The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is unquestionably a trying circumstance.

The crisis compelled everyone to reckon with overwhelming social and economic adversities, paralyzing the livelihood of a great majority.

While most are in limbo, disconcerted and idle in the face of the pandemic, Michael Madale, a 35 year-old farmer beneficiary of the DA-10’s Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program from Salvacion, in Kadingilan, Bukidnon chose to be otherwise.

Michael invests himself in backyard gardening and makes the most out of his family’s yard.

He organically grew several vegetables, root crops and herbs in his lawn, raised goats, pigs, cattle and fish, maximizing his time while going through mandatory quarantine.

“I have been gardening way before the pandemic. However, since we are obliged to undergo the quarantine, then I have more time gardening around the house” Michael remarked.

Michael continuously provides for his family notwithstanding the crisis.

Now, he steadily earns at least P700 a week by selling his organic produce. This year, he estimated to make at least P200k from all his farm products.

“Formerly I worked for an NGO. After years of working I finally decided to be a fulltime farmer. I realized I can earn more than my salary by farming” Michael shared.

The provider to a family of three, Michael’s life revolved around agriculture, and he has since developed the passion for farming.

“My parents are farmers. They provided our daily needs and supported our education by planting rice, corn, cassava and banana, and by growing vegetables. Agriculture, especially organic farming, is a personal advocacy for me” Michael averred.

As an Environmental Management graduate, Michael is amenable today’s farmers should be “environmentalist” in their own little way.

He said minimizing the use of synthetic agricultural products and shifting to organic farming will go a long way in protecting the environment.

“As farmers we should farm without compromising the environment. We should provide our family safe and healthy foods, and care for our environment at the same time” he asserted.

Michael and 25 fellow farmers in Barangay Salvacion are members of Nagkahiusang Mag-Uuma Farmers Association.

The association is a recipient of numerous interventions from SAAD Northern Mindanao such as farm inputs, garden tools, cattle and Multi-Crops Drying Pavement.

As officer of the said association, Michael is always in the forefront, being a helping hand in the implementation of SAAD projects in their community.

“We have been receiving agricultural assistance from SAAD since 2018. The program provided us several interventions for crops and livestock production. SAAD is undeniably a big help to indigent farmers in our place. We are truly indebted to the program” Michael said.

A visionary man, Michael hopes one day he can convert his home-based farm into an organic farming learning site, allowing him to share his knowledge and passion to other farmers.

Similarly, he and his wife are looking forward to starting a food processing business in the future by utilizing their farm products as raw materials.

“We planned to produce processed peanut and meat products since we are producing the raw materials. For now, we lack the tools we need, but we are not rushing. We wanted to be holistically ready before engaging in the business” Michael accounted.

Coming from a financially challenged family, Michael is convinced that agriculture is the most practical solution to the country’s long-standing battle against poverty.

He stressed, with enough scientific support, agriculture can change the lives of poor farmers.

Moreover, he underscored farmers’ attitude towards government’s assistance are crucial to the attainment of inclusive development in the country.

“With the crisis we are facing, it is about time that farmers like us twist our mindset and think of government assistance not just as dole out but an opportunity to better our lives. We should value the projects granted to us and foster them to our advantage” he pointed out.

Michael urges farmers like him to stay productive, particularly in this challenging time. He challenged them to maximize idle spaces in their houses to earn extra income, instead of plainly relying on government amelioration.

“While hoping for the pandemic to dwindle, we need to be able to continuously earn for our family. We do not need a huge area to start farming. We can make use of our idle yard and plant anything we can eat and earn from there” Michael asserted.

He believes balance decision and advance thinking are fundamental to a farmer, most especially since the pandemic holds still. He professed being initiative-driven makes the difference in a farmer’s life.

“My mantra is to learn to regret ahead. As farmers we need to be able to foresee what lies ahead. We should be able to scan our horizon and make the best we can today for our tomorrow” Michael advised.

The new normal is indeed overwhelming. But Michael Madale proves a farmer can thrive amidst the pandemic.

As he modelled, toppling the COVID-19 adversities requires nothing more than the ability to capitalize on every existing opportunity – taking full advantage of government assistance and doses of ingenuity and diligence. #