Sunday , April 14 2024

From passion to prosperity
SM Foundation farmer-beneficiary now an agripreneur, draws inspiration from Henry Sy, Sr.

SM Foundation farmer 1
KSK alumna Virgie with some of her mushroom chicharon products

Gone are the days when farming was viewed as a backbreaking profession with limited growth potential. With the advent of modern practices, agriculture is undergoing a transformation, emerging as a field ripe with profitability and positive impact.

This was also the hope of visionary and SM Group founder Henry “Tatang” Sy Sr., when he established SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KSK) on Sustainable Agriculture program in 2007. Since its inception, the program has been empowering low-income farmers by providing training in modern farming techniques. KSK has equipped nearly 30,000 individuals across the Philippines with the tools and knowledge to improve their livelihoods and foster food security in their communities.

SM Foundation farmer 2
Vangie utilizes entrepreneurial ventures to strategically position her product for success.

Today, many KSK graduates have found success as agripreneurs, including Virgie Gonda, a KSK Batch 221 alumna from Tarlac City.

Vangie grew up well aware of the struggles of farming. She vividly recalls: “Bata pa lang ako ay mulat na ako sa buhay ng magsasaka dahil dakilang magsasaka ang aking ama. Dito niya kami binuhay.”

“Nakita ko sa Tatay ko ang hirap ng old farming style. Mangungutang siya ng pangsaka—sa kasamaang palad, ‘yung kita mula sa apat na buwan niyang pagkayod at pagsasaka ay napunta lang halos sa pambayad sa utang.”

SM Foundation farmer 3
Inside Vangie’s mushroom farm.

With years of tilling the same soil, yielding a meager harvest of P10,000 despite tireless sweat, Virgie knew it was time to plant new seeds of hope. She took the opportunity to learn modern farming techniques from KSK with SM Foundation’s partner school St. Isidore ‘the FARMer’ Learning Center, Inc. —a decision that would change her life. Through the 14-week training period, she absorbed everything there is to learn—from farming techniques to the basics of business.

“Sa KSK, itinuturo ang pag gawa ng mga organic fertilizer. Sa tingin ko, isa ito sa nakatulog sa amin dahil nakabawas siya sa gastusin. Mula doon, unti-unting naayos ang lupang sakahan at maganda rin ang ani ng gulay at palay. Natuto rin kami ng techniques kung saan pwede kaming magtanim ng gulay tuwing off-season ang palay,” she shared.

SM Foundation farmer 4
Vangie and her fellow KSK alumni join the SM Foundation Sunday Market Day in SM City Tarlac.

“Dito rin kami natuto na hindi lang pala farm-to-market ang pwedeng avenue ng pagtitinda. Kung dati, puro palabas lang kami ng puhunan at ‘di namin alam kung saan dadalhin ang mga tira naming gulay, ngayon, nagagawa na naming i-process ang mga ito para walang masayang, mapatagal ang shelf life, at makadagdag pa sa kita,” she added.

Above all that she learned, it is the Life Principles of Henry Sy, Sr. that pushed her to go further. “‘Work hard and have a great passion to achieve.’ Lagi kong isinasapuso na kung hindi mo ta-trabahuhing maigi ang nasimulan mo, ‘di ka magtatagumpay. Hindi pwede na magta-trabaho ka ngayon at bahala na bukas–kailangan may plano ka kung papaano makakamtan ang iyong mithiin.”

SM Foundation farmer 5
Virgie joins the bazaar of a Sustainability Summit in Makati City to showcase her products.

From tending to a small patch of mushrooms, Virgie’s business flourished, bearing fruit to the tune of P30,000 each month. The Farmer’s Market Day in SM City Tarlac became the launchpad of her mushroom chicharon. Her entrepreneurial spirit grew just like the mushrooms she cultivated, soon expanding her offerings to include banana and kamote chips, and fruit vinegars sold in events, bazaars, and as company giveaways.

As her business expanded, she shared her knowledge with the community: “Gusto ko rin tumulong sa kapwa naming farmers. Dati, kami lang ang nag-proproduce ng mga mushroom at gulay. Ngayon ‘yun mga tinuruan ko sa pagtatanim ng mushroom ay nagsu-supply na rin sa amin.

With an optimistic outlook, she plans to strengthen her business, creating a ripple effect and uplifting the farmers who once walked her path.

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