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.