Banking on the future

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CHIT JUAN

CHIT JUAN

If Gloria Parinas-Duterte were alive today, she would be cooking from her son’s organic farm produce of greens and herbs. And she would be so proud watching Ron sweating it out under the warm Cebu sun, rolling up his sleeves to work with his staff, and proudly picking leaves of his organic lettuce and arugula.

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Formerly a banker in Seattle, Ron Duterte came home to Cebu to bury his father and keep his widowed mother company. As the youngest child of three, he knew he had to come home for good since his sisters decided to marry, stay abroad and pursue their careers.

He remembers growing up in Cebu exposed to his mother’s cooking, her love for writing cookbooks and being a food writer. He knew his mother always wanted her own farm, too. So for two or so years, he did his research for farming, flying back and forth to Manila to observe weekend organic markets, hoping Cebu would soon follow suit.

Today the dutiful son welcomes us to Ron’s Farm Direct, located in upland Babag Dos Cebu—some 500 plus meters above sea level but just conveniently outside the crowded Cebu metropolis via 25-minute drive. His farm will soon supply ECHO store in Cebu with organic leafy vegetables, herbs and other farm produce, by the way.

“I am still waiting for my business papers to be completed,” he declares. “But I have started sending samples to my favorite restaurants and cafes.”

We then walk through his plots of Arugula and Lollo Rossa, snipping a leaf here and there and chomping our way through his farm. To cap the “salad sampling” he brews a pot of tarragon, mint and malunggay tea sweetened naturally with stevia, a natural sweetener also grown in his farm.

“Take a leaf, “ he tells Johann Young, our guide and vegetarian convert-to-be. Johann tries the leaf of stevia and also tries the “tisane” or tea that our host brews himself.

One would definitely be inspired to take up farming when one sees what Ron has started. He has a vermicompost area where African night crawlers make the compost to feed the plants. He has a seedling hut where there are sprouts like radish (that reminds me of a Japanese salad called “Kaiware”), and a mix of sprouts he calls his “zesty” blend. And he has plots upon plots of lush Arugula, lettuce like Romaine and Lollo Rossa, parsley, coriander and more. His farm is slowly getting bigger and bigger, and he has enough land, after all, at 5,000 square meters.

A farmer at 42? Yes, we need more young men like Ron who traded his corporate suit for t-shirts, instead of a flashy BMW drives a cute orange pick up with some rosemary sprigs in the back, ready for planting.

“I love coming to the farm,” he says. And you can feel his passion as he instructs his workers on which plant to put where and what harvest is ready for pick up and delivery. He is really a hands-on guy whose “fire in the belly” is actually infectious.

Having worked in Seattle, he was exposed to the Pike Place Market where the freshest of seafood and fresh produce are legendary. He remembers a place that sold homemade cheese, made their own bread, and everything and used all things directly sourced from the farm. This is what he keeps in mind as he plants yet another seed in Ron’s Farm Direct.

As of this writing, he texted me that DTI approved the name of his business to be “Ron’s” and not “Gloria’s Farm Direct” as he hoped after his beloved mother. Nevertheless the full-fledged farmer is raring to spread the practice of getting produce straight from the source.

His produced should be in demand very soon since restaurants and cafes are hard-pressed to find the freshest of vegetables in Cebu. Ron observed this during his research period. He also noticed the dearth of organic sources for fruits like Cebu’s famous mangoes. As expected, he is off to start developing his organic mango trees in the farm to be productive, and is also considering other fruits as well.

Why the focus on “farm direct” we ask him? His mission is to be the first if not the only “farm direct” producer of organic fruits and vegetables in Metro Cebu.

“This way, my friends who own restaurants can spread the word their consumers about buying fresh and healthy,” he replies. “I will be their purveyor.”

To prove his drive to achieve this mission, he has priced his vegetables at par with the regular variety in the market.

“I need to price them the same as traditionally-grown vegetables so my future customers will give them a try,” he adds.

Well, we can only believe that this strategy will work to convert most if not all of Cebu’s restaurant owners to shift to organic. He is a banker, after all, and bankers know their numbers.

But more than the money side of the business, Ron also wants to share his healthy lifestyle with his friends and family. His strategy may be right because when it comes to health, everyone takes up practices to bank on a good future.

Indeed, if all bankers were like Ron what a healthy world we would live in.

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Chit Juan is the Founder and President of ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle located in Serendra, Podium,Centris, Davao City, Makati and Cebu .She is the President of Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. She often speaks to corporates, academe and entrepreneurs about her advocacies: Social Enterprise, Women Empowerment and Coffee. You can reach her at puj@echostore.ph or find her on Twitter@Chitjuan, Instagram: CHITJUAN or Linked In: Pacita Juan.

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