At agri trade shows you don’t only come to know about the latest technologies in growing vegetables and other crops. You also meet some of the nicest agri-people.
Like, for instance, at the Urban Agriculture Trade Show at the Rockwell Tent in Makati last May 1-3 organized by Agriculture Magazine. We met Edna V. Sanchez who is doing her own brand of farming in Jala-Jala, Rizal.
We were really surprised to see the dragon fruits she was selling at the trade show. We consider them too early because we usually observe that dragon fruit in Luzon is harvested starting in late May or early June.
NO SPECIAL TREATMENT -Her red-fleshed fruits were big, sweet and juicy. When we asked her, what she did to make the plants bear fruit early, she replied that she did nothing special. Except that they stressed the plants and they also pruned each hill, leaving only 10 to 15 branches per hill. They watered the plants twice a week.
We were also surprised when she told us that she was able to make her plants bear fruit in just seven months from planting. In fact, even the fellow who sold her the planting materials was also surprised because he himself had not experience that. In September 2011, Edna related, she planted 4,000 one-foot cuttings in her farm. By the following April 2012, she already made her first harvest.
MERALCO EMPLOYEE – By the way, Edna worked as a team leader of a division in Meralco for many years. When she retired in 2008, she did not know what to do but to travel to different parts of the world. For two years she traveled to Canada, United States and Australia.
After two years of “gallivanting,” she realized that what she was doing was not fulfilling after all. Fortunately, one day a sister who was with the Department of Agriculture brought her to attend Toto Barcelona’s harvest festival in Jala-Jala. What she saw was good, very inspiring. The beautiful leafy vegetables, tomatoes, eggplant, watermelons and honeydew melons and other high value crops impressed her.
She was immediately hooked into farming and bought two hectares in Jalajala. Her first crops of eggplant, tomato and finger pepper were a disaster. She lost money because her tomatoes fetched only P12 per kilo. There was a glut in the market. What she did was to ferment the tomatoes into fertilizer. Also, many of the plants were infested by insects since she did not use any insecticide.
The disappointing experience did not keep her down, however. When she came to know about dragon fruit, she immediately decided to grow the crop in a commercial scale. She first planted 4,000 hills using mature bamboo stumps as support. This was followed by another 4,000 hills a year later using concrete post as support. Today, they are all fruiting size.
Marketing was her problem at first. But she sought the help of the supplier of her planting materials so she could dispose most of her harvest. She also sold some to former co-employees at Meralco. And she processed the unsold fruits into wine, vinegar and jam.
She sought the help of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on how to make sweet wine as well as packaging design. Today she sells her 750 ml bottle of dragon fruit wine at P220. Some fruits are also made in jam and the skin is made into vinegar. She claims that her dragon fruit vinegar is comparable to apple cider vinegar. A 250 ml bottle fetches P150.
Her wine could be an excellent gift during Christmas and other occasions. It is an affordable corporate give-away, for instance. Her special vinegar could likewise be considered good for gift-giving.
Edna has another unique product – her yellow ketchup which is made of squash. The ketchup is unique not only for its yellow color but also because of its high vitamin A content.
It happened that one day, a trader had asked her to produce squash which the trader would buy. However, when Edna had produced the squash, the trader no longer wanted to buy. So what should she do with all the kalabasa she harvested? She made them into yellow ketchup.
As a ketchup, the product is good. But a number of those who tasted it at the trade show said that it is even better as a salad dressing. We got some bottles and tried it with co-employees at the Manila Bulletin. They agreed that Edna’s yellow ketchup is great as salad dressing.
One fellow who was convinced about the quality of Edna’s squash ketchup was Dorie S. Bernabe, president of the Philippine Horticultural Society. She bought a carton containing 24 bottles.