Child-care principle applied in farming succeeds

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Davao City — When the nursing profession was in demand, he was already a graduating student, wearing a scrub suit and has taken all the necessary preparation for his long-dreamt profession that of becoming nurse.

But unlike others, his motivation of becoming a nurse was not easily swayed by global demands for Filipino nurses abroad, not even the lure for greener pasture when opportunities were just at hand.  However, he did not also realize that wearing his scrub suits and nursing shoes were later replaced by a farmer’s jacket and boots.

The professional transformation of the registered nurse, Genovivo Cajes, was the biggest surprise in his lifetime, hence, he calls it “God’s plan that works like a magic”.

He was happy serving patients at Brokenshire hospital when he was invited to attend a conference where he met his would-be company.

Being a registered nurse could have been his passport to a greener pasture abroad, but after he took his oath he found a job in a pharmaceutical company as he entered as a medical representative and retired as the Mindanao Manager.

Seeing the opportunity to move around places in the country and see the real condition of people needing medical intervention outside the hospital, he decided to try another journey.

Given the experience and prowess in sales mission where he always topped, Cajes decided to put up his own pharmaceutical distributorship company “To manage my own business with my brand of leadership and help some of my staff who had plans to retire from the other company. It was really good, the operation was smooth, the growth was rapid but the pressure is different— devoting more time and next to my coffee table was the business plan and the delivery schedule— that was my day and night”.

The business was brisk until disruptions came as his family’s vast tract of lands in Macatabo, Baguio District in Davao City. The pressure and demand for him to attend to a brewing land distribution challenge in the community, while no one in the family had the skills and courage to face it “I am the eldest and the burden was on me, and, the prevailing situation then has caused me sleepless nights and often escaped from work to attend to the property concerns”.

It came to a point that selling the property was the next option and he decided to stay in the farm where his father, the late Macaro Cajes of Talibon Bohol (MACATABO) toiled after he migrated in Mindanao.

“Staying in the place for days, reminded me that my father even named our place MACATABO, a place named after him and his roots, the farm  he toiled which fed us and ushered us to get a college diploma, that was the turning point,” he narrated.

The first harvest “It was amazing” says Bong Cajes

From Pharma to Farming

After days of  discernment and prayers, Cajes talked to his wife Melinda, a public school teacher, his sons Magic, a banker, and Dave, a medical practitioner, “I opened up about my plan to close the company in favour of the farm which I will develop myself— I was apprehensive they might not agree- because we live a life we desire and the new journey maybe off to them, but they unanimously approved my plan and the family decided to support the next step of the journey—toil the land in Macatabo”.

“From Pharmaceutical business to agribusiness was a tough move,” but God and my family is always with me,” he added.

“I thought being a farmer is a small time endeavor, as often society belittles the farmers, “But I can now say— farming is a very noble profession and we take pride as among those feeding the community and the Davao people,  and  even the nation as a whole.”

At first he developed producing Vermis and was able to produce more than he expected to fertilize a portion of his six-hectare share, then he offered it to organize fertilizer buyers and it started there.

Cultivating a land used as banana plantation for two decades was a challenge, he then decided to spread the vermi fertilizer and started to experiment  “I remembered that if you feed a baby with the right food and balance nutrition, the baby grows healthy and strong”. 

“I used the baby theory in my farm and my family was always there lending a hand, I was ready to fail because my farming knowledge is limited,” he narrated.

“The first harvest of banana yielded 3.7 tons  at 42 per kilo.  I got a direct Manila-buyer, I jumped for joy, that was Awesome!  I am blessed, God is good” he said and the rest is history.

Then the agriculture community noticed my technology, the Department of Agriculture, the City Agriculture Office and the farmers’ organization came in and trainings were offered.

In Pharma, he said that credit transaction is always the name of the game, while in agri-business,  “we talk about cash — cash-to-cash basis is the call for each transaction”. “Debit transaction is like a game. Pharma business is stressful, you wake up early and sleep late to think of your sales. In farming, I sleep early manage my own time and you  have more time to spend with your family.”

Pharmaceutical business is toxic while agri-business is therapeutic, he added.

“I should say,  in my 15 years being a corporate man, I haven’t  travelled abroad but farming brought me to places as I was sent to the United States, New Zealand, and countries in Asia for technology transfer,” he proudly narrated.

Successful Farmer Bong Cajes with Liem Lam of Vietnam. CEO of Lam banana corporation of his exposure trip which was facilitated by the Department of Agriculture.

Having a new life in the farm, according to Cajes  “Provided me the opportunity to explore more than technology —but the love to feed people, the Department of Agriculture, the National Dairy Industry  provided me all the support from seedlings to technology, logistics and animals included,  to strengthen my production and capacitate me as a farmer”.

When coronavirus-19 hit the country, his banana produce was in demand, his vegetables were freshly delivered at the doorstep and his clients were happy receiving his products.

“The pandemic showed the best in us— the best life to farmers, because we feel that we are feeding our fellowmen our vegetables, every product we have was precious, we take pride in delivering out products door to door because of the pandemic, when markets and malls were closed- we deliver our food at the doorstep, seeing people smile as they receive our produce -is more than a blessing. It is our source of strength,” he added.

Macatabo now is a growing brand of quality Agri-products from dairy milk to lemon grass.

When asked Cajes, what life do you prefer now, a corporate- or a farm-life, he answered without blinking an eye, “I love wearing black farmers boots more than the white shoes”.

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