Three farm­ers and their dragons


FARM­ING is a la­bor of love, re­quir­ing many, many sea­sons of plant­ing in the field for it to be­come a fruitful en­deavor. Yet some­times it is all too easy to get stuck in a rut, un­will­ing to change what one is used to, or to be over­whelmed by all the com­pli­ca­tions in­her­ent in the care of liv­ing plants.

That was not so for three farm­ers, whose sto­ries are a source of in­spi­ra­tion to any­one who wishes to try some­thing new or to im­prove on what they do best.


North of Lu­zon, in Ila­gan, Is­abela, Ernesto Rivera, forty-one, is wait­ing for har­vest time to be­gin. For a long time he was a corn farmer, plant­ing field corn for the lo­cal mills. It was work that de­manded lit­tle from him, but his in­come was like­wise small.

That was twelve long years ago.

Re­cently, Rivera be­came a proud Dragon wa­ter­melon farmer af­ter a trial plant­ing of a few cans last year. Now, he is plant­ing two to three sea­sons a year, and av­er­ag­ing twelve to six­teen kilo­grams of har­vest per plant, which usu­ally yields two to three fruits, mak­ing his yield es­pe­cially large. While it isn’t the big­gest fruit out there, he prefers leav­ing as many fruits to ma­ture as pos­si­ble, in­creas­ing his over­all yield. Some­times for spe­cial oc­ca­sions, he will leave just one fruit on the vine, swelling the fruit size any­where from ten to twelve kilo­grams. Ernesto’s fa­vorite char­ac­ter­is­tic of Dragon is its sweet­ness and juicy fla­vor. He says it is hard work car­ing for Dragon watermelons, es­pe­cially when com­pared to car­ing for field corn, but the ful­fill­ment he gets when he sees peo­ple en­joy­ing the sweet taste and juicy fla­vor of his Dragon watermelons makes it all worth it.


In the Visayas is Bi­nan­tuan Panay, Capiz. There, Nonato Bacuta, fifty-six, is get­ting ready for the Christ­mas and New Year sea­sons, as these are when prices for his Dragon wa­ter­melon are at their high­est. Though Bacuta has been a wa­ter­melon farmer for around twenty-six years, he only started plant­ing Dragon wa­ter­melon this past year.

At first he was re­luc­tant to make the change from his old wa­ter­melon va­ri­ety to Dragon, wor­ried that his yield would drop or that the va­ri­ety would have prob­lems he was not used to. Still, Bacuta de­cided to try just one can of Dragon seeds and see where it would take him.

Ernesto Rivera hold­ing his prized Dragon wa­ter­melon fruit.

Rivera, Nonato Bacuta, and Lowen Habonita par­tic­u­larly like plant­ing Dragon af­ter rice has been har­vested. Of­ten­times, the soil is cleaner and health­ier af­ter hav­ing been flooded for the rice and this lim­its the spread of soil­borne dis­eases of watermelons. Above, Habonita gets his rice­fields ready for plant­ing Dragon watermelons.

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