BAUKO, Mountain Province October 12 – It was as usual, cold and foggy that September afternoon here. We just came from the capital town of Bontoc and intended to drop by the Green Salad Farm, a SETUP cooperator, whose business is to produce high value commercial crops such as romaine lettuce. From the national highway, we travelled around 2 kilometers of rough road towards the farm. Upon reaching the three-hectare farm, it wasn’t hard to note that most of the vegetable gardens are covered with green houses. You will know, right from the start that this farm is no ordinary one. On the contrary, it was quite impressive.
When Mr. Jonie B. Calawa came up to meet us, I was, admittedly, taken aback. He looked like any other highland farmer, from the bonnet on his head to the thick jacket shielding him from the cold weather to those well-loved jeans and down to the worn slippers on his feet. He sure didn’t look like the owner of this farm. But that is what I love about my people in the highlands. You’d never know a millionaire even if he was staring you right on the face.
The highlands of Cordillera Administrative Region are known as the premier producers of semi-temperate crops in the country. The high elevations and very cool weather conditions is a competitive advantage for farmers in the production of semi-temperate vegetables and crops, making this one of the major sources of livelihood in the area.
Aside from the province of Benguet, Mountain Province is also one of the major producers of semi-temperate high value commercial crops such as cabbage, carrots, lettuce, salad tomatoes and bell pepper. The Green Salad Farms, a single proprietorship enterprise established in 1988 and registered with the Department of Trade and Industry in 2009 was initially established by Mr. Calawa’s father. From the start, the family was determined to become the lead producer of highland fresh vegetables through the use of greenhouse technologies as well as the use of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). It was a noble goal, and they worked very hard to get it.
In 2009, Mr. Calawa approached the DOST-CAR through the Provincial Science and Technology Center-Mountain Province to inquire about possible technological assistance that could improve his production process. Specifically, he was looking for technologies that would protect the crop from the freezing cold that spreads in the open 1,300 square meter area. Fortunately, SETUP approved his project entitled “Upgrading of Greenhouse for High Value Crops Production” in 2010.
Through the SETUP project, the Green Salad Farm was able to improve its production of different varieties of lettuce. The greenhouse technology enabled the cooperator to produce enough romaine lettuce for its institutional market, the DOLE Philippines, Live Green International, Mountaineers Trading, Daisy’s Trading, Green Crops Trading, Cheryl’s Trading and Isla Trinidad Veggies. Further, Mr. Calawa has adopted the protected cultivation technology with automated system which is essential to protect the crops from climatic changes and adverse weather conditions. These include innovations such as drip irrigation, wind breaker system, aeration system of the greenhouse and production programming to ensure a year round supply of crops.
The technology intervention, coupled with the diligence and determination of the cooperator to succeed in the business resulted to a weekly harvest of about 7.5 tons of high quality romaine lettuce.
The adoption of the greenhouse technology including the innovations applied by Mr. Calawa created a great impact in the whole business. Their cropping system has increased their production cycles from 8 times to 52 times annually. Such intensive cropping system can never be realized in open field conditions.
During the guided tour that cold afternoon, I noticed that the romaine lettuce have unusually loose open heads with abundant tops and crisp stems. A typical farmer who is proud of his produce, Mr. Calawa generously offered some to us and I can say firsthand that the lettuce is exceptionally crisp, the flavor sweet and mild.
He told us that right after harvest, the lettuce are packed in crates and delivered to their institutional buyers. Mr. Calawa also explained that the produce of the farm is of good quality because the greenhouse ensures that the produce has uniform growth.
When it comes to solid waste management, the cooperator makes sure that nothing is wasted. All non-biodegradable wastes are placed in proper containers and sold to junk shops. Green Salad Farms has an existing composting area where all rotten vegetables, leaves, peelings, and other biodegradable wastes are collected in the compost pit which are then processed into fertilizers. He proudly added that they do not use inorganic fertilizers since they strictly adhere to organic farming. I remember thinking, that’s good especially since their main produce is romaine lettuce.
The efforts of this innovative cooperator in the highland vegetable farming industry have not gone unnoticed. He was, in fact, awarded the Certificate of Achievement as Outstanding Farmer in 2011 during the 44th Mountain Province Foundation Day and the Gawad Saka Award in 2013 by the Department of Agriculture.