Graphic de­signer turned ca­cao farmer

The new player in the ca­cao in­dus­try has set his eyes to make a big im­pact de­spite chal­lenges he has en­coun­tered

Sun.Star Davao - - FRONT PAGE - BY NOEL T. PROVIDO DA

In a coun­try where the av­er­age age of farm­ing is 57 years old, it is a breath of fresh air to dis­cover younger peo­ple go­ing into farm­ing.

Meet 32 years old Irone Glenn "Yon" Ca­bal­ida, the Bagi­tong Magsasaka from Dalub­hasa Farm in Ta­cu­nan, Tug­bok, Dis­trict, Davao City.

Yon was first fea­tured in the Sto­ry­telling #Ca­caoDavao so­cial me­dia cam­paign of the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture - Re­gion XI (DAXI) which aims to pro­mote emerg­ing lo­cal ca­cao prod­ucts from Au­gust to Novem­ber 2018.

"The Bagi­tong Magsasaka re­called his tran­si­tion from be­ing a graphic de­signer to a farmer. His pas­sion to mold his own pure form of ar­ti­sanal tablea al­lowed him to have a brand of his own prod­uct. I'm proud to show­case my un­cle's story and the prize of his ef­forts, " said Jamille For­tades, in her win­ning ca­cao story.

Ex­hausted with the pres­sures and the daily grind in the cor­po­rate world, he was di­ag­nosed with re­s­pi­ra­tory ill­ness in 2015 and ad­vised by his doc­tor to take a leave and have enough rest.

"I planned to stay in our farm only for weeks un­til it turned into months, then years," he said, adding that it was also the time he learned to ap­pre­ci­ate the sim­ple but stress-free farm liv­ing.

He then de­cided to go into farm­ing and de­velop their 1-hectare farm in Ta­cu­nan. While he finds more sat­is­fy­ing to pro­duce food than graphic de­signs, he also en­coun­tered some chal­lenges as a new­bie in farm­ing.

"Hav­ing lim­ited knowl­edge in farm­ing is a ma­jor chal­lenge but it was slowly over­come after I at­tended train­ing and con­sulted agri­cul­tural tech­ni­cians and ca­cao doc­tors," he said.

He then ap­plied the knowl­edge ac­quired in their more than a hectare farm and de­vel­oped it into an in­te­grated farm where co­conut trees are in­ter­cropped with fruit trees and 300 ca­cao trees mostly BR 25 and UF18 va­ri­eties. Goats and rare breeds of chicken are also raised in the farm.

"Ca­cao has a huge po­ten­tial to im­prove farm in­come. Ca­cao beans can be sold ei­ther as wet or dried fer­mented beans. You can also opt to go into value-adding ac­tiv­i­ties such as pro­cess­ing it into tablea or choco­late blocks," he said.

Yon's ea­ger­ness to try new things and us­ing the same cre­ative ap­proach in graphic de­signs en­abled him to come up with his own brand of ar­ti­sanal tablea prod­uct. Lack of ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties did not hin­der him to adopt a tree-to­bar con­cept from har­vest­ing, pod ex­trac­tion, fer­men­ta­tion, dry­ing, roast­ing, grind­ing, and pro­cess­ing.

"Makeshift fa­cil­i­ties were used in fer­men­ta­tion through pail cov­ered with ba­nana leaves and an old bed as a dryer. We do the pro­cess­ing at home where cof­fee bean grinder was used in grind­ing and kitchen uten­sils for roast­ing and mold­ing," he said but ma­te­ri­als such as tun­nel film as so­lar dryer are about to be in place.

He now starts to mar­ket "Bagi­tong Magsasaka" tablea, a brand that per­son­i­fies him­self as a new­bie farmer of­fer­ing fresh ideas in an ar­ray of an in­creas­ing num­ber of Davao ca­cao and choco­late prod­ucts. The sim­ple but el­e­gant pack­ag­ing has a graphic de­sign that lit­er­ally de­picts his im­age as a young farmer with long hair and wear­ing a farm hat.

"I also use coño lingo in our tagline: gawang Davao gud ito, to make it more ap­peal­ing mil­len­ni­als," he added.

What sets his tablea prod­uct apart is its pack­ag­ing and size. "I learned that tablea is from Span­ish word tablet, so in­stead of pro­duc­ing round-shaped, I made it rec­tan­gu­lar or in tablet form that weighs 120 grams. Aside from its unique shape, tablets are eas­ier to pack­age," he said.

Al­though the Bagi­tong Magsasaka tablea is only less than a year with a lim­ited mar­ket just yet, 300 tablets were al­ready pro­duced and have reached other coun­tries such as Canada and part of Mid­dle East.

"Friends placed or­ders when I posted the prod­uct on my Face­book ac­count and I re­ceived pos­i­tive feed­backs. I am now work­ing on our FDA per­mit to open up more mar­kets and hope­fully, we can even­tu­ally ven­ture in choco­late pro­cess­ing," he said adding the so­cial me­dia posts of her niece fur­ther boosted the mar­ketabil­ity of his prod­uct.

While en­joy­ing his ca­reer change, Yon has taken ad­di­tional de­mands of agri­cul­tural ad­vo­cacy, which is to pro­mote or­ganic farm­ing and farm tourism.

He said or­ganic farm­ing will re­duce cost at the same time pre­serves the fer­til­ity of the soil. Re­cently, his farm was ac­cred­ited as a learn­ing site ow­ing to its ac­ces­si­bil­ity from the down­town area and how he show­cases prac­ti­cal ways of tend­ing crops and live­stock.

"I want to de­velop the farm as a learn­ing site and even­tu­ally as farm tourism desti­na­tion where vis­i­tors dis­cover the huge po­ten­tials of agri­cul­ture and be in­spired to pro­duce their own food," he said.

Asked on what's his ad­vice for mil­len­ni­als to con­sider farm­ing, "Never afraid to get your hands dirty and start small even just in your back­yard," was his quick re­ply. /

PHOTO BY ARJAY DELINO

CHOCO BLOCKS. Bagi­tong Magsasaka tablea are packed in 120 grams blocks or tablets in­stead of the usual round shapes.

PHOTO BY JAMILLE FORTADEST

NEW­BIE FARMER. Irone Glen Ca­bal­ida shows off his new prod­uct line: Bagi­tong Magsasaka tablea per­son­i­fies him­self be­ing new but in­no­va­tive young farmer.

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