Farming family reaps success from mechanized, innovative farming

November 15, 2019

Left photo: Now heavily involved in the family business, Arjay Vasquez encouraged his father to invest in mechanization. Right Photo: Husband and wife Romeo and Josefa Consuelo Vasquez showcase their innovative farming technique of growing seeds on trays before they are transplanted to the prepared field.

Born to a landless tenant farmer in San Mateo, Isabela, Romeo Vasquez was determined to improve his life. He worked odd jobs to support himself through college, eventually earning an Agricultural Engineering Degree from the Central Luzon State University. After graduation, he worked double jobs in Manila as sales representative for a fertilizer company and as a jeepney driver at night.

Then with a growing family of his own, he saved all his extra earnings and commissions to buy farm lots. But in 1986, he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his left leg, which had to be amputated. Although his doctor gave him a small chance of complete recovery from the cancer, Romeo refused to give in and instead worked harder for his family.

While he remained employed in the fertilizer company, he started cultivating his one-hectare palay farm in his native San Mateo. However, the year 1991 dealt him with both a blessing and a setback – his doctor pronounced him cancer-free, but the fertilizer company he was working for closed down. This prompted him to go back to his farm and, with an additional two hectares mortgaged by local farmers, he created R.S. Vasquez Enterprises as a full-time palay trading, rice milling, and seed production business.

Seeking to make quality rice accessible to ordinary consumers, they created their own Mestizo Rice variety, which became sought-after not only in Isabela, but also in neighboring provinces and in Metro Manila. The business gradually expanded, especially after the Land Bank of the Philippines provided credit lines in 2004, which the couple partly used to supply neighboring farmers with their own seed variety for free. In return, the farmers would sell them their harvest.


Technology-enabled farming

His son, Arjay Rusell, who has been involved in the farm since 2012, encouraged Romeo to invest on mechanization and made sure that the company adopted the latest in rice production technologies. Romeo regularly attended agriculture-related training courses and linked up with the Department of Agriculture (DA) for technical assistance and continuing skills training, which exposed him to various agricultural innovations.

R. S. Vasquez Enterprises also began the production of seeds grown in plastic trays containing combined pulverized soil and organic matter. The seedlings are regularly watered before being transplanted to the prepared field using mechanical transplanters. Because of these innovations, the DA named Engr. Vasquez as National Consultant in hybrid rice promotion to teach farmers proper farm waste management, inter-cropping, and other good practices in agribusiness. He has also won various awards through the years, including the Agricultural Entrepreneur Gold Award in The Outstanding Farmers of the Philippines in 2013 and the 3rd place under the Outstanding SME Agri-based Category of the LANDBANK Gawad SME 2018.

The business has since then become a family affair, with their sons on top of introducing the latest farming technologies. They now farm several hectares of land and also advocate farm mechanization by helping set up mechanized farm learning centers that teach proper land preparation, farm site development, and irrigation.

The Enterprise has also generated more than 80 jobs for the community through its palay trading, seeds production, goat raising, and vegetable production businesses. They recently opened a new agricultural supply business, where they also offer free consultancy on palay production activities and agricultural inputs.


Affordable Financing

LANDBANK remains aggressive in providing credit support to farmers like Romeo Vasquez, in pursuit of its drive to help more farmers and fishers boost their production and increase their income.

“As we make direct financing available to more small farmers and fishers nationwide, we also strongly encourage them to invest on mechanization and adopt other agricultural technologies, as this will significantly decrease production cost and improve their harvest,” said LANDBANK President and CEO Cecilia C. Borromeo.

LANDBANK helps small farmers to engage in mechanization through its various credit programs. These include the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF), which helps small farmers and fishers (SFF), their cooperatives and associations, as well as Micro and Small Enterprises, in their crop production requirements and purchase of agri-machineries, equipment, and facilities.

Another program that LANDBANK implements is the DA-funded Expanded Rice Credit Assistance under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ERCA-RCEF), which farmers can tap for their rice production or acquisition of rice farm equipment or machinery.  This is available to rice farmers registered in the Registry System on Basic Sectors in Agriculture or RSBSA, and to DA-accredited cooperatives.

The ACEF Lending Program and ERCA-RCEF now have interest rates fixed at only 2% per annum to make them more affordable for small farmers.

The Bank also standardized at 5% per annum the interest rates for most of its direct lending programs for SFFs. These include the Accessible Funds for Delivery to Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (AFFORD-ARBs) Program, which provides loans to finance production of rice, corn, and high-value crops, as well as the acquisition of small farm implements.

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