Elevating La Trinidad's strawberry industry

FARMERS in La Trinidad continue searching for income-generating products that would be suitable and unique to the valley while curbing competition to neighboring towns.

Various strawberry varieties were introduced to local farmers such as Tioga Toyonaka, Haronaka and Sweet Charlie.

The strawberry farm area and its sweet strawberries were showcased as the town's one-town-one-product of the capital town.

To date, 660 strawberry growers plant 79.49 inside the Benguet State University owned lot where farmers are leased at least 500 square meters.

However, instead of relying on the limited parcel of land, new technologies were introduced to elevate production.

Farmers have built elevated platforms for strawberries with extra row of soil made out of wood and wielded metal to double their income.

George Macling, municipal agriculture office farm supervisor practiced the technology and also utilize his farm as demo farm where young farmers engage, learn and adapt to the industry.

Macli-ing farms have also lessened injury and damages with the one touch strawberry, a program of product development, where proper packaging and handling is practiced.

Moreover, the technology aims to improve the packaging and post harvest problems to lessen the bruises and scratches for strawberries.
For three years now, Nancy Macli-ing’s strawberry farm in Longlong, La Trinidad has practiced the one touch strawberry by packaging her own strawberries directly to the farm placed into a plastic container which is latter received by buyers in Manila.

Aside from the large strawberry fields in the swamp area, in the vast trails of barangay Puguis, private lands owners husband and wife Martinez and Marcelina Monang continue to grow and cultivate their land for strawberries.

Marcelina recalled the land inherited by her husband where they live in now was once filled with trees. During the 70’s, they started to plant few strawberries and vegetables and on the succeeding years, the lands were further developed.

"Strawberries have become the source of income for the education of my children," she said. "Once you plant strawberries, you all have the remedies. Once you own the source of the processed product, the outcome will be good."

Aside from being producers of fresh strawberries, in 2010, they have ventured into strawberry wine and jams. The 59-year-old farmer said she attended seminars to learn processing strawberry products.

"Kayat ko nga maadal da met tapnu han nga sumardeng ti industry tayo nga La Trinidad nga strawberry process man wenu fresh, han kuma nga maguyud ti daduma ta mga town OTOP ti strawberry (I wanted to learn to keep the industry of La Trinidad strawberry whether fresh and process. And hopefully other town would not pull over the One Town One Product)"
Monang’s fourth child Evangeline Warren continue the strawberry farming and producing strawberry products.

As the town celebrates its strawberry festival, Benguet Governor Crescencio Pacalso urged visitors go and see the strawberry fields, cutflowers and vegetables of which La Trinidad should be proud of.

In the city of Baguio small farm are prepared to also offer strawberry picking.

“For them its business, they thought of coming out with their own and it is a threat to us. Anytime now another facility will also conduct the same thing," the governor said "This is where, agri-tourism will come in, nearby areas in Longlong who have strawberry farms should think to offer strawberry harvest, other than swamp area."

Nearby provinces are also cultivating strawberries of which the governor said it is another threat apart from Baguio.

“Strawberry farmers should start getting together with municipal and provincial agriculturist to convene and discuss what else can we do," added the governor.

In lieu of improving the strawberry industry, Pacalso said the municipality should come up with a uniform presentation and packaging of strawberries that speaks of the La Trinidad, Benguet strawberries. "We need to level up, to improve, if we want our business for a long long time," he said adding a label should mark and identify the strawberry made in Benguet once brought to other areas.
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