There's big money in corn farming, Bicolana finds

TIGAON, CAMARINES SUR – In her youth, Angelita Abion wanted something else other than farming.
She was born into a family of farmers in Barangay Libod of this impoverished Bicol town and grew up in the farm that she, at her tender age, helped nourish.

After high school, during which she spent walking least five kilometers daily, Abion worked as a housemaid in faraway Bulacan province, hoping to earn the money needed for her to pursue a college degree that her sickly father had not been able to provide.

Unable to bear the hardship of the work as she was made by her employer to vend bananas around the neighborhood on a daily basis, she went home after three months.

At home, her mother encouraged her to stay and go into farming, a venture she hesitantly entered but afterwards learned to love after selling her first harvest of crops.

Later, she shifted to corn -- starting with the less than a hectare family farm lot from where a twist in her life story began.

Angie, as she is fondly called in the neighborhood, started with her corn production in 1998 using open-pollinated variety and later shifted to hybrid that gave her the harvest and income good enough for her farming to be called a success.

From her sales of corn during the next 15 years, she was able to acquire another four hectares of land which she now entirely devotes to corn planting.

Angie, now 47, is in charge of the corn plantation using a rented four-wheel drive tractor in land preparation at Php 1,200 per hour.

She said farm mechanization enables her to plant according to schedules and cope with the changing weather situation while using quality corn seeds that are resistant to pests and bought from suppliers that are accredited by the Department of Agriculture (DA) come as a good start in every production season.

To ensure good growth and root development, she said, she uses BIO N, an organic input that increases resistance of plants to wind and insect infestation as well as to certain diseases and ensures better nitrogen consumption.

Before last harrowing, Angie applies 40 bags of decomposed chicken manure sourced from a nearby poultry layer farm where she sells her own corn produce as feeds.

Applying chicken manure reduces her usage of inorganic fertilizer, the reason she only uses three bags of 14-14-14 fertilizer per hectare despite continuous planting cycle.

Planting, according to Angie, is still done manually to help generate jobs for residents of her barangay.

“I judiciously apply pesticide and regularly monitor my farm to see if there are signs or symptoms of pests and disease. I use tricho cards supplied by the DA to control corn borer and with this, there are cropping seasons that I never apply insecticide,” she said.

During harvest, field laborers are hired to sort the corn and separate those with damages, mold and rots from the good ones that are shelled mechanically ahead of the rest and stored in the warehouse.

Angie produces an average yield of eight tons per hectare of dried corn and with the DA’s recent putting up of a Corn Grain Center in the municipality, she said the process has been much easier for her as it no longer needs the services of hired farm laborers because the facility buys corn in cobs.

Drying corn, she said, is now easy with this facility unlike before when it takes about two days to complete drying.

The mechanical dryer of the facility takes only 12 to 18 hours to dry corn -- reducing labor and minimizing losses, thus, quality corn is produced for better price.

For one hectare, her total cost of production ranges from Php 42,000.00 to Php 45,000.00 and obtaining an average yield of eight tons per hectare gives her a net income of as much as Php 106,000 per hectare.

Out of that income, Angie has been able to buy a cargo truck for hauling, a van for family use, a mechanical sheller and tractor a palay thresher -- apart from a hectare of ricefield, a hectare of sugarcane plantation and a 1.2-hectare coconut land that her husband she married 12 years ago manages.

“We were also able to improve our house and now send our two children to a private school with all their needs provided. All these I realized from modern corn production alone which I learned from seminars and training given by the DA,” she said.

Angie also raises goat, carabaos, cow, swine, poultry, ducks and turkey with a commitment to the high quality of produce given that quality assurance is well knitted in every step of agricultural production.

With all these successes, Angie has been encouraging more farmers in this sleepy farming town of Tigaon to plant corn and bring their harvest to the newly established corn grain center for better quality and high price.

To Angie, success in corn production is anchored on hard work, adopting new technologies and employing marketing strategies.

And as a gesture of goodwill and gratitude to the success in farming she has been reaping, Angie has been helping not only her nephews and nieces in their school expenses but also sending to school some children from a tribal community in the barangay.

Angie said that the tall corn plants and the ears of corn motivate her to plant more because it does not only improves the life of her family but also that of her village mates.

“I love to generate jobs for my village mates and influence other farmers to follow my model and technologies and most of all, share my blessings to others,” she added. -- By Danny O. Calleja (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/
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