Carlito’s Way: Providing safe and nutritious food for everyone

By : Vic Thor Palarca Mindanao Today/07:49:26pm 08/28/2021


“I am definitely pursuing that dream to own and operate an organic restaurant where people can drop by and order a dish or a salad of their choice.” - Carlito Cortez (Photo courtesy of Vic Thor Palarca)

IT was a fine Thursday morning when we arrived at the farm of Carlito Cortez in San Fernando, Bukidnon.

Right after graduation, Carlito began farming his once unproductive 2.5-hectare farm, which is now a flourishing food hub with various varieties of “bahay kubo” vegetables planted all year round.

The pull of working abroad would have prompted Carlito to pack his bags, and jump right in to the opportunity since two of his siblings are now based and working in Italy and South Korea; but he wanted to be near his parents and his then girlfriend (now wife) Mary Joy.

“It really crossed my mind to go abroad and work there since my background in HRM and the culinary arts is quite in demand, but that would mean that I will be leaving my loved ones behind. If I will just go there for the lucrative job, I would rather make my own fortune here,” declared Carlito, while slicing a freshly harvested watermelon.

Having finished Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management in Liceo de Cagayan University, he decided to pursue his “calling” in farming since he thought that his culinary experience would come in handy once he established his plan to come up with an organic restaurant.

Nowadays, more and more customers prefer an organic restaurant when eating out since the majority of the ingredients used are organically-grown and most came from certified organic producers.

Carlito, 29, conducted repeated trials before he finally got right what goes in and what works well in his parcel of land.

The many trainings he has attended conducted by the Agricultural Training Institute-Regional Training Center 10 like the Season-Long Training of Trainers (TOT) on Integrated Corn Production, have helped him produce and sell corn in his previous planting.

It was the same knowledge and learning experience which Carlito shared to the rebel returnees of San Fernando, who decided to engage in farming and make a living out from it.

This was made possible in coordination and partnership with their Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) headed by Coleen Clam Ambos.

MAO Ambos along with colleagues and staff also facilitated the distribution of planting materials, vegetables seeds, and other farming equipment as farming support.

“I have always wanted to try out non-conventional farming. After years of hit and miss, we have a lot of vegetable crops now here in Cortez Farm like ampalaya, string beans, patola, upo, eggplant, tomato, okra, pechay, bell pepper, squash, lettuce, corn, coconut, banana, and watermelon,” he shared.

Carlito pointed out that there is a growing trend among his peers who are making a mid-career decision to buy an agricultural land and start investing in farming since, if one would really work hard, there is economic success in farming.

“My big four earners include ampalaya, eggplant, stringbeans, and bell pepper. My ampalaya once fetched a hefty P200,000 in a week while delivering the farm goods in Cagayan de Oro City or Valencia City. Sometimes, I peddle it to the neighboring barangays here in San Fernando. I also earn a lot from my eggplant, string beans and bell pepper. To date, my bell pepper is my bestseller since from my harvest of 1000 kilos (200 kilo is a modest harvest), I can earn three thousand a week up to P110,000 a week,” he said further.

As a former 4-H Club President, Carlito has been a model and inspiration among the young people in San Fernando since he is synonymous to farming aside from being a people person.

“I find it fulfilling to connect with other young people out there, either in person or through social media, knowing that I have a degree of influence in their lives. Whenever I get a high yield during a harvest, they would comment on my Facebook post that they would also like to engage in farming once they graduate or come home from abroad,” Carlito shared.

It was his hard work and persistence that enabled Carlito to purchase his bongo vehicle and his GTR motorcycle.

Thanks to his weekly sales as well as patrons dropping by his farm for a pick-and-pay scheme.

Among the farming practices which he implements in his farm is mulching.

With the threat of climate change and the scorching heat of the San Fernando sun, mulching is Carlito's best approach to take good care of his crops.

Mulching is the practice of covering the soil or ground with a biodegradable plastic mulch to promote favorable conditions for plant growth and attain efficient crop production.

Technically, mulching conserves the soil moisture and enhances the nutrients status of soil, controls the erosion losses, suppresses the weeds in crop plants, and removes the residual effects of pesticides, fertilizers, and heavy metals.

It also improves the aesthetic value of landscapes and economic value of crops.

At the moment, Carlito’s current project is his native chicken production.

The production area which was established this year is a work in progress as this is an additional income-generating venture next to his livestock such as cattle and pigs.

“I am definitely pursuing that dream to own and operate an organic restaurant where people can drop by and order a dish or a salad of their choice. Not only does organic food help reduce health risks but food grown organically are more rich in vitamins and nutrients. A fruit is sweeter and the meat of my chicken or pig is tastier. Deperensya ra gyud (there’s a big difference). The way I farm, I can guarantee you, is that I stick to the philosophy of ethical and responsible farm production – since I eat what I sell,” Carlito concluded with a big fat smile.

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