For this onion farmer, perseverance is key to success

At 57, onion farmer Johnny Flojimon has no plans of slowing down just yet.

The only child of farmers, Manong Johnny learned how to farm at an early age, helping his parents tend to the farm. When he started to have a family of his own in 1992, he and his wife Susan took to farming, planting rice and tobacco. But growing these crops proved to be challenging. Four years later they switched to onion and it’s what they’ve been growing to this day on their 5-hectare farm in Barangay Murtha, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

However, it was not all roses for Manong Johnny and Susan. This year alone, Manong Johnny said the farm-gate prices of onions plummeted yet again. He said there was even a time when farm-gate prices fell to as low as 5 to 8 pesos per kilo from the usual 20 to 36 pesos.

Manong Johnny’s farm is now feeling the effects of climate change. There were times when yield was low due to erratic weather. Last year was the first time his farm experienced an infestation of harabas (armyworms), and he had no choice but to harvest his onions ahead of time, lest the harabas eat up all his crops.

Fortunately, despite these, Manong Johnny kept going and still managed to rake in some profit. “Kahit paano, may kita rin (There’s still profit somehow),” he said. Perhaps the quality of his crops was also a factor. Manong Johnny grows three East-West Seed onion varieties: Red Pinoy, Super Pinoy, and encrusted Super Pinoy. Red Pinoy, he said, can store longer and the size is just right. The encrusted Super Pinoy is easy to plant, he said, as its seeds are large.

Manong Johnny juggles his time between managing the farm and fulfilling his duties as head of maintenance at Mindoro State College. Through the years, onion farming has helped his family immensely, enabling them to send their two children to school and more.

“Malaking tulong talaga. Marami kaming naipundar. Nagkaroon kami ng bahay na up-and-down. Nagkaroon kami ng kotse. Nakabili ako ng tractor na ginagamit sa paggayak ng bukid (It is really of great help. We were able to have an up-and-down house built. We were able to buy a car. I was able to buy a tractor for the farm),” he said.

Just last year, Manong Johnny’s farm was selected by East-West Seed to become one of its Onion Learning Centers, and he is grateful for the opportunity and for the facilities provided like the drip irrigation system which he said makes growing onions more conveniently. Farmers from nearby barangays come to the Onion Learning Center to learn about different technologies in onion farming like Integrated Pest Management and use of drip and rain spray irrigation. Through the Onion Learning Center in his farm, he is able to help other farmers. 

If there’s one thing Manong Johnny learned from all his years of farming, it’s this:

“May kasabihan na ‘Ang umaayaw ay ‘di nagwawagi. Kailangan tuloy-tuloy ang pagtatanim (There’s a saying, ‘He who quits never wins.’ Farming should be continuous),” he said.

And that’s exactly what he’s doing.