BAGUIO CITY – Urban gardening and farming became a trend in cities at the height of the pandemic. From vertical gardening to backyard farming, plantitos and plantitas emerged and became fascinated with planting. This also became their additional source of food and income, considering the lockdown that prevented the mass of people from going out of their communities.
Here in Baguio City, urban farming has always been a trend. Unbeknownst to most, there are many farmers in the city. Even with limited agricultural land being a highly urbanized area, many Baguio folk still took advantage of this.
This is the case for Rocklyn Yadis, a strawberry farmer from barangay Irisan, who has been involved in farming since childhood despite being born and raised as a city girl. She is currently serving in the Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Council–Cordillera as the regional subsectoral committee chairperson for High Value Crops.
Before she ventured into cultivating strawberries, she was already producing carrots, potatoes, cabbage and Chinese cabbage through crop rotation on her 2,000 sqm terrace farm. She allocates a few hundred square meters for each crop that she produces to utilize the limited area and production.
She took advantage of her location and added strawberries as she was gaining a higher income. Even though strawberries in the Cordillera are commonly found in La Trinidad, Benguet, which is the strawberry capital of the Philippines, strawberries can still be found in other parts of the region including the city as strawberries are best grown in high elevation.
Despite many challenges such as the pandemic, she still continued to do what she has done ever since: to provide safe and quality food for everyone.
Mrs. Yadis proudly shared that she has been practicing Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) even before her GAP certification was issued. “The crops I am cultivating are also our source of food, so as much as possible, I want our produce to be as safe and quality,” she said.
Because of GAP, they were taught how to manage their farms better through additional recordkeeping as she admitted that she was not practicing recordkeeping before. But now that she is a GAP-certified farm owner, Yadis now more aware of her farm practice and on track with every farming activity she conducts.
With her crop rotation practice between vegetables and strawberries, her current income became better. Accordingly, she is harvesting strawberries twice a week, thus furthering her stable income.
GAP certification of her farm has also become her advantage because the strawberries are easily sold despite the high price when consumers learned that the product is from a GAP-certified farm.
Her market is not a problem as her strawberries are being sold in the public market accessible to tourists. Her neighbors are also her regular customers or “suki.” Meanwhile, she markets her fresh vegetables at the La Trinidad Trading Post and Hangar market in Baguio.
Mrs. Yadis together with the members of the Granjeros de Oeste Organization were reluctant to apply for certification before because they thought that it would be hard to comply with the requirements, especially since they were not that financially capacitated as they are all small-scale farmers. But they got inspired to finally apply when they saw the benefits of it after visiting several GAP-certified farms.
They gradually complied with the requirements and had specifically taken note of recordkeeping, as this was not their prior habit. Finally, their individual farms were issued with GAP certification in May 2022.
Now that they are GAP-certified farm owners, they are confident that their products are of quality and safe for consumption. “We are now seeing the benefits of being a GAP-certified owner, that’s why we are encouraging the other farmers to also apply for certification so they can experience the same,” Yadis stated.
Their organization has greatly benefited since then. Their community of small-scale farmers has received farm inputs, water tanks, drums, net, and UV-plastic sheets for seedling tunnels, greenhouses, and storerooms that greatly aided their overall production.
Her farm was also being proposed by the city to be an agri-tourism site for strawberry picking. This was fitting as her farm is also an urban agriculture model farm certified by the Agricultural Training Institute – Cordillera.
An advocate of GAP
Yadis has been enjoying the benefits of GAP since her certification. Hence, she hopes that many farmers can receive the same as she calls for other farmers to also apply for GAP certification. “Even though it seems hard, the benefits outweigh the hardship. Let us be patient in complying with all the requirements. GAP will benefit everyone, after all. As we say in our group, we are producing quality and safe food for the communities and for the consumer,” she stated.
She also expressed her unending gratitude to DA-CAR for all the interventions they had received and will continue to receive. “Thank you for all the interventions you provided for our community. This hugely benefited the small-scale farmers like us who cannot really afford to buy more agricultural materials. Thank you so much,” she expressed. By DA-CAR