Francis Ching: CAR’s champion of high value crops production-A A +A
Thursday, December 30, 2010
MR. FRANCIS CHING is a familiar name to our readers. He recently won in the Cordillera Search for Gawad Saka Award for Outstanding High Value Commercial Crops Farmer.
For this feat, he received a plaque of recognition and a cash award of P20,000 last December 23, 2010 at the Rajah Soliman Hotel, Baguio City from the DA-CAR Regional Field Office.
Our published write-ups on Mr. Ching since 2008 detailed his pioneering ways on commercial greenhouse vegetable production as alternative to open field farming. It was an idea laden with risks, struggles, and an unwavering will to prove that greenhouse farming is the way to go for the production of highland vegetables and fruits like strawberries. For his winning ways, he remains a strong contender for the same award next year for both the regional and national Gawad Saka Awards.
When we first interviewed Mr. Ching, he was already in the first year of his greenhouse farming operations. He started growing vegetables in the open field. A year later, he realized that this farming strategy is highly dependent on the elements and vagaries of the weather.
As a farmer, he wanted to have control over his limited farm lot and making it productive all year round. He saw the importance of a year round planting schedule programmed and targeted to specific and identified markets.
While production programming under greenhouse condition was still being discussed and circulated as a potential technology for adoption by the local vegetable industry, Mr. Ching has already made it a reality in his 7,000 square meter lot.
In 2008, he was harvesting fruits, vegetables and root crops in his 7,000 square meter lot in Cada, Mankayan, Benguet on a weekly basis. That meant a continued flow of cash or income for his efforts.
In the DA circle, I suggested that they watch Mr. Ching as a potential agricultural champion. I got a cool reception initially. Isn’t he a rich farmer? Later, they saw that he started like everybody else producing vegetables in the open field in small farm lots. The difference is guts, wise investment, continuous learning and application of appropriate technology and trust.
Today, Mr. Ching produces year-round strawberries, potatoes, Romaine lettuce, bell peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables which are sold directly in high-end markets like hotels or through his marketing partners like Dole-Asia, Pureharvest Food Processing Corporation and others.
Admittedly, Mr. Ching got indirect support assistance from the DA in establishing and sustaining his farming business operations. The farm-to-market road leading to his farm and others in Cada was built by the Highland Agricultural Development Project (HADP) and later rehabilitated by the DA.
He is among the first to be benefitted by the rehabilitation of the Halsema Highway making it possible for cool refrigerated vans to transport his fresh produce regularly. He is a regular client of the Benguet Province refrigerated trucks and cooling house facility in Wangal, La Trinidad, Benguet. He also established his first 500 square meters greenhouse from agricultural loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines.
Mr. Ching has managed to become himself, a storehouse of knowledge and experience on greenhouse farming under highland conditions. He is indirectly a partner of the DA in developing and disseminating good agricultural practices on organic farming, fertigation, year-round production programming, market-led production and market networking. He is gaining expertise and fame in modern vegetable production as self-taught farmer, responsible citizen and a pioneering export farmer leader.
Benguet’s farmers produce more than 60 percent of the nation’s requirement for semi-temperate vegetables in the open field. Mr. Ching’s achievement demonstrated that this can be sustained with export quality produce under a well managed greenhouse conditions. It shows local folks the needed discipline of a determined farmer in making good agricultural practices increase farm income and provide livelihood to a chain of wage earners from farm production, packing, transporting, processing to the market.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 31, 2010.