Growing up in Albay, Legazpi, Noel Marbella has always been fond of agriculture, thanks to his farmer-grandfather who became his inspiration.
“May sarili kaming taniman sa Bicol, mga niyog at gulay,” shared Noel. “Para mas makatulong sa lolo ko kaya gusto ko din ma-engage sa farming.”
Back when he was still a kid, Noel used to tag along his grandfather whenever he tends their farm. “Tuwang-tuwa ako ‘pag sumasama ako sa kanya. Nagtatanim din ako kaya parang naging passion ko na… hinahanap-hanap na ng katawan ko yung pagtatanim,” Noel narrated.
Over the years, agriculture somewhat took a back seat for Noel. He eventually took up Electrical Engineering at the Bicol University but was unable to finish due to financial problems.
He knew that in one way or another, he’ll go back to his first love – agriculture. With his lolo’s encouragement, he then enrolled in various agricultural training programs such as organic farming, duck raising, among other short agri courses at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
But at that time, Noel felt that there was little opportunity for agriculture in his hometown which made him decide to shift to another direction. He braved the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila looking for greener pasture. He briefly worked as a store clerk for a grocery store, a sales clerk for a baby company, and as a call center agent.
“Pagdating ng six months matatapos na yung contract ko. Maghahanap na naman ako ng panibagong trabaho. Yung panahon at budget ko, gugugulin ko na naman sa paghahanap ng bagong trabaho,” Noel recalled.
Though he lasted four years in the BPO industry, the graveyard shifts and the daily commutes took a toll on his health that he decided to resign. He knew that the only way to go is to pursue his passion – back again to agriculture.
This time, he wanted to venture into integrated farming, an agribusiness wherein he is his own boss.
Credit support through KAYA
Another reason Noel needed to finally begin his agripreneurship journey was because he needed to provide for his own family as he settled down with his wife in her hometown in Bani, Pangasinan. But he needed capital to commence his integrated farming project.
Fortunately, he learned about an innovative credit program by the Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC) called Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs or KAYA while he was researching online.
“Tiningnan ko kung ano yung mga requirements at eligibility ng KAYA. Nakita ko na pasok naman yung project na gusto ko na Integrated Farming kaya nag-apply ako bilang isang start-up business,” recounted Noel.
“Na-engganyo ako mag-apply sa KAYA kasi zero interest at babayaran ko sa loob ng limang taon,” Noel detailed. “Napakagandang opportunity dahil mama-maximize ko yung kapital na pinahiram para magamit sa negosyo. Tapos, yung kita ko pwede kong mapa-ikot ulit sa bagong project. Magagamit ko na siya bilang pambayad sa nahiram ko at meron pa akong sariling kapital para mag-expand,” he added.
Under the KAYA, Noel was able to borrow uncollateralized and interest-free loan amounting to P500,000 which he used to plant rice, vegetables and watermelon.
Armed with expertise and passion for agriculture, Noel’s harvests were bountiful and his produce turned into profit. Soon after, he expanded to not only agriculture but integrated fishery business as well.
“Yung kita ko sa pagtatanim at sa pagtitinda ng mga gulay, ginamit ko para makapag-renta ng palaisdaan na nilagyan ko ng bangus at hipon,” Noel shared. “Sa ngayon halos na-doble na yung kita namin sa palaisdaan at pagtatanim,” added the young agripreneur.
Marketing has not been a problem for the millennial as he has numerous and regular wholesalers who purchase all his harvests. In addition, social media, particularly Facebook, made it easier for him to promote his produce. “Magpo-post lang ako ng mga picture ng mga harvest namin, tapos may mga bumibili na,” Noel said.
To ensure loan repayment, Noel puts premium on the quality of his produce. “Sinisigurado ko na maganda at high-quality yung aming mga produce tulad ng gulay at isda kasi halos doble din ang kinikita ‘pag maganda ang quality ng mga harvests,” narrated Noel.
Agri-fishery business is definitely booming for Noel at present. He used to have a hard time searching for all kinds of jobs to support himself, but in a not-so-surprising turn of events, he now employs six regular workers and a few seasonal laborers to attend to his projects.
“Malaki ang naging tulong ng pagne-negosyo sa pagtatanim at palaisdaan kasi ngayon, nakapagpatayo na ako ng sarili kong bahay, nakabili ng sariling lupang pagtataniman at may mga natutulungan pa akong mga kapwa ko young farmers din,” shared Noel.
Not even the pandemic can stop Noel’s agri-fishery business from flourishing. “Ang gulay at isda talagang kailangan ng mga tao. Kaya kahit pandemic, patuloy parin kaming nakakabenta, patuloy parin kaming nagtatanim para tuloy-tuloy yung proseso sa farm namin,” he said.
Noel recalled that when he was a kid back in Bicol, he observed that almost all the farmers were older people. Today, as one of the country’s successful young agripreneurs, he advocates for young people to also venture into agriculture and fishery business. “Kayang-kaya ng mga kabataan na maging produktibo sa pamamagitan ng agrikultura dahil nandun yung lakas, new ideas at talent,” said Noel. “Nakaka-proud maging agripreneur kasi binago nito ang buhay ko.”