He made the right decision of his life – to become a farmer.
John Raymund Jurada, 27, left a promising job in the city and decided to continue the legacy established by his father, Arthur. This proud father-and-son tandem from Mlang, North Cotabato, a 3 ½ hour-drive southwest from Davao City, found more fulfillment from working in their 1 ½ hectare diversified farm, organizing young organic farmers, and producing nutritious and good-eating quality organic rice.
John Raymund or “Bobet,” as he is more known, finished electronics course in college. He had worked in big companies that could provide him with a stable source of income, which many employees desired. He had also been offered to work abroad. But when asked what made him decide to return to his community and to be a full-time farmer, he proudly said: “I can also get a good future from organic farming.”
Organic farming is not new to Bobet. He was taught about rice breeding when he was 12 years old by his father who is a successful rice breeder. His mother, Betty, and his uncles and aunts are organic farmers too. As a young boy, Bobet was exposed to discussions by members of the Buayan Sustainable Agriculture Farmer’s Organization (BUSAFO) and other farmer’s organizations. Their house which has evolved from a simple bamboo hut into a fully concrete one is a result of their entrepreneurial skills, and has long been the de facto office of the Agro-Eco Philippines in North Cotabato.
Since 2019, Bobet has been at the frontline of promoting organic farming by forming a group of young organic farmers in their community and training its members, (some are as young as 7 years old), about rice breeding and vegetable gardening. The group has already established a 400-square meter garden of their own planted with 10 kinds of vegetables in front of the chapel where his father Arthur functions as a Lay Minister. Through this initiative, the group gets about Php 6,000 income a month, not to mention the regular food supply that their families are getting from their garden.
During the strong earthquake that hit their neighboring town of Tulunan in the later part of 2019, Bobet and his group packed their organic produce and distributed it to the victims.
It is not a surprise that Bobet, his parents, and members of their organization are not affected by the impact of coronavirus disease-2019 (Covid19). They are food secured and resilient – and always will be. BUSAFO is one of the top providers of organic rice (comes in white, red and black) in Davao City through the Social Enterprise Program of the Agro-Eco Philippines. Hopefully, the regular operations of the Social Enterprise Program will resume in about two weeks from now or after the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine because of Covid-19.
It’s alarming to note that the average age of Filipino farmer is 60, according to the Department of Agriculture. They are the frontliners to our survival. But they are facing a serious problem of choosing their second-liners. Obviously, this is not the case of Bobet’s father who turned 60 last March 30.
Just recently, Senator Bong Go and some cabinet members of the Duterte administration have discussed the idea with the president of launching the “Balik sa Probinsya Program” to entice the people in urban centers to go back to the province for good, and to engage in farming, by giving more incentives to agriculture.
We all know that government’s program on paper is closer to a dream than reality. But if they need models who can provide them with concrete pictures of how to create a dynamic, food-secured and resilient provinces, then certainly Bobet, his father Arthur, and thousands of organic farmers out there can fill-in the gaps with the right support from the government.
“Balik sa Probinsya” without “Balik sa Banika” (back to farms) may like be just a myth for Bobet and millions of young people like him.