Ato Belen’s Farm is in Barangay San Juan, San Pablo City, Laguna. It started in 1987 with an initial capital of Php 700.00. With sheer hardwork and exceptional diligence, Ma Ato was able to grow his farm from a 200 square meter lot to 2.3 hectares of land, and continued to expand years hence. To date, the farm covers more than 15 hectares, which are planted with 2,000+ trees each of Rambutan, Lanzones, Durian, and Papaya. The farm is also lined up with 800 Aromatic Coconuts. To maximize productivity, these high-value crops are intercropped with vegetables and condiments such as Black Pepper from India.
Ma Ato has an innate desire to protect Mother Nature. After typhoon ‘Milenyo’, he shifted to the natural or sustainable way of farming. His land is fertilized with animal manure from his piggery and poultry, treated with LactoBac LAS-1, effective microorganisms that are also cultured in the farm. Other sustainable techniques utilized in the farm are vermicomposting, vermiculture, and fish emulsion application. We are proud to say that organic farming not only lessened our operational cost but it boosted the quality of our farm produce even more.
People from all walks of life have flocked to the farm due to the quality of its planting materials and the fruits of its trees. There are also vegetables such as lettuce, eggplant, okra, tomato, bell pepper, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, sitao, patola, upo, etc., planted to seed beds made with organic compost. Apart from the high quality of farm inputs, visitors come to learn about farming techniques that not only lessens cost, but also increases the quality of produce. On top of that, these are sustainable and are not harmful to the environment. The farm has also welcomed agriculture students from various universities in Northern Philippines down to the South where Ato Belen’s Farm had been subject of their theses and special problems.
Ato Belen’s Farm had its share of multimedia exposure – in ABS-CBN’s ‘Rated K‘ of Ms. Korina Sanchez, ‘Ating Alamin’ of Ka Gerry Geronimo, IBC 13’s ‘Maunlad na Agrikultura,’ DZMM TeleRadyo’s ‘Sa Kabukiran’ of Ka Louie Tabing, TV5 Aksyon TV Channel 41′s travel-gadget show ‘TEKNOTRIP,’ Voices from the Forest (print and online publication for South and Southeast Asia), MARID AgriBusiness Digest, Philippine Panorama Magazine, Manila Bulletin, and in local publications and cable TV shows. It was May 2007 when Mr. Renato Belen and his lowland Cauliflower which produced big heads, were featured in the cover story of Agriculture Magazine.
Ma Ato has been given successive and multiple distinctions like the Gawad Saka Award for PINAKAPAPAYA, Public Service Achiever in Farming by The Philippine Councilors League, Outstanding Smallholders Gintong Ani Award for High-Value Commercial Crops, Agri-Aqua Network, Inc.’s Partners’ Tribute for Commercial Propagation of Fruit-Bearing Trees, One of Ten Outstanding San Pableños for his contributions in Agriculture and most recently, was acknowledged as Farmer-Scientist for Organic Vegetable Farming by the Office of the Provincial Agriculture in Laguna – making Ma Ato a prime resource in demonstrating, experimenting, and promoting technologies in agriculture and natural resources. He continues to attend seminars – as either a participant or as resource speaker, in order to hone his skills further in farming. ■