Wencelito Gomez (3rd from right) and Arnold Gomez (2nd from left) act as father figures to the members of KALASAG. Their leadership has enabled the cooperative to consistently meet the quality standards and fulfill its commitment to institutional buyers such as Jollibee Group brands.
MANILA, Philippines. June 16, 2023 – Farmers take pride in their crops–the products of their months and even years of hard work. But for the farmers of KALASAG Multipurpose Cooperative, above all, they consider themselves as fathers first, with their children as their pride and joy.
These farmers work hard to ensure there is enough supply of food in the country and be able to provide a better life for their families. But nothing comes easy as they continue to face financial challenges, deal with the extreme effects of climate crisis, and put up with the increasing prices of seeds and farming tools and machineries.
Arnold Dizon, Chairman of the KALASAG Multipurpose Cooperative, never gets tired of farming despite various hardships in the field. Having been exposed to farming at an early age, he always goes back to his roots and does his best to support other farmers.
Dizon established the KALASAG Multipurpose Cooperative in 2008, with the help of Wencelito Gomez, the cooperative’s Manager, other founding members, as well as the local government of San Jose City in Nueva Ecija. KALASAG, which refers to barangays Kaliwanagan and San Agustin in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, first started with only 30 members. It has now grown into a group of 71 farmers, extending its coverage to barangay Villa Marina.
Meanwhile, the crops of Apollo Lazaro, a founding member of the KALASAG Multipurpose Cooperative, were recently attacked by ‘harabas’ or army worms. With his family as his inspiration, Lazaro is determined to overcome challenges like this and continues to work diligently to achieve his dreams.
“Para sa mga katulad kong magsasaka, patuloy lang na labanan ang mga hamon ng buhay na talaga naman pong kasama sa pagsasaka. Maging matatag at gawing inspirasyon ang ating mga pamilya upang maabot ang ating pangarap na umunlad,” (To my fellow farmers, let’s continue to overcome challenges, which are all part of farming. Let’s be strong and make our families our inspiration in achieving our dreams of having a better life) Lazaro said.
Growth and opportunities
Being a part of a cooperative is essential to the success of many farmers, both for food security and a secured future for their families. Dizon and Gomez were persistent to launch KALASAG back then because they think the farmers can benefit from the different programs of the government, and other partners and organizations, through the coop’s help.
KALASAG was the first cooperative to join the Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP) of the Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF). With FEP, farmers are empowered to improve their technical and business skills. The program also links farmers to institutional buyers, such as the different Jollibee Group brands, to help them earn a steady and equitable income.
“Malaki ‘yong pagbabago sa aming kabuhayan po kasi karaniwan po ng problema ng magsasaka ay puhunan. Tapos pangalawa sa puhunan ay pagbebentahan.” (There are significant changes in our livelihood, because capital is the usual problem of farmers. Then second is finding buyers) said Gomez.
Both Dizon and Gomez have acted as father figures to the members of the coop, helping them meet the quality standards and fulfill their commitment to the buyers. Since 2009, KALASAG farmers have been supplying onions to Jollibee Group’s commissary in Canlubang, Laguna. They are also eyeing to plant and deliver other vegetables, such as tomatoes and bell peppers, to the company in the future.
Fathers’ pride and joy
As a result of his persistence and resilience, Lazaro was able to send his two children to school. The eldest, now a licensed teacher, used to help in his father’s farmland. Recognizing his father’s hard work, and the importance of farming in his success, he has also bought his own farm and employed other farmers to tend to it.
According to Lazaro, seeing how his children value education is one of his proudest moments as a father. “Noong pumasa po ‘yong panganay ko sa Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET), nandoon ‘yong kaligayahan ng isang magulang na bilang isang magsasaka ay nakapagpatapos na may degree ang anak. Tapos ‘yong bunso naman po ay hindi rin naman po naaalis sa honor, at isa po siyang university scholar ngayon,” (When my eldest passed LET, there is this happiness of a parent, because as a farmer, I was able to support him in earning a degree. Then my youngest is always on the honors list too, and now a university scholar) he said.
Dizon, on the other hand, wishes to set a good example, hoping that his children will also work hard to achieve their goals and lead better lives.
His son is now working as an Account Manager of KALASAG. With his father’s guidance, and with the help of his trainings from FEP, he is able to fulfill his tasks efficiently and helps the cooperative carry out its vision.
“Nagpapasalamat po ako dahil sinusuportahan po ako ng tatay ko sa gusto kong gawin. Sa tulong po ng kanyang sariling kaalaman at karanasan, nagagampanan ko po ng maayos ang aking trabaho,” (I’m grateful that my father supports me in what I want to do. With the help of his own knowledge and experiences, I’m able to do my job well) Dizon’s son, Aldrin, said.
Like Lazaro, Gomez, and Dizon, many Filipino farmers are determined to support their children, hoping that they can harvest a better, more secure future for their families.