Given their active minds and proficiency in technology, a young farmer from Baguio City is urging his fellow youth to move into agriculture and lead innovations to help improve food production and farming practices in the city and the Cordillera.
Ryan Palunan, the youngest to be selected as chair of the Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Council (RAFC), comes from a family of farmers who have embraced food production despite the limitations they face in living in an urban area.
He represents young farm practitioners from Baguio who, despite the vast opportunities they have by pursuing other professions, is choosing to engage in agriculture to change the notion that farmers are “poor” and farming is not profitable.
“There are a lot of opportunities in farming. It is not just about production. As we have seen during the pandemic, agriculture is not only just about producing but also processing these agricultural produce if we use our minds, be innovative, and see the science and art of food production,” said Palunan, who is studying Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at Benguet State University.
He grew up with lemons as a primary crop grown by his parents in their small farm in Barangay Happy Hallow. They later ventured into other crops and with his active involvement are now growing lettuce, pechay, chili peppers, and herb varieties. They also maintain a small fishpond.
Palunan said he and his family are currently organizing their area to transform it into an agri-tourism site.
“The pandemic has opened my eyes to the need in agriculture. The trend is the number of farmers is dwindling and those currently involved in it is getting old, so I decided to involvemyself in production of different kind of crops which initially was a hobby but later led me to be a representative of the agriculture and fisheries council here,” he said.
Palunan said as of 2018 the age of Filipino farmers ranges from 58 years old and above. “What does this mean? The age of our farmers here in the country is growing old. Through the years, the percentage of farmer laborers decreased every year by 1.5 percent and those employed in agriculture declined from 11.84 million in 2015 to 9.8 million in 2020.”
Palunan said it is time for young farmers to emerge because for the past years, the population of individuals involved in farming has been declining. The youths’ fresh ideas and acumen, he said, is vital in modernizing the country’s agriculture sector.
“The youth now will be the ones tasked to continue the traditional farm practices and improve them. We call for their ideas, innovativeness, and creativity,” Palunan said.
He said young ones should see how they could contribute in this sector especially in engaging in hydroponics, aquaculture farming, and integrated urban gardening which is currently the trend, aside from those engaging in processing which adds value to raw produce.
“There’s an avenue for agriculture to bloom even though you are in an urban setting. We could show our innovativeness and see the opportunities for a sustainable agri-based enterprise,” he said.
Since while there are young farmers who have the ideas but lack capital, the Department of Agriculture lends them support via the Young Farmers Challenge Program, which encouragesthe youth to engage in agriculture and agri-fishery enterprises, provide the youth access to capital to enable them to venture into profitable agri-fishery enterprises, and provide agri-fishery business development services to further strengthen the agri-entrepreneurship capabilities of the youth.
The YFCP, which Palunan also availed of, is a competitive financial grant assistance program for the youth who will engage in agri-fishery-based enterprise.
The grant shall serve as capital for the planned agri-fishery enterprise operated by an individual youth or as a group-managed venture between two or more individual youth.
It provides business development services like training and mentoring assistance, market linking, and business networking. The youth willalso be assisted in forming and registering into young farmers clubs or association.
“Since this is a competitive financial grant, this means that the youth need to work it out. Kailangan nilang pagtiyagaan, alamin ano ba ang new technology or innovation na magagamit nila for them to receive this grant. This will enable them to be active and come up with ideas,” Palunan said.
He said those interested may also choose to be engaged in production or processing depending on what is suited in their location or needs of their target market.– Hanna C. Lacsamana