Ex-bus conductor excels in farming

MANILA, Philippines - Bartolome Demateo, 66, has proven that it is much better to go back to the farm rather than be a bus conductor in Metro Manila. When he was much younger in the 1970s, Demateo was a conductor of the Del Pilar Bus Company that plied the Baclaran-Monumento route.

Good for him, he realized early that he did not have a bright future being a bus conductor. So he decided to give up his job and returned to his hometown in Lezo, Aklan. Back in his native Lezo, he tried driving a tricycle to earn a living. That did not give him much income. Then he tried distributing pan de sal and other bakery products to different towns in Aklan. With the increasing price of flour, however, the business was rather slow. So he decided in 1985 to become a full-time farmer.

He planted rice on a one-hectare property but soon diversified into high-value vegetables when he met the technician of East-West Seed Company that distributed hybrid seeds. He rented a 2,000-square meter farm which he planted to hybrid squash, ampalaya, pechay and cabbage.

His harvests were so encouraging, he has not stopped planting high-value vegetables since then. In fact, he was able to eventually buy the farm he rented when he started planting vegetables.

With the advice of the East-West technician, he was able to master the basics of growing vegetables the scientific way, and he has since become well known as a vegetable grower. In fact, he won the top prize of P50,000 cash in the 2009 provincewide backyard vegetable gardening competition in Aklan. His oldest son, Ricky, also duplicated his feat in 2010 by emerging as the top prize winner in the same competition.

One of his favorite varieties today is the Norman snapbeans which is highly fruitful and has a ready market in Kalibo and Boracay. Another money maker is Big C cucumber which bears fruits in just 35 days after planting. The fruits which usually weigh three pieces to a kilo sell for P15 a kilo on wholesale basis. From a 1,000 square meters that he planted to cucumber, he made P15,000. That's equivalent to P150,000 on a per-hectare basis.

Aside from vegetables, Demateo also makes money from papaya. He has an open pollinated variety that is very prolific. He also harvests a lot of fruits from his lanzones trees. His mangoes which are about ten years old were blown down by strong winds but they are in good productive conditions.

Harvesting is very convenient as a result.

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AQUATIC FESTIVAL - An Aquatic Festival will be held on December 17 to 19 at the AANI Weekend Market at the compound of St. Vincent Seminary along Tandang Sora in Quezon City. This is a project of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in collaboration with Agri-Aqua Network International (AANI). The latest developments in aquaculture will be discussed in lectures and demonstrations. There will be exhibits of marine and freshwater fisheries products. The venue is along Tandang Sora St., about 400 meters to the left from the junction of Visayas and Tandang Sora.

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LIKASAKA MANUAL II - The second edition of the Likasaka Manual which deals on natural farming authored by Tere Perez Saniano and colleagues is now off the press. It is available through info@solraya.com of Dr. Rey and Sandy Itchon. Among many others, it features how to make natural pesticides and fermented juices for fertilizing plants.

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ORGANIC FUNGICIDE BAGS FIRST PRIZE - Antica, the organic fungicide that has fungicidal as well as bactericidal properties bagged first prize in the Likha category of the Department of Science and Technology's national invention competition in Cebu City. The inventor is Gigi Zaballero, a chemical engineer. Antica is now applied commercially to control Sigatoka and Moko disease in bananas. It has also been proven to be effective against Tungro in rice.

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