He leads a comfortable life by farming just 3,000 square meters
Would you believe that one can lead a comfortable life with the necessary amenities by just farming 3,000 square meters?
That might be hard to believe but the 3,000 square meters is what has been providing Pat Acosta enough income to support a family, including three children who have gone to college.
Pat Acosta was the Gawad Saka Organic Farmer of the Year 2010 for his outstanding achievement in farming without using any chemicals. His farm is a hillside in Brgy. Puguis in La Trinidad, Benguet. The slope is such that he had to terrace the place with seven levels, using each level for growing his salad vegetables. In a portion of the second to the highest level, he built his two-storey house following the design of a Japanese architect friend.
Pat calls his farm The Master’s Garden, probably because he calls everything that he uses in his brand of farming is God-given. He says he only buys the seeds and the plastic trays for growing his seedlings. He uses no chemicals to protect his plants from insects and diseases. Neither does he use any chemical fertilizer to make his plants grow.
Would you believe that his lettuce and other crops are practically free of diseases and insect pests? Pat claims he just follows the law of nature. Although he majored in horticulture at UP Los Baños where their professors might have taught them to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides in producing their crops, he uses nothing of those.
Pat, by the way, produces salad vegetables like different varieties of lettuce, snap peas, cherry radish, Japanese cucumber and some others. And since these are not usually cooked, it is just appropriate that he grows them sans poisonous chemicals.
So what does he do to produce his chemical-free crops? He says he follows the law of nature. He uses compost but not the traditional compost you and I know. The well-processed compost is not for him. Why? Because such compost is easily used up by the plants so you probably have to apply two or more times up to harvest time. He uses compost that is not fully decomposed.
He explains that in the forest, there are organic matters that are fully decomposed and there are also others undergoing decomposition. Thus the supply of nutrients is continuous. That’s the principle he applies in his farming. When he plants his lettuce, he incorporates in the soil his not-so-well-decomposed compost. The same could also be used as mulch which will decompose gradually, providing his plants continuous supply of nutrients.
He has a practical way of producing his compost with the aid of IMO or indigenous microorganisms. All he does is to take a spoonful of soil in the forest to which he adds a spoonful of brown sugar plus one liter of water. He places this in an open container and lets this stay under a roof for three days. After three days, he mixes this with water which he sprays on the shredded compost materials. He just lets the materials stand under the roof without any covering. After two weeks, he can already use the same in his garden.
He admits that the composted grasses don’t contain all the necessary elements needed for the proper growth of plants. He has a remedy for that. He adds seaweeds to his composting materials at the rate of about 10 percent by volume. This provides a more or less complete food for his plants.
Pat bought his hillside property in 1993. It took him several years to fully develop the place into what it is today. From the very beginning, he had decided to go organic. And he has kept to that decision.
At first, he grew ornamentals and flowering plants. But after the financial crisis in 1997, he decided in 2000 to produce food crops, particularly salad vegetables. He admits it was not easy to sell his salad vegetables in the beginning because not many Filipinos were eating salads then. When he brought his harvest to trading post (bagsakan), they would offer him very low prices so he ended up giving away his lettuce and other leafy greens to people who cared to try his produce.
By 2001, though, he had enough buyers of his salad vegetables and today has established a simple system of marketing his harvests. He does not sell any of his harvests in La Trinidad to give way to new organic players there. After all, he can sell all that he can produce to a Manila distributor. He sells his lettuce and other veggies at P100 per kilo throughout the year whether the supply in the market is plentiful or scarce.