Family farming requires a different mindset than traditional farming

Photo credit: Food Tank

Robert and Gigi Morris draw upon their experience working in small-scale agriculture and agro-tourism to teach others the benefits of sustainable agribusiness.
Robert Morris and Gigi Pontejos-Morris

Blueprint for Family Farming in the Philippines

Running a profitable, small-scale farm operation is complicated. It is more complicated than running a traditional, large-scale farming operation. Don’t get it wrong. Farming is complicated and risky no matter how you look at it, but making a small piece of land profitable is, shall we say, quirky and quite often hit and miss. It requires a different mindset than traditional farming.

A decade ago we purchased a productive, rain fed, mango orchard intercropped with coconut, citrus, giant bamboo, and forage for animals. All 10,000 square meters were under some form of cultivation with no permanent housing on the property. The mangoes were suitable as immature green mango, all the same variety and harvested in one operation.

Operating this “traditional” farm for one year, we estimated previous total revenue around US$500 per year. This represented total income of about US$.05 per square meter per year, not unusual for traditional absentee farming in the area.

We converted this mango orchard into MoCa Family Farm over the next few years and the Farm became certified for agri-tourism by the Philippine Department of Tourism in 2013. Having a basic plan in mind prior to 2013, we invested in permanent structures and hardscape; house, farm structures, guest quarters, a separate test kitchen and classroom, driveway and pathways that initially costs us US$30,000. That amount is growing as we continue with our small family farm development.

Altogether these improvements and our housing occupied about 3,500 square meters reducing the size of our farm to 6,500 square meters. This space excludes land that can also create revenue such as guest quarters, test kitchen and farm structures totaling about 1,000 square meters.

To make it an economically sustainable farm, we knew from previous recordkeeping that we needed to generate 100 fold increase per month in revenue to cover basic farm expenses and earn decent profit. Sometimes it is difficult to separate personal expenses from farm expenses when the farm output and expenses tend to blend into the farm lifestyle. However, we felt this was the minimum required to make MoCa family farm economically sustainable including a reasonable family income.

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.