Farmer-entrepreneur tells farmers: Add value to your produce

banana chips

Farmers remain poor because income from farm produce is barely enough for their livelihood.  Farmers can earn more if they add value to their produce.

This is the major lesson Mars Aaron, former top executive of Unilever Bestfoods, learned when he went into farming.

In an interview with Josiah Go for the article “From top executive to entrepreneur” published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Aaron shares:

“I acquired an 11-hectare farm in Pagsanjan, Laguna in 1998.  It was really meant to be my weekend escapade and, eventually, a place for my retirement.

“I love farming! It was my ultimate dream for retirement.  So, when I retired in 2004, I started developing the farm.  Since it was already planted with bananas, I thought of expanding the banana plantation.

“But then I realized you will not earn much from farming alone.  Now I understand why farmers remain poor.  The revenue generated from farm produce was not even enough to pay for our farm workers and farm maintenance.

“It was my corporate experience that immediately came to mind.  Why not add value to my farm produce?

“Banana chips were the closest I could think of.  My multinational corporate experience in R&D, manufacturing, sales and marketing made it easy for me to decide.

“The ‘village’ will be the focal point of our advocacy in providing sustainable income to the farmers.  Farming alone will not uplift their lives.  They have to add value to their farm produce.  The ’village’ will be the center of excellence for entrepreneurial farming.

“We will not just teach the farmers how to grow bananas but make banana chips, market them. And even go beyond – like banana catsup, banana powder for baking, and banana vinegar.

“Currently, we encourage farmers to plant bananas of the saba variety.  We provide them with the planting materials for free and buy back their produce at a better-than-market price while guaranteeing a sure market and low-to-zero transport cost.

“More and more farmers in the neighboring towns are getting into the program.  We are now institutionalizing this business model and roll it out in other regions.

“Our vision is : Let farmers become farmers with pride, honor and dignity.  And let farming be an attractive career proposition for farmers (better than becoming OFWs).

Otherwise, no farmers, no food, no life.”


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