Learning Farm in Bukidnon, Philippines
Established in 2020, East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer’s learning farm in Bukidnon Province, Philippines, welcomes agriculture students, farmers, and home gardeners to learn from its demonstration fields and practical trainings.
The farm is located in Manolo Fortich, near East-West Seed’s Research & Development (R&D) Station, and various R&D colleagues, such as the Plant Pathologist, are invited to speak as subject matter experts during scheduled training sessions.
Visitors to the farm are often interested in learning how to make their own organic biofertilizers and biopesticides using locally available materials. This lowers the cost of buying synthetic inputs and produces a safer-to-eat harvest.
How to make carbonized rice hull to use as a medium for growing seedlings, information on proper plant distancing and field layout, and trellising techniques are just a few of the other technologies showcased in the learning farm that visitors find useful.
The vermicomposting demonstration in the learning farm also holds the interest of visitors, as it’s usually their first time to see such technology. Vermicompost is the product of earthworm digestion and aerobic decomposition, and it acts as a biofertilizer, restoring soil nutrients, stabilizing soil, and enhancing soil fertility.
A Training Ground for Interns and Students
The learning farm serves as a training ground both for farmers and for agriculture students and interns from universities like Central Mindanao University (CMU) and the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP).
In 2020, five interns were trained at the learning farm. The interns were selected by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) under its JobStart program for at-risk youth. DOLE identified the East-West Seed R&D Bukidnon Station as a potential employer. Colleagues from the station then linked DOLE with the EWS-KT Philippines team to train the interns for 5 months, imparting both theoretical and practical knowledge. During that year, EWS-KT Philippines had an existing project in Bukidnon and also started building the learning site.
Two of the trained interns are now employed by East-West Seed R&D, and one established her own farm.
LSA & GAP
The learning farm is registered as a Learning Site for Agriculture (LSA) by the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI). The farm was accredited as an LSA in 2022, with a 5-year development plan. The Agricultural Training Institute in the region sends farmers to the learning farm for specific training topics or sessions.
In addition to showcasing vegetable cultivation technology, the learning farm follows Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and plans to apply for accreditation from the PhilGAP Certification Program later this year. PhilGap requirements include facilities such as a training area, toilet, wash area, compost pit, and waste collection area for chemical containers.
EWS-KT Philippines’ current project with Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), called Developing Vegetable Value Chains to Meet Evolving Market Expectations in the Philippines, includes training interested farmers to secure the PhilGAP certification. Becoming PhilGAP certified opens up new markets for smallholder farmers, as consumers and buyers feel confident in the quality, safety, and nutritional value of the farm’s produce.
The learning site has a designated training room, which was designed based on LSA requirements and accommodates 20–30 people. Printed visuals in the form of crop and technical guides are posted on the training room’s walls.
To assist trainers, learning stations for hands-on training in building raised beds, mulching, seed sowing, trellising, and more are provided in different areas of the farm.
Learning Farm Expansion
As part of its 5-year LSA accreditation, the learning farm continues to develop each year. In the first year (2020), the EWS-KT team focused on building the GAP facilities and laying out the 4,000-square-meter area. In 2021, the team started action research projects to advance practical vegetable farming knowledge. In 2022, the home garden demo was established, providing a model for urban and small-space farming.
This year, the EWS-KT team plans to add structures for protected cultivation to implement associated action research and explore production innovations. Bukidnon’s climate is characterized as wet and very wet, and protective structures are an important technology to ensure better vegetable production. The team also plans to incorporate hydroponics and biological control agents (for example, earwigs and Trichogramma parasitic wasps) in 2023, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture’s Regional Crop Protection Center.
In just 3 years, the learning farm in Bukidnon has established itself as a respected training center for farmers, students, and other stakeholders. With strong plans for growth this year, the farm’s ability to support the technical needs of those in the region will only increase.