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Davao
Monday, December 06, 2021
DAVAO

Farmer grows apples in Davao del Sur

Photo by Benzone Kennedy Sepe

LIFE is like a seed. It takes a long time for the fruits of your labor to become apparent and healthy enough to pick.

For 30-year-old farmer Benzone Kennedy Sepe, he made an impossible seed sprout in his own ways.

According to the Department of Agriculture, growing apples in a tropical country like the Philippines might sound impossible at first as they mostly thrive best in cool climates. But with his agricultural breakthrough, Sepe made it possible to grow apples in the country in Kapatagan, Digos City in Davao del Sur.

Sepe looked back at his interest in growing apples while eating apples at the mall seven years ago.

Out of curiosity, Sepe tried to cultivate a simple seed of apple in a small portion of his lot in 2014. He extracted three seeds from an apple that he was eating, then planted them in seashells and transferred them to seedling bags when they grew to about five inches. All seeds sprouted, but only one tree survived.

From a small space in his backyard, he now grows this fruit in a 600 square meter yard where 30 apple trees are planted. He planted 40 trees in front of their church while in a half-hectare land that he rents, he has grown 300 apple trees.

Most apples grow in temperate areas with seven to 12 degrees Celsius (°C), but in Kapatagan, which is located in an upland area at the foot of Mount Apo, the area’s cool climate is suitable for producing exotic fruits.

Some varieties of apples now are highly adaptable to climate, even in tropical countries like Kenya in Africa.

With his successful experience, he envisions Kapatagan to be a leading producer of apples in the market.

During his trip to South Korea in 2014, he came across a local magazine showing local farmers growing mangoes in greenhouses.

Challenges in growing apple

As they say, if you never tasted a bad apple, you wouldn't appreciate a good apple. That was how Sepe described his appreciation towards apple growing.

Aside from the limited space, planting these seeds doesn’t assure that all of them would thrive.

“Apple growing wasn't that easy. Out of the 100 seeds mailang naa sa five or 10 percent ang mu-grow as apple trees (expect that only five or 10 percent would grow as apple trees.),” he said.

Apple trees are also vulnerable to fungus infection, causing some to rot easily.

Weather is also another major challenge.

He said previous heavy winds and rains also affected his apple growing, with some trees affected in a landslide.

This had motivated him to launch a “food forest” project, which not only addresses the need for food but also helps in protecting the environment

With this, he devoted more time to learning how to grow apples through books, newspapers, and on the internet.

Pest controlling is also a must, as these are also nuisance on his farm.

Harvest times

In 2018, Sepe started harvesting the first fruits of his apple tree. He collects 30 to 35 fruits from the same tree every harvest.

In temperate countries, apple trees take five to seven months to bear fruits. In his experience, it only takes four months to start harvesting apples in his area.

But because of its low germination, there is a need to plant more seeds as possible.

Sepe has grown varieties of apples including Fuji, Golden Dorsett, Starking, Granny Smith, Gala, Redlove Odysso, Russet, and more.

In terms of taste, his apples are not far from the high-quality standards compared to commercial apples.

Aside from apples, Sepe also cultivates other crops in his orchard, including pear, persimmon, peach, orange, durian, grapes, strawberry, guava, vegetables, among others.

Part time farm owner, student, vlogger

His farm named Kapatagan Apple Orchard, Rare Fruit Farm, and Nursery is the first in the country to be certified as a Learning Site for Agriculture (LSA) for apple production in the country by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI).

Kapatagan Apple Orchard also became an agritourism designation by people who wanted to see apples from trees since it is rare in the country.

Visitors and learners who are interested in apple farming can visit the site with an entrance fee of P20 per visitor.

Aside from being a tree grower, Sepe is currently a fourth-year student taking up a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture major in Horticulture.

During his free time, he has also been a vlogger since 2018. His youtube channel Benzone Kennedy F. Sepe has currently more than 20,000 followers, and more than 1.3 million views.

When the pandemic struck in March 2020, he became more active in vlogging to expand its reach to viewers who cannot visit his farm when the country implemented the enhanced community quarantine.

Based on the YouTube video analytics, the majority of his viewers are minors. With this, Sepe felt happy that more youth are now taking interest in farming and agriculture because of the huge influence of social media.

For his fellow youth who are planning to choose agriculture as a career, he said that as a farmer, they should explore more areas as there is a huge world of opportunities in it.

He also hoped that farmers like him would also be morally boosted with his success story.


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