With the increasing concern on climate change and adverse effects on food production and supply in general, a group of dedicated farmers in Majayjay, Laguna, has stepped up and challenged themselves in adopting sustainable methods through organic farming. Named after their beloved hometown, the Majayjay Organic Farmers Association, also known as MOFA, was founded last October 2014. MOFA aims to improve farm production using organic farming application guided by a vision of becoming one of the leading producers of organic farm produce in Laguna in the next 5 years. With this in mind, the group has set their farms and practices to the standard in Sustainable Organic Farming, set and accredited by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

“The challenge was during our early days of implementation. It was difficult to access new technologies, we have to keep attending seminars and adopt and replace existing farming methods with organic farming ways, and our organization was still young. [Thus] we have to do all the process by ourselves, from marketing to financial record keeping,” said Ms Dhoyet Valentin, current president of MOFA, recalling her early experiences in the group.

As the association got noticed for their improved quality of produce and their passionate sharing of organic farming technique to local farmers, support from the local government and national agencies also poured through and grants and funding started to come in, enabling the group to invest on new farming equipment and materials and enhance their operation.

The group was also able to attend various seminars and skills training with regard to advance farming processes from Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Department of Science and Technology, DA, and various leadership and organizational training from Cooperative Development Authority.

Among the group’s first production was mushroom, with high domestic and international demand. MOFA started their organic mushroom production in the mid of 2018, showing a promising income yield and high revenue in their operations. Most of their members allotted portion of their farms for growing mushroom, which in turn gave an increase in their produced volume as well as increasing the group’s capacity to explore more market options.

“We were very fortunate to be among the first to acquire and apply mushroom production technology. The group is thankful for the given opportunity to learn and fully understand the operation,” added Ms Yet. “It is quite a large market and the local supply is limited, so we have to adjust to the demands without compromising the quality of our produce, most of our farmers have shifted to mushroom farming, it was a good opportunity for us as demand continues to increase.

The group then started the planning for their lined-up projects, prioritizing on how to further increase their production and come up with new products. With the support from DA through Municipal Agriculture’s Office, they were able to transition from farm production to food processing and production, adding more income and opening more business opportunities to the members. MOFA was able to explore suitable products wherein the raw materials are abundant in their community or that would easily grow on their climate; thus, a “resourced base and market driven” concept was adopted on their business operation.

Though the group underwent financial improvement from 2018 to 2019, business struggles were also part of their journey. As they slowly ascend to success, they were not exempted by the effects of the economic recession during the Covid-19 pandemic last 2020. The flow of their product was abrupted as strict border control was implemented all over the country and movement of goods was mostly limited only to basic and prime commodities. These restrictions led to the group’s financial crisis and created instability to their leadership. Though these experiences clouded the group’s future, the members remain firm to their mission and vision. They were able to adopt to the challenges and overcome the crisis as they re-structured their organization. With the availability of online marketing platform, the group has found alternative ways to sell their produce and introduce crisis management approach and continue to focus in sustainability.

Ms Yet also shared that their experience during the pandemic was among the most difficult she has encountered and described that “most of the members thought of giving up as they as well are severely affected by the pandemic, not only financially but also on their health, some have lose their love ones and immediate family members, we don’t plan for this, we have no preparation and it takes time, effort and commitment to move forward.”

Aside from their mushroom produce, MOFA currently has four major products: MOKUSAKO, a natural solution eco-friendly fertilizer derived from organic materials such wood, coconut shell, and others; VERMICOMPOST, an alternative fertilizer from mixture of worm rearing and natural composting materials; HONEY, which is naturally produced from the members’ farms and implemented by the group to help individual farms achieved natural pollination at same time generate income out of it; and ACHARANG UBOD, which is their latest innovation inspired by the municipality being heavily abundant with coconut shoot. The town Majayjay was among the first to produce such delicacies, and now, the group has begun producing this native food delight to bring back the town’s cultural culinary heritage.

Fast forward, the association being accredited by PCA became one of the beneficiaries of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP) Program under the invitation and monitoring of the Department of Trade and Industry Laguna Provincial Office through its Negosyo Center. In addition to this, MOFA was provided with product development assistance including packaging, labeling improvement, and product branding and was able to participate in various trade fair exhibits within the province, showcasing their culturally rooted products. Last December 4 to 9, 2023, their newly developed products were included in the formal launching and showcase at the “Paskuhan sa Kapitolyo Trade Fair and Exhibit”, with the theme “Productong Lokal ng COCO-TOPreneurs Handog Ngyong Pasko”.

“MOFA was very thankful for the support of DTI-Laguna, lalo na sa aming marketing. Napakalaking bagay ang mapasali sa mga trade fair. Unti-unti nakikila ang aming produkto at napagaaralan naming ang merkado. Nakapag-adjust kami sa quality ng produkto namin, especially now that we have new labels, it would help us in branding our products and our association.” Ms Yet enthusiastically shared. Future directions include a plan to develop more ways in sustainable and organic farm production and introduce innovative products by reducing, reusing, and repurposing farm waste produce. These are the organization’s top priority in minimizing ecological impact. Also, they plan to further extend their market by introducing agricultural learning center services. Soon, the Municipality of Majayjay, in partnership with MOFA, plans to claim “Mushroom Capital of Laguna” through their dedicated and innovative farmers. ♦

Date of release: 3 January 2024