From the Edi­tor: Sage Ad­vice from Davao City’s Orchid Queen

Agriculture - - Contents - >BY ZAC B. SARIAN

SALLY LEUEN­BERGER, who might as well be called Davao City’s Orchid Queen, is one of the most suc­cess­ful orchid grow­ers in the coun­try to­day. One un­con­testable proof is that at the last Ka­dayawan orchid show in Davao City, she bagged prac­ti­cally all the ma­jor prizes in the dif­fer­ent orchid com­pe­ti­tion cat­e­gories.

Her hy­brid Vanda was ad­judged the Best Orchid in Show; her two Wal­ing-wal­ing plants won the first and sec­ond prizes in their cat­e­gory; and her strap leaf Van­das won all the three top prizes in their cat­e­gory. In the mixed gen­era cat­e­gory, her or­chids also won the top three prizes. It was only in the Den­dro­bium cat­e­gory that she took the sec­ond and third prizes in­stead of first prize. On top of that, her ex­hibit booth was ad­judged the first prize win­ner.

Who is Sally Leuen­berger of Davao City? She is a top rate CPA (cer­ti­fied pub­lic ac­coun­tant) who used to au­dit the books of pro­fes­sion­als, busi­ness­men, hospi­tals, schools, and other busi­ness en­ter­prises. Her ac­coun­tancy prac­tice was lu­cra­tive but some­how, she was fas­ci­nated with or­chids.

It all started when she bought her first Vanda orchid in 1981. A client who sold it to her chal­lenged her. If the plant sur­vived up to the next gar­den show, then she would be ready to start a hobby. And that was the be­gin­ning of her love af­fair with or­chids.

Five years later, in 1985, she was chart­ing her life’s di­rec­tion. Should she aban­don her ac­coun­tancy prac­tice which she de­vel­oped for 20 years? Af­ter think­ing the mat­ter over, she de­cided, in her own words, “to grow or­chids and beau­tify the world.”

She de­vel­oped her orchid busi­ness in four stages. For five years, it was just a hobby with­out any sell­ing. Af­ter five years as hob­by­ist, she started sell­ing some of her plants, and that was the liveli­hood stage, dur­ing which she did not aban­don her ac­coun­tancy prac­tice al­to­gether. Some­times, if she sold a flow­er­ing orchid for, say, PhP 100, she would use the money to buy a com­mu­nity pot with about 30 baby or­chids. That was her strat­egy to in­crease her orchid pop­u­la­tion sys­tem­at­i­cally.

The next stage was as an en­tre­pre­neur. That was when she gave up her ac­coun­tancy prac­tice and fo­cused on orchid grow­ing. As her farm ex­panded, she en­tered what she calls the com­mer­cial stage.

That meant full-scale pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing.

Be­fore she be­came a com­mer­cial grower, she at­tended a lot of sem­i­nars on the orchid busi­ness, read books and jour­nals, and at­tended trade shows in the Philip­pines and abroad. She also par­tic­i­pated in shows in Davao, Manila, and even abroad with some fi­nan­cial sup­port from the gov­ern­ment as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Philip­pines.

To­day she is the owner of SUL Or­chids, a seven-hectare orchid farm that has at any one time more than 300,000 orchid plants of var­i­ous ages.

Sally pos­ing with her prize-win­ning Wal­ing-wal­ing at the 2016 Ka­dayawan gar­den show.

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