CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Fidel David won the Outstanding Vegetable Grower award for 2009, and to him, it was his prize after five years of painstaking efforts to innovate on his farming techniques.

Editha Vega, information officer of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) in Pampanga, said "it was not an easy journey for David, but his determination finally paid off."

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Described as a farmer-entrepreneur based in Barangay San Matias, Sta. Rita town, David started innovating in 2004 when he used an elevated bed box for his seedlings, using soil that was cooked and sterilized in a vat to prevent fungus formation. Then, he added coco dust and sufficient amount of organic fertilizer and sprinkled it with just enough water, Vega said.

Vega said that sturdy seedling with good rooting system made transplanting easier.

His second innovation, Vega revealed, was also done in 2004. This involved the use of plastic mulch for weed control and water retention, also the use of trellis with systematic linear support for vines.

With consistent technical assistance from the OPA, David's technique, Vega added, resulted in a bountiful harvest. These were vegetables not in season and were therefore sold at a higher price, giving David bigger profit, she said.

"After this, David's neighboring farmers who had been on a 'wait and see' attitude, finally adopted his technique, convinced that it would also work to their benefit," Vega said.

While not all his efforts proved successful, such as the production of organic fertilizer in 2006, due to problems in the sourcing of raw materials and inadequate technical know how, David still had a good batting average of success in his farm innovations, the OPA declared.

Not one to give up easily due to failures and encouraged by his past successes, David's efforts were recognized by his neighbor-farmers and this led to the establishment of the Bangon Multi-Purpose Cooperative Inc. (MPCI).

Vega said the Bangon cooperative has received support from the Provincial Government and other government agencies. The Bangon MPCI subsequently benefited from projects, such as Multi-Purpose Drying Pavement, farm-to-market road, a 124 square meter nursery and a greenhouse.

To be able to start anew on the production of organic fertilizer, the Provincial Government gave the MPCI a mechanical shredder. The OPA also initiated linkage with the public markets of the cities of Angeles and San Fernando, Guagua and Balintawak in Quezon City for the marketing of vegetables produced by the cooperative.

Vega called on farmers to try successful innovation techniques. She also committed OPA's support of technical and other forms of assistance for the farmers.

"Success could come if various sectors get together towards the goal of improving productivity," Vega said. (Eloisa P. Galang/Pampanga PIO)