Ampalaya, malunggay, sitaw, and kangkong are commonly grown vegetables in the Philippines. When Pinay nurse Mia Uy relocated to Maryland, USA, she found herself cultivating these crops and eventually earning from them.
Uy grew up seeing her parents take meticulous care of their farm in Camiling, Tarlac, Philippines. It was the same farm that solidified her passion for raising crops and selling produce.
She moved in with her parents in the USA in 2009. At that time, her parents were already tending to a garden specializing in jute and potato leaves that are popular among African American customers.
In 2015, she bought her own home, established a garden, and planted it with a variety of vegetables, mostly Asian varieties, which helped her attract more customers.
Uy’s 208 sqm garden concentrates on ampalaya. It is planted alongside kamote, saluyot, kangkong, malunggay, sitaw, kamatis, talong, sili, okra, sayote, upo, sigarilyas, and more. Grapes, persimmons, cherries, figs, blackberries, and other fruit trees also flourish there.
Growing tropical crops in a country with four seasons is surely challenging. Uy specifically puts up and cares for her garden from April to October. She takes advantage of the warm weather when it rolls around. Winter, for her, is more of a break than a hindrance to her gardening.
At present, Uy only works three days a week, allowing her to allot time for garden maintenance. Her parents help her with gardening, too.
She usually collects rainwater and uses it to water crops twice a day. She also uses compost and horse manure as fertilizer.
What she produces in the garden is both for personal and commercial use. Uy conducts what she calls “talipapa day” twice a week to sell her weekly harvests in her backyard. This also becomes an avenue for other Filipino gardeners to market their produce.
A vegetable bundle is usually priced at $5. For example, her upo is $5 per piece, and saluyot, her most in-demand vegetable, is sold at $5 per bundle that approximately weighs 1.5 lbs.
Every month, she earns an extra income of about $700 to $900 or P40,000 to P50,000 from selling what she grows.
Uy also invested in three farmlands in their hometown in the Philippines, which she plans to turn into farm resorts.
“My farm in Camiling, Tarlac has mango trees and other fruit trees. The one in Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac has sineguelas, calamansi, coconuts, bananas, chicos, rambutan, pomelo, and many more. It also has a fish pond. The one in Labney, Mayantoc, Tarlac is more than 5 hectares in size but it is still under development.”
Uy’s story is another success story of turning a hobby into a business, but this time, on a different continent.
According to Uy, it takes perseverance and commitment to achieve what she has achieved in farming.
Photos by Mia Uy