Size doesn’t matter: Batangas family farm still finds success in small-scale operations
This was not the case for MOCA Family Farm RLearning Center in Barangay Castillo, Padre Garcia, Batangas. Measuring only about a hectare in size, the farm still manages to hold farm tourism events, learning activities, extension services, and grow vegetables as well as rare, imported fruits. Managed and operated by the Morris family, a FilipinoAmerican household, MOCA Family Farm welcomes guests and eager trainees into their farm where they can immerse themselves and learn about farming in the accredited extension service provider (ESP) of the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI). Gigi Morris, known as “Ka Gigi” in their local community, serves as the farm school director. CELEBRATING FAMILY FARMING Established in 2005, MOCA was originally bought by Morris and her sister, Mimi Castor. The name MOCA is a combination of their names, Morris and Castor. “We have been referring to our family farm as ‘MOCA Farm’ whenever we go here on the weekends,” Morris said. Ultimately, it was her who ended up diving fully into the endeavor. As soon as Morris and her family started their farm enterprise, they wanted to keep the family farming as a core value which then led to the farm being named the “Morris Center for Agribusiness (MOCA).” But because they also transitioned into a technicalvocational institute that offers training, it was once again renamed the MOCA Family Farm RLearning Center. “It is really registered as ‘RLearning.’ My husband and two kids all have the initials RL which stand for Robert Llewellyn, Robert Lloyd, and Robert Llyndon. They provided me with so many learnings in my life so I registered the farm’s name as such,” Morris said. She added that it was her husband who inspired her to buy the piece of land and eventually become involved with farming as he was a Professor Emeritus in Agriculture in the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. The family began by holding small farm tourism activities in the vicinity with Robby Rabbitry as their initial farm enterprise in 2012. But two years later, Typhoon Glenda destroyed the family’s rabbitry. A year after the calamity, Morris said that they refocused and started to incorporate their farm as a non-stock, non-profit enterprise which has become the MOCA Family Farm RLearning Center that is known today. “The farm was something for [my husband] to get busy with when he retires. Little did I know that I will be the one who will be involved and invested in its farm activities! When we moved to Batangas [from Nevada], the farm became home for us, as well as a ‘campus’ for my homeschooled kids,” Morris said. ‘COUTURE FARMING’ Before she went into farming, Morris used to work for the fashion and apparel industry. She had no prior experience growing plants except for some childhood memories of her visits to Bicol and Laguna with relatives who are into farming. “Luckily, my husband does a lot of farmers to farmers programs. I have seen his work and I'd like to say I am a quick learner! He has been my inspiration and mentor not just on the technical aspect of farming but working with farmers in a personal way,” Morris said. MOCA Family Farm was originally a mango orchard before Morris incorporated fruit-bearing trees, including Philippine native trees, and small scale vegetables for their own consumption and for sale in the market. “We do so many varieties in small production and yield is really not our focus,” the farm school director said. Among the variants that they grow in the farm is the cempedak ( Antocarpus integer) which Morris considers as their most profitable fruit-bearing tree. ADAPTING TO THE TIMES Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted farmers as it hindered farm tourism activities and limited travel so most products had trouble reaching consumers. To adapt to this sudden shift, Morris and her family opted to grow root crops which she says are “true survival food” since these can be stored in a refrigerator or post-harvest facilities. “My husband and I did a lot of research during the pandemic about "lost food.” We realized how much root crops are there out there and that we can rely on them in extreme cases of survivability. Not knowing what's in store in the future, I have decided to focus our small production on root crops and tubers,” Ka Gigi said.