LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – In the highlands of Shilan, La Trinidad, Benguet, Prescilla Santiago’s life has taken a remarkable turn over the past decades. What was once a routine of tilling the soil with conventional farming practices has evolved into a thriving organic farm that is driven by profound commitment to health and sustainability.
In 2005, Prescilla made the courageous decision to shift from conventional to organic farming. Her decision was spurred by a health matter when she was diagnosed with myoma, a smooth and non-cancerous tumors. Determined to improve her health together with her family, Prescilla took a step forward and embarked on a journey of organic production. She started by attending seminars and trainings related to organic which are being provided by the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera (DA-CAR) in partnership with the local government units (LGUs). Armed with relevant knowledge and newfound passion, she gradually transitioned her 2,000 sq.m. farm to organic methods. She plants highland vegetables like Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, and beans. She also initiated the building of her greenhouse with a loan through the La Trinidad Organic Practitioners Association (LATOPA) where she is a member. The DA-CAR also provided her with one roll of plastic sheet which she used to cover the structure.
During the training on organic input production on September 21-22, 2023 in La Trinidad, Prescilla shared her organic farming story inspiring her co-participants.
“If we wanted to concentrate on organic farming, we have to be patient in preparing the needed composts and concoctions being the driving inputs in maintaining and sustaining the farm,” Prescilla emphasized.
One of the key principles of organic farming is the use of natural alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Hence, she is thankful to be included in the continuing trainings such as the recently concluded training on input production by the DA-CAR and the municipal government through the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist which is deemed important in deepening their skills and knowledge in the field of organic farming. Prescilla also implements crop rotation (leafy vegetables- beans/cucumber-leafy vegetables), integrated pest management strategies, and uses organic compost to enrich her soil. These changes not only improved the health of her crops but also improved the diversity of her farm.
One of the significant benefits experienced by Prescilla is the guaranteed income despite the limited volume of harvest compared to conventional farming. This was observed by Prescilla and her late husband who was into conventional farming back then while Prescilla has already shifted to organic. Her late husband, despite having a large volume of harvested cauliflower, has incurred a loss of about Php15,000.00 Accordingly, this was due to the high production cost in conventional farming. Prescilla, on the other hand, was able to gain income noting that other than her manual labor, she did not spend an amount.
“Diyay lang bannogko nga nagtadtad ti compost ngem nu diyay nagatang nga mausar ket awan. Uray bassit ti mula ket adda ti income gapu ta stable ti presyo unlike jay conventional nga ngumato bumaba,” Prescilla shared.
[It’s only my labor from chopping the compost materials but in terms of materials bought, none. Despite the small volume of harvest, I have income because the price is stable compared to conventional [products] whose prices are erratic.]
Prescilla markets her organic products in a local store in their barangay and in the OPGSLT market outlet in front of the La Trinidad Municipal Hall which later in June this year was relocated at the KM.5 Public Market. Some government employees also personally orders from here at times.
Prescilla’s commitment to organic farming extends beyond her own field. She actively engages with her community, sharing her knowledge and experiences and further promoting organic farming to non-organic farmers. Seeing how her better health and income, Prescilla’s sister-in-law was also encouraged and now practicing organic farming in her 1,000 sq.m farm.
Today, Prescilla’s organic farm thrives, producing a variety of crops that are free from harmful chemicals. Her produce is also in high demand, not only because of its superior quality but also because of the ethical and sustainable practices behind it. Prescilla’s journey from conventional to organic farming reflects resilience, determination and unwavering commitment towards better health and sustainability. By JBAgrifino