Farm introduces game changer to assist rice farmers

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    A farm in Pangasinan is assisting rice farmers hone their craft, eventually eradicate their traditional practice of borrowing money and gain the ultimate fruits of their labor.

    Our Farm Republic (OFR), an integrated and diversified farm, is promoting modern techniques and best practices among rice farmers through the support of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which is envisioned to be the game changer in the rice farming industry in the country.

    Run by the Santiago family led by Lea Santiago, OFR is set to stamp out “gawat,” or the Ilocano term for scarcity – the traditional practice of rice farmers wherein they would borrow money to buy food for their families, even though they’re farming food.

    “I don’t want to hear farmers suffering because they don’t have anything to eat even though they themselves produce food,” she lamented. “I’ve always believed that there is money in agriculture. It will remain a sunrise industry,” Santiago said.

    A former local politician in Marikina, she attended various training programs from both the public and private sector, including the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) when the family acquired the farm.

    By attending training and certification programs, Santiago was able to upgrade OFR as a DA-accredited Organic Techno-Demo Farm, an ATI Learning Site for Agriculture, and a farm tourism site accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

    Today, the farm orients farmers on farm tourism, good agricultural practices, organic farming, to rice production.

    OFR is one of over 200 farm schools that conduct RCEF-Farmer Field School nationwide.

    According to ATI, farmers with at least a hectare of property can submit a letter of intent and attend trainings to be certified by the agency.

    Owners of farm sites can earn up to P140,000.00 per month for a batch of 25 students.

    Farm school will also receive support in attracting students, with ATI and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) providing scholarships and additional incentives for farm schools in order to fast-track the modernization of farming practices nationwide.