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A tribute to farmers

At 35 years old, I find that my hobbies when I was younger do not appeal to me anymore. And thanks to the pandemic, outdoor activities, which would have been the go-to activities of people my age, cannot be availed of in the meantime.

But the active boy in me needs something to be busy with for mental health’s sake. I live in an urbanized locality in Parañaque City, so who would have thought that the new hobby I would fall in love with is farming?

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It all started last January. Our subdivision was planning to implement a one-side parking policy, and I felt the need to lease a nearby vacant lot so that I could use it as a parking space. When I was already using the leased lot, I noticed that there was ample space at the rear portion that was too good not to be utilized. I started clearing the extra space of debris and weeds and fenced it with big rocks. Then I tilled the land and planted it with squash, carrots, and okra seeds.

The vacant lot was just in front of our house and I would visit it twice a day—right after waking up in the morning and at around five in the afternoon. During those visits, I would carry my sprinkler and an extra pail of water to water the soil.

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The moment you see a seedling sprout from the soil, you feel a different kind of happiness and sense of accomplishment. The sight comes after the hard manual labor of tilling the land under the sun, watering it on a regular basis, and offering so much of your time as well as sweat and blood. One will not understand the feeling until one experiences it himself, so I won’t judge people who would go visit their plants time and again for no reason, just to stare at them and sometimes talk to them. I’m guilty of that as well.

As weeks went by, my plants started to grow bigger. I was enticed to plant more seeds such as ampalaya, papaya, eggplant, and kangkong, among others. This all paid off, as I started harvesting corn and okra on the third month. The others are almost ready for the picking, too.

As much as I fell in love with farming, I realized, during laidback moments, the accuracy of the song “Magtanim Ay ‘Di Biro.”

My farm is only around 4 feet long and 12 feet wide. And that already required hard manual labor from me. From the 10 corn stalks that grew, I was only able to harvest 12 corn cobs. They all tasted good, but their appearance was not as appealing as those being sold in the market. They say that a technique must be observed by the farmer to get the perfect produce, both in taste and appearance. After harvesting my corn cobs, I needed to pull out the corn stalks and plant anew. I was also able to grow several okra plants, but only harvested 1 to 2 okra from time to time.

It was clear to me: The hard manual labor being exerted by our farmers just to produce enough supplies for us to buy in the market is being compensated way too low. I would go so far as to say that what we are doing to them should be considered a crime.

Our farmers need to be appreciated more. They deserve more. And if I would be more specific with my suggestions, our government should be paying our farmers a regular salary. That’s what they deserve. Anything less than that is an insult to their indispensable contribution to society.

Mabuhay ang mga magsasakang Pilipino! Maraming salamat po sa inyo.

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Oliver P. Cachapero Jr. is a laywer, educator, and a newbie urban farmer.

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TAGS: agriculture, hobby, pandemic, urban farming
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