice what we have been writing about all along. We want to prove that even a small piece of land could be made productive and profitable with the right technology and common sense.
We chose to specialize in ornamental plants and then exotic fruit trees. Our strategy has been to collect outstanding varieties and then propagate them commercially so that they are made available to many farmers. We have outstanding pummelo varieties from Thailand, Vietnam, Florida (USA) and of course from the Philippines. We have a wide variety of mangoes from Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, Florida and Malaysia. We have latexless jackfruit from Malaysia, Longkong (lanzones from Thailand), durian, prize-winning rambutan, imported wax apple (makopa), Abiu from Brazil, pomegranate from India and Israel, and many others.
AS ORNAMENTALS MAN – I have a long involvement in ornamental plants and orchids because I had maintained gardening columns in the defunct Manila Chronicle and Philippine Daily Express newspapers. Until two years ago, I also edited a Garden Page in the Manila Bulletin which came out twice a week. I also maintained an ornamental plants nursery and plant shop. I had covered gardening events not only in the Philippines but also in other countries, particularly Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.
In the late 1980s we were active in plant hunting and have collected a number of Aglaonemas and Alocasias. In fact, a member of the Aroids Society named Alocasia Sarian after me. Up to now, I am very much interested in orchids and ornamental plants. Although she has her other business, my daughter Arvee is maintaining a nursery of special bromeliads, ferns and other ornamental plants where she lives in Taytay, Rizal, Philippines.
RADIO PROGRAM CO-ANCHOR – For 10 years now, I have been co-anchor of the radio program “Kaunlaran sa Agrikultura” aired every Sunday morning from 4:30 to 7:30 on DWWW, 775 khz on the AM band. I have segments on ornamental gardening and successful agri-people.
BOOK AUTHOR - We have authored 8 volumes on agriculture. these are:
1. Successful Agri-People & Their Practical Ideas that Work, now out of print.
2. Successful Agri-People & Their Practical Ideas That Work - Book II, now out of print.
3. How to Start and Manage Your Own Dream Farm, now out of print.
4. The Nicest Agri-People Share their Bright Ideas, Experiences & Know-how, now out of print.
5. Fisheries Ideas that Work - Available @P225 + mailing cost.
6. Updates on Agri-People & Their Money-Making Ideas - Available @P275 + mailing cost.
7. Winning Strategies in Agriculture - Available @P225 + mailing cost.
8. Sekreto Ng Successful Agri-People - P150 + mailing cost.
AGRI-KAPIHAN FOUNDER – In 1986 we started the Agri-Kapihan, a weekly forum for agriculture enthusiasts. This is where experts, hands-on farmers and hobbyists share their experiences. It is where agri aficionados meet new friends and possible business contacts. Agri-Kapihan is open free to the public and is now held every second Sunday of the month at the AANI Urban Farm in Antipolo City, and every last Saturday of the month at the Agribusiness Development Center at the Department of Agriculture in Quezon City.
AS A BLOGGER – Last September 2011 we resurrected a blog that was started in 2009 but which was neglected and died a natural death two weeks later. I now realize that we can hasten the dissemination of useful agricultural information. That is why we are active in posting what we believe to be of help to our farmers in Agri ZACcess Ideas and to date zacsarian.com.