Ferdy Ocyaden, a thirty-year old agripreneur from Victoria, Tarlac began his journey in agriculture at a very young age. Born in Mountain Province in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the majority of his life was spent on farms, riding a carabao, preparing rice seedlings and planting various crops in their indigenous farmlands.
“Hindi ko makakalimutan ang sinabi ng lolo ko sa akin noon: ‘Huwag na huwag mong isasantabi ang pag-fa-farm kasi balang araw, babalikan mo rin ito. Kahit ano pa ang tinapos mo sa pag-aaral, hindi mawawala ang halaga ng agrikultura,’” shared Ferdy.
In 2018, Ferdy and his partner, Millette, a nutritionist-dietician, decided to start an agribusiness when they learned of the oversupply of red chili in their area, resulting to a market price of P20 per kilo. “Noong panahong mababa ang presyo ng sili, alam namin na hirap ang mga magsasaka na makabawi sa kita dahil wala halos maibenta. Kaya naman naisipan namin gumawa ng chili garlic oil at makatulong sa kanila,” shared Millette.
“Kaysa masayang ang oversupply na sili, nakahanap kami ng paraan para kumita,” explained Ferdy.
Ferdy was in charge of the farm, while Millette handled the processing of the products, as she was able to attend seminars and training in product packaging offered by various institutions. Ferdy and Millette were soon able to introduce their chili garlic oil product to their barrio with the brand name Swit Hannah, named after their late daughter who passed away during the pandemic.
As they successfully launched their product, they were able to sell an initial 100 bottles of chili garlic oil, which was recently registered in the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in 2019.
As an active farmer, Ferdy attended several training programs of the Department of Agriculture Central Luzon (DA Central Luzon), where he heard about the Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs (KAYA) Loan Program offered by DA Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC). With the help of the DA Central Luzon and DA-ACPC’s partner lending conduit, the New Rural Bank of San Leonardo (NRBSL), Ferdy was able to avail himself of a zero-interest loan of P230,000 under the program to finance his agribusiness’ working capital.
The KAYA Loan Program offers zero-interest loans of up to Php 500,000 payable up to five (5) years. Borrowers must be 18 to 30 years old, and are graduates of either formal or non-formal schooling (including but not limited to graduates of agriculture and fishery related degrees from higher education institutions, DA and ATI-accredited programs, TESDA programs, farm schools, and secondary schools with agriculture and fishery-related courses).
With the loan, Ferdy was able to purchase equipment for processing various chili products such as chili flakes and chili powder. He was also able to expand their agribusiness by acquiring calamansi to make ready-to-drink juice.
“Abot-kaya sa KAYA! Walang interes, walang kolateral at mabilis ang proseso kaya kinuha ko na yung oportunidad na makapag-avail,” he shared. To comply with the loan requirements, he attended seminars on food manufacturing by DTI, and was assisted by the DA-ACPC, DA Central Luzon and NRBSL to finalize his business plan.
“Malaki ang aking pasasalamat dahil kahit na pandemya, tuloy-tuloy ang tulong ng gobyerno sa katulad kong farmer,” said Ferdy. Amid the pandemic, they were able to sell their products in Tarlac and in neighboring provinces with the help of social media marketing.
Ferdy encourages other youth farmers to invest more in agriculture with the help of the DA as the country needs them especially in the midst of pandemic. “Matindi ang epekto ng pandemya sa amin bukod sa nawala ang aming nag-iisang anak. Pero kahit na anong aspeto natin sa buhay, abutin lang ang nais ninyong marating lalo na may gobyernong tumutulong sa inyo.”
Ferdy envisions himself as youth mentor teaching the young generation to engage themselves in agri-fishery activities. He also plans to expand his agribusiness in Tarlac by building expansion outlets in neighboring provinces through the help of DA-ACPC credit programs. He also wants to help his fellow farmers and community by providing jobs and at the same time, promoting healthy products.
“Malaki talaga ang impact sa akin ng KAYA. Nais kong ibahagi ang tulong na binigay sa akin sa kapwa ko magsasaka na siyang pinagkukunan ng aming supply para sa mga produkto sa pamamagitan ng pag-expand ng aming negosyo,” he said. “Sa bawat desisyon na magtayo ng negosyo, unang problema talaga ang kapital. Pero huwag mag-alala, maraming ahensya ng gobyerno ang maaaring tumulong sa atin. Para sa katulad kong young agripreneur, huwag kayong susukong abutin ang inyong pinakamatayog na pangarap.”
As a young farmer with a “sweet & spicy” and thriving agribusiness, he hopes more young farmers become agripreneurs so they can improve their livelihood and income, and become key players in attaining food-secure Philippines with prosperous farmers and fisherfolk.