There is a (rightfully) growing concern over the shrinking number of people engaged in the agriculture industry. But for those who have chosen farming as their livelihood, it’s a profession that gives them much joy, despite the many hardships they face. A while back, I asked some of the people I interviewed what about their work brought them the most satisfaction. These are some of their answers:
“Seeing the smile on our customer’s faces when they see our produce; that we can grow this [and] that. It became a passion and I think I live for agriculture…. What matters to me is seeing the lives of my farmhand change because I can see I’m helping a lot of people and seeing their relatives get into farming as well instead of just going to the metro [to find jobs]…. I mean, it’s not big but they [can now afford a] motorbike, [a] smartphone, [a] pocket WiFi…. They have no problem when it comes to the tuition of their kids. They have a sustainable lifestyle already…. We always want to give back to them because we see them as our superheroes. Without them, we can’t be where we are now.” — Raffy Dacones, chief farming officer, Teraoka family farm
“Ang pinakamasaya sa organikong pagsasaka ay siyempre yung tanim at pamilya ay ligtas sa anumang chemical. Nagkakaroon kami ng bayanihan yung mga magsasaka namin dahil pwede kaming magtanim kahit wala kaming involved na pera ng dahil sa maramihan. Masaya naman bilang magsasaka na nagoorganic at sa ngayon ay nakakapagbenta na kami ng aming mga local products.” (The best thing about organic farming is that the crops and your family is safe from chemicals. Us farmers work together so we can plant without money involved because [the seeds] are for everyone. It’s good to be an organic farmer and now, we can sell our products.) — Nanay Virginia “Virgie” Nazareno, farmer, Calacar, Quezon, MASIPAG member
“What I love the most about my job is eating. [Auro co-founder] Kelly (Go) and I reconnected because of [because of]food…. There are so many ways that you can enjoy chocolate so it’s about discovering what we enjoy and what the rest of the people enjoy as well, and it enables us to create products that really cater to everybody’s needs. That’s really what I love…. For us, it’s really about showcasing the Philippines and making people feel proud that something like this comes from the Philippines and it’s grown by Filipinos and made by Filipinos.” — Mark Mendoza Ocampo, managing director, Auro Chocolate; officer, Teraoka family farm
“Ang pagiging magsasaka, masaya ang buhay. Hindi nakaka-stress. Mga presko ang mga kinakain mo, nakaktulong ka pa sa kapwa mo.” (Life is good for a farmer. It’s not stressful. Your food is fresh and you get to help others as well.) — Aileen Bawet, farmer, Apayao Province, MASIPAG member
“What I love most about this job is that I don’t feel that it’s a job. I feel that this is what I’m called to do and I just feel that I’m just playing and I feel happy being with the fishers, journeying with them, and just looking at them, realizing their dreams also, especially their kids. That alone, those things are what makes everything really meaningful and worth it.” — Jet Ong, Co-Founder and CEO, Fishers and Changemakers, Balangay’s Best
You can read their stories and more on Agriculture.com.ph and in the Agriculture section of Manila Bulletin Online.
Many farmers stay in agriculture because they genuinely love their work, but loving one’s job isn’t enough. It’s important to keep pushing for policies and practices that ensure that our farmers are well compensated so that they can thrive as Filipino citizens. Whether one is a smallholder farmer, a farm worker, a farm business owner, an agripreneur, a fisher, or simply someone who eats, we all have a stake in our country’s food security (because the other option is starvation), and helping make sure that farming becomes a viable career for Filipinos once again is a good way to ensure that.