A farmer’s son turned OFW rekindles his love for the farm
Johnny Gatuz is a proud farmer’s son.
Life was tough, he said, because during that time, his father only knew of traditional farming ways, hence, their yields were not sufficient or of inferior quality. The prospects of making it big through farming was bleak, in his perception.
He finished one year of technical skills in college, went into construction jobs and eventually flew to Saudi Arabia where he worked as steel fixer.
While there, Johnny realized that the “heart of a farmer” never left him and since he was also receiving meager income, he decided to fly back home after five years.
At about the same time that he returned, he was offered to rent out and plant on a one-hectare farm land.
“Nanghiram pa ako ng P50,000 para ma-rentahan ang lupa at sinimulan kong magtanim ng kalabasa, okra at sitaw (I had to borrow P50,000 to rent a piece of land so I could start growing pumpkin, okra and yardlong bean,)” he recalled.
Since he was not yet an expert in farming at that time, Johnny said: “minsan kumikita ng kaunti, minsan break even lang. (Sometimes I'd earn a little, sometimes just break even)”
His breakthrough came when he experimented with the products of East-West Seed.
“Sinubukan ko lang ang mga binhi mula sa East-West Seed at nagsimula ako sa kamatis at papaya, dun ko natuklasan na mas mabunga ang kanilang binhi at malaki ang pagkakaiba sa mga ani, (I tried using seeds from East-West Seed, starting with tomato and papaya. That's when I realized a huge difference in yield and quality),” Johnny said.
Today, Johnny owns 3 ½ hectares of land planted with a variety of healthy crops. Through the success of his farms, he was able to buy a water pump, power spray, grass cutter, hand tractor and a new motorcycle that he uses to transport his harvested crops to market sites. He has also set aside savings for his family and for his farms.
Aside from having a more comfortable life now, Johnny said that more importantly, he is also able to give back to the community.
During harvest season, he hires some of his neighbors to help him, especially those who do not have jobs. He also hires the housewives to harvest small produce such as chili peppers.
Johnny pays it forward to his community by sharing his farming techniques and best practices so that they would also become better farmers.
“Habang lumalaki ang aking sakahan, mas marami pa ang aking matutulungan, (The more my farm grows, the more people I can help)” Johnny said.
As he looks over the vast expanse of his farm, Johnny said that he hopes Filipinos would realize that there is hope in farming and that there’s a chance to get out of poverty by planting vegetables.
Watch Johnny's inspiring story here:
Johnny is one of East-West Seed's 35 Farmer Heroes. As part of its 35th anniversary in 2017, East West Seed launched a nationwide Search for 35 Farmer Heroes who have achieved success and made a significant contribution to their communities and could serve as role models of other farmers on how vegetable farming can be used to enrich lives. East-West Seed hopes to document the success stories and best practices of the hero farmers to inspire others and to showcase the available improved technologies for vegetable production, increased productivity, improved food security, sanitation and safety thereby contributing to the country’s economic development and growth of farmers income.