LESSONS: How to develop a problem farm

Pomelo is the main money-maker of Arthur Griño.

At the Agri-Kapihan in 1991, Onofre Griño who managed the Menzi Farms in Basilan, was telling us how he acquired a problem 10-hectare farm in Zamboanga for the proverbial song. He paid no more than P25,000 for the property.

FRUSTRATED – The owner, a businessman who bought the farm from a homesteader three years earlier, was apparently tired of the property. For three years he tried to plant fruit trees to no avail. He spent much in planting seedlings at the start of the rainy season only to be overtaken by drought or fire the next summer. It was a most frustrating experience for a professional who attempted to become a gentleman farmer. So he offered it to Griño at that give-away price.

NOT ALONE – The businessman, of course, was not alone in that predicament. Many like him have had the same experience. It is no joke to develop a problem farm. And there are many problem farms in the country.

MODEL ORCHARD – In 1991, the 10-hectare property was already a model orchard in Brgy. Pamucutan, Zamboanga City. Six hectares were planted to fruitful pomelos, three to ladu oranges and one hectare to an assortment of durian, mangosteen, lanzones, rambutan and other fruits.

MAINLY THE SON – How he and his son Arthur transformed the problem property can provide useful lessons to those who own similar problem farms. Actually, Griño said, it was mainly his son, with his guidance, who developed the property. And it was no picnic doing it.

ONLY A TEENAGER – Arthur was only a teenager when he took charge of developing the farm. In fact, he was a student at the Ateneo de Zamboanga where he took up AB in Economics. Instead of residing in the city, he was given a vehicle (a Sakbayan) so he could commute daily from the farm to school, a distance of 18 kilometers.

COST CUTTING – To cut development cost, Arthur established a nursery on the farm where he grew the planting materials for the citrus and other trees. To buy ready-to-plant seedlings would have meant a big budget. A one-year-old grafted pomelo would have cost P30 or more from regular suppliers.

MORE PRACTICAL – Besides, it was more practical to grow one’s own budded or grafted planting materials because one would be sure of the quality of the mother trees. Arthur propagated the pink pomelo from Davao and the white-fleshed Bangkok pomelo which are both of excellent eating quality.

TOO DRY – Right in the first year, Arthur ran into trouble because it was too dry in summer. Luckily for him, there is a creek at the boundary of the farm where he drew water to irrigate the seedlings. In the beginning, water had to be manually carried to water the plants. Then he constructed a concrete tank at the highest point of the property where water from the creek was pumped and stored. The stored water was then distributed to various parts of the farm by a network of pipelines.

SHADED – The seedlings planted out in the field were given a lot of attention, especially in the first four years. Coconut fronds were used to provide shade so the young trees won’t dry up. Most important, they were regularly watered. They were also regularly fertilized to promote fast growth and development.

CARE CONTINUOUS – During the fourth year, the shading was removed but watering continued. That was the main secret of Arthur’s success, according to his father.

REAPING BOUNTY – At the time the elder Griño was relating the story, Arthur was reaping the bounty from his efforts. His pomelos were giving him an average of 40 to 50 marketable fruits per tree a year. Each of the ladu trees, on the other hand, yielded as many as 250 marketable fruits per season.

OTHER MONEY-MAKERS – But he was not only making money from the fruit trees. During the rainy season, he planted glutinous corn in between the trees which he harvested and sold as green corn for boiling. After corn, he planted muskmelon and watermelon which were also good money makers.

Do you have a problem farm? Take a lesson or two from the experience of Arthur Griño.

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