A personal triumph: Caloocan entrepreneur farms lettuce in the city
Caloocan entrepreneur farms lettuce in the city
Photos courtesy of Cristina Ramirez-Padua
Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp
IN recent years, many folks who are stuck at home have had extra time to accommodate new hobbies and ventures that encourage personal growth, generate extra income, or ease pandemic tension and burnout. Farming, among other things, has been a boon to people during these trying times. Cristina Ramirez-Padua, 35, a licensed agricultural engineer and an avid Agriculture magazine reader, is one urbanite who started growing food at home in an attempt to boost their household’s food security and wellbeing. Padua, a native of Santiago Island, Bolinao, Pangasinan, currently resides in San Jose, Caloocan City. “I started growing lettuce to maximize our limited space here in the city last January 2021 and to have a productive hobby during this pandemic,” Padua said, adding that she primarily grows lettuce due to its high value and market demand. GROWING LETTUCE Lettuce requires five to six hours of sunlight daily, which makes it important to understand and consider the sun’s direction or position when producing this leafy crop. Determining the amount of sunlight in the garden allows Padua to have a successful and bountiful harvest. After a year of gardening, she is now in the process of expanding her lettuce garden in her hometown of Pangasinan where she can further market the produce to resorts and restaurants. She uses the Kratky hydroponics method because “the planting materials are very easy to prepare; it only needs a small capital and [it is also] very easy to manage, especially in combating pests and insects.” This hydroponic setup does not need electricity or air pumps for plants to thrive. It is heavily reliant on nutrient solutions, which feed plants and allow them to develop rapidly. Padua’s hydroponic system is made of recycled materials. With just a couple of materials such as Styrofoam boxes, cups to hold plants, growing medium, and nutrient solution, anyone can grow leafy greens even in tiny settings, too. This hydroponic grower initially used expensive commercial nutrient solutions, but later switched to DIY hydroponic liquid fertilizer after realizing that it can generate the same yield. “Fortunately, it also has good results, that’s why I’m steadily using it now,” Padua said, referring to DIY nutrient solutions. Aside from lettuce, she also tends to varieties of pechay, tomatoes, red okra, and bell pepper. The lettuce garden provides her family with food and extra funds since she also sells lettuce to neighbors, friends, and relatives for P25 per cup or head. Her spouse supports her in this venture and assists her from planting to selling the produce. A PROUD PRODUCT OF FARMERS Padua was raised in a household whose main livelihood was farming. Padua shared that she has been an Agriculture Monthly magazine reader since college and remembers reading it with her mother. She decided to pursue a career in agriculture after being inspired by her late father who was a fisherman and farmer, as well as by the stories of successful farmers she reads in the magazine. “We previously had two hectares of mango plantation in Bolinao, but unfortunately, it was damaged by Typhoon Emong in 2009 and only a few trees remained,” she shared. Nowadays, she concentrates on caring for her daughter while also running their business as tricycle operators and maintaining a home garden. Farming in the city, for Padua, is her source of joy and fulfillment, especially when she sees her plants growing healthily. “Farming needs not only the mind.” She explained, “The heart has to be involved as well.” At first, Padua viewed gardening as a hobby that produces food for personal use, but now, she is expanding her lettuce garden business in another location to boost her venture’s potential.