COFFEE farmer Quirica Cadava of Butuan City wakes up every dawn with so much enthusiasm. She has been counting the days until she could finally harvest the ripe coffee cherries with love and care. She smiles in content as she sees how her passion and dedication have resulted in a good harvest this year.
For Cadava of Tungao, Sant Mateo, the early morning sight of coffee cherries -- all red, ripe and glistening as they hang from the dew-covered coffee trees, all awaiting harvest as the first pick of the season -- is a source of wonder, hope and inspiration.
The coffee cherries represent not simply the fruits of her labor and care but also the chance for a better future for her family and relatives: for example, the money from her coffee farm's first pick will help send her niece to nursing school.
"The first pick signals the start of our answered prayers and blessings," says Cadava in Cebuano. She has been a coffee farmer since 2003. "It appeases our worries, and assures as that the long wait is over."
Cadava, her husband and three children moved to Sitio Bagong Silang in Agusan province in 1998. At first, they planted rice and corn in their two-hectare farmland but the earnings they got from selling their produce were barely sufficient for their needs.
Cadava and her family got by but she always prayed for something extra, so that she could provide not only for her family but also for other needy relatives.
In 2003 Cadava learned from a neighboring farmer's advice, telling her that coffee is well suited in their area. So she added coffee to the cash crops she was already growing in her farm.
The couple further inquired where to get proper coffee farming training and they were led to the Nestl‚ Experimental and Demonstration Farm (NEDF), a non-profit teaching and training center based in Tagum City that offers free extensive coffee specialist training.
NEDF also sells coffee planting materials produced using Nestl‚ technology at cost price.
"My husband took the weekend course and in no time, we were ready to set up the farm," reveals Cadava. "He shared with me whatever things he learned from Tagum enabling me to manage the farm myself."
Through the years, the Cadavas have been able to expand their farm to 15 hectares. In this farm, they harvest corn, coconuts and coffee.
They have also expanded their property to include a coffee huller, a warehouse, and the neighborhood's biggest sari-sari and merchandise store. It sells ready-to-wear clothes alongside freshly picked fruits of the season: durian, saba, and pomelo.
Cadava said that passion, dedication, hard work, faith in God and a hopeful disposition are necessary ingredients in her farm's success.
"God has been very good to us. That's why I feel obliged to share our blessings. But we had to do our share of learning the proper way of doing things and we had to put in hard work every day to ensure a good harvest," says Cadava whose three children have all finished their studies.
Today, Cadava reveals she plans to send her niece to nursing school with the money they will get from the sales of their first pick. Cadava also feels good because she knows the bounty from the harvest will also benefit her workers and their families.