The first-ever Strawberry farm in Arakan, Cotabato is Gych Strawberry Farm well known as Strawberryland, owned by Ms. Gelby Ramirez, once a farmer and presently a teacher and an entrepreneur. It is located at Brgy. Datu Ladayon, one of the far-flung barangays of the said municipality. Their products are fresh berries, strawberry jams, and seedlings.
It was established in the year 2015, with her and her husband’s farming inclinations and inspired with their eagerness to support and provide subsistence to their neighborhoods, knowing that most of the people living in their locality are indigenous people and have neither other sources of income other than farming. They sprang with only 20 strawberry seedlings planted in poly bags.
The year 2015 is deemed to be a bounteous yield year of their strawberry farm. Their markets are the teachers of the nearby school of their farm and other residents of Arakan. The initial year of their operation had afforded enough to their daily needs and that aspires them to hire neighborhoods. However, suddenly, their strawberry farm was starting to perish. And in the year 2016, solely one plant of strawberry linger was on their farm. Later on, they realized that due to their continuous use of synthetic fertilizers, their farm will not be able to sustain itself.
She and her husband were both teachers, and with or without their farm, they can still survive. However, they look back on their primary motive for why they started the business. And it is the urge to help their neighborhoods. "Unsaon nalang kung muundang ta, dili nato matabangan atong mga silingan ug atong mga kaparyentihan," Ms. Gelby sighed to her husband. With high hopes, Ms. Gelby took care of that one plant of strawberry that survived on their farm. Instead of applying synthetic fertilizers, she converted them into an organic means of farming.
Eventually, in the year 2017, their farm was revived. When they have perceived that their business can already afford income and salary, they began to employ IP neighborhoods for their plantation and their strawberry jam production area. In the year 2018, with the opportunity of having a Negosyo Center in their municipality, they acquired a business name and business permit. They also received basic services from Negosyo Center to improve their business.
In the year 2019, one of the priority barangays targeted for the Negosyo Serbisyo sa Barangay Program of the DTI in Arakan is the Brgy. Datu Ladayon, an ELCAC barangay. In fact, it is the first barangay in Arakan launched with the NSB program. Fortunately, Gych Strawberry Farm was among the MSMEs that availed from the program. They were one among the participants during the conduct of the NSB roll-out and Entrepreneurship Seminar. More than that, they also benefited from the community project provided by the DTI to the same barangay. This had supported much in their business.
Then here comes the year 2020, a year of pandemic. Their business is not so much affected by the pandemic. However, they had a hard time purchasing packaging materials for their jams. During the lockdown, Gych Strawberry Farm still persevered.
Furthermore, the same year is a year of great opportunity for their business. Recently, they have been granted the chance to enroll and graduate on the Kapatid Mentor Me (KMME) Program of DTI. The DTI also assisted them in their desire to enhance the packaging and labeling designs of their products and on the IPO application of their logo.
Currently, Ms. Gelby is planning for an FDA application to their strawberry jams and venturing a new product line - strawberry wine. She is also inspired to availing of other services that the DTI may offer to continuously enrich her business.
"Dako gyud akong pagpasalamat sa DTI kay bisan sa kalayo sa among munisipyo ug barangay, naka avail gyud mi sa mga programa ug proyekto sa DTI ug sa kanunay nga pagsuporta sa among business. Salamat kay na recognize gyud mi sa mga nindot na programa sa DTI, labi na ang KMME. Daghan mi natun-an na strategies para ma-manage among business. Among pangandoy na matabangan ug mahatagan gyud ug panginabuhian among mga IP nga silingan kay dili lalim apan pinaagi sa tabang sa gobyerno, magapapadayon gyud kami", Ms. Gelby gladly uttered. Managing this kind of business is never a piece of cake for the Ramirez family, but they need to endure to continuously help their IP neighborhoods.
Gych Strawberry Farm is an exemplar of those businesses who desire not merely for income prospects but to be a channel of blessings to others, most especially to the jobless individuals. The business is also an effigy of determination that even in the toughest circumstance, giving up is never a choice.
By: Geneva C. Alpas / Negosyo Center - Arakan