This year’s UPLIFT Awardee for Agriculture is Jocelyn Mamar, owner of John and Marga Nursery Farm, which has sites in Davao del Sur, Cavite, and Bacolod. The farm’s main crop is coffee, specifically coffee seedlings.**Jocelyn Mamar is the owner of John and Marga Nursery Farm, which has farms in Davao del Sur, Cavite, and Bacolod. Their main crop is coffee, specifically coffee seedlings. (Jocelyn Mamar)**
The farm was established in 2007, when Mamar was given the opportunity to purchase 10 hectares of farmland in Davao. The other two properties were acquired in 2013 and 2014. Before she became a farmer, Mamar spent 17 years selling rice, vegetables, and dry goods in the Libertad Pasay Market.
When she acquired the Cavite farm in 2014, it was already planted to coffee. That was when Mamar’s coffee journey began. Starting from scratch, she consulted with coffee farmers, observed how other farms operated, attended classes on coffee farming and processing, and visited trade fairs to gain contacts in the industry. She saw a friend achieve success cultivating and selling seedlings, so she decided to follow the same path.
Mamar saw a friend achieve success cultivating and selling seedlings, so she decided to follow the same path. (Jocelyn Mamar)
The farm became Technical Education And Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) learning centers and was supplying seedlings to private clients, as well as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for their farm livelihood program aimed at 4P recipients in some provinces.
Her background as a market vendor is a great advantage in her current endeavor as a farm business owner. She tailors orders according to budget, and includes everything the farmer will need aside from seedlings, such as inputs and a bolo in the package. An aspiring farmer can start cultivating coffee with as little as P5000 in capital. This comes with a lecture on coffee farm management and some aftercare troubleshooting.
Her farming advice isn’t limited to coffee. Not only will she teach communities how and where to plant crops like onions, kangkong, and malunggay for personal consumption, she also gives tips on thinking like a business person.
Mamar’s business, which has also become her advocacy, has allowed her to travel the Philippines. She especially likes to seek out far-flung areas, and has many stories about the challenges she and her companions have met and overcome on the road. Still, she persists in teaching communities about coffee cultivation as a source of income.
She says that an invisible but just as damaging challenge the industry faces is mindset. Some people simply don’t want to do the work, even if the seedlings and inputs are provided for free by the government. On the other hand, when a community sees the long term potential of coffee farming, their enthusiasm can be catching, particularly when they finally see the literal fruits of their labor, and even more so when they start earning a steady income from it.
What Mamar enjoys most about her hectic work life is her ability to make a difference in the lives of others. (Jocelyn Mamar)
Mamar estimates that she’s helped facilitate the planting of about 30 hectares of coffee around the country, with each association allocated anywhere from 500sqm to two hectares by their local governments.
What Mamar enjoys most about her hectic work life is her ability to make a difference in the lives of others.
Through running a seedling farm and helping communities set up their own coffee farms and post-processing operations, Mamar fulfills a vital role in the coffee production chain, that of a propagator, helping farmers take advantage of the continuously growing demand for coffee locally and worldwide.
She had to temporarily stop traveling in 2020 because of the pandemic, but she drew on her past and began selling fruits, vegetables, and dry goods from her home garage. Whenever anyone needed anything, they knew that Mamar would find a way to get it. “Until now, almost everyone in our and the neighboring villages are regular customers,” she said in Tagalog. “The best part is I found regular customers… I became a dorm supplier to a Japanese school and also now supply coffee beans from them in Japan.”
Mamar was able to expand her business. She hired new employees, which include out of school youth and people who lost their jobs during the pandemic. “I’m able to generate livelihood,” she said.
She was also one of the Philippine delegates to Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, the Slow Food Network’s annual event in Turin, Italy. “All of this is from farming,” she said. “It connected everything and opened a lot of opportunities.”
Photos courtesy of Jocelyn Mamar