Mauricio and Fely Sandico, natives and residents of Baguio City, has a 4.4 farmland in Rosario, La Union, where they grow varieties of organic rice as well as lowland vegetables okra, eggplant, ampalaya, tomatoes, sitao, and others.
They learned organic farming when Mauricio trained with La Trinidad Organic Practitioners Multipurpose Cooperative.
It was a venture the couple was passionate about, both being advocates of healthy, organic eating.
Unrelenting in their efforts to maximize farm productivity, they stumbled on the opportunity to grow alfalfa sprouts while waiting for their farm crops to be harvest-ready.
Alfalfa sprouts are popular salad ingredients, which are rich in iron, magnesium and vitamins. Known, anti-oxidants these are sought after by healthy eaters.
Alfalfa seeds are much like sesame seeds, which are almost as tiny as pechay or cabbage seeds. Week-old alfalfa sprouts are 10 times smaller than mongo sprouts.
The couple did a bit of market research on alfalfa before starting the venture. They found that there is a growing demand for it in restaurants in Camp John Hay and other eateries in Baguio City which is not being met by the few producers in the area. They then decided to join this niche market in 2011.
Mauricio was lucky enough to have access to suppliers of US-certified organic seeds. He has a brother based in the US who buys the seeds for him and sends them to him by courier.
He had to experiment with alfalfa-growing for three months before he succeeded in producing the “perfect sprouts.”
“For example, I learned that too much chlorine in tap water did not help germinate the sprouts. We had to invest on a water purifier.”
With the promise of regular income, the Sandicos transformed the three-room top floor of their house into germinating beds for their alfalfa and shortly later, broccoli, radish and clover sprouts.
The Sandicos follow a six-day routine for their alfalfa sprouts. The seeds are first soaked in purified water for eight hours, after which the seeds are placed in trays in a dark room for two days to germinate.
On the third day, the tiny sprouts contained in a tray are transferred in four trays to give more space for the now growing sprouts and would now be transferred in another room with an open screened window to allow sunlight in.
“As with any other plants, the sprouts need sunlight (which is regulated through a light curtain from the window),” says Mauricio.
The agri venture eventually became a good source of income for the Sandicos. An obvious advantage of alfalfa growing is that it is done indoors and can be impervious to the elements.
Their daily production of the sprouts is from 75-95 100-gram packs which earn them an average of P5,000 daily.
Photo: “<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/42361637@N04/4387494494″>Alfalfa Sprouts</a>” by <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/42361637@N04/”>Natoora</a>, c/o Flickr. <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_rights_reserved”>All Rights Reserved</a>