Jet Serrano, an IT professional at a financial technology company, took an unexpected detour from his corporate career to go on a new path as a farmer. Growing up, Jet’s parents instilled in him the value of farming, as they themselves dreamed of retiring on a farm and leading simple lives. However, during his younger years, Jet was more inclined toward the corporate world and technology-driven environments.

Jet’s parents introduced him to the world of farming. His mother had grown up in the province, where her daily activities involved tending to crops and livestock. They had a vision of retiring and fully immersing themselves in farm life, leaving behind the bustling city and enjoying a simpler existence while growing their own food.

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Jet Serrano, owner of Serrano Agri-venture Farm. (Serrano Agri-venture Farm)

During Jet’s earlier years, he didn’t share the same enthusiasm for farming. He chose a different path, “During my younger years, I was not interested in farming. I embraced the path of being part of a corporate workforce, employed in a tech-oriented company in a posh office building within the central business district of our country,” he said.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic brought about a significant change in Jet’s perspective. The pandemic made him recognize the importance of food sustainability. “The resulting lockdowns made me realize that even if you have the means to buy food from the groceries, the restrictions made it challenging to get the food items you need,” he said.

This realization prompted Jet to revisit the property his parents had acquired for their retirement. He took the initiative to transform the land into a functioning farm. Initially, the focus was on cultivating vegetables and harvesting seasonal produce, including mangoes, avocados, and cashew nuts. Now Jet Serrano is the owner and manager of Serrano Agri-ventures Farm in Morong, Bataan.

Diversification for sustained cash flow

The farm initially concentrated on vegetable production but has now expanded its operations to include free-range chicken breeding, brown egg production, hog raising, and hydroponics. “One thing I learned is that a farm needs to be diversified in terms of product offerings. To have a sustained cash flow, one must have multiple produce that can harvested in cycles,” Jet said.

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Good quality F1 chicks hatched on the farm. (Serrano Agri-venture Farm)

As a chicken breeding station, the farm specializes in dual-purpose breeds that have been specifically developed for free-range environments. These breeds exhibit excellent characteristics as both brown egg layers and “inasal-type” meat broilers.

“Our parent stocks were sourced from reputable genetics companies in Europe that can ensure the uniformity of chicks, feed efficiency, and productivity to ensure profitability to farmers that want to start their own chicken farming operations,” he added.

In addition to traditional vegetable farming, the farm has taken the initiative to grow lettuce using hydroponics. This innovative method involves cultivating lettuce in a water-based nutrient-rich solution instead of soil. By adopting this approach, the farm ensures pesticide-free lettuce as the plants are grown in a controlled greenhouse environment. Furthermore, hydroponics minimizes the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria typically found in soil-based farming practices.

Science-based farming programs

Jet Serrano highlights the wisdom shared by his mentor, Dr. Erwin Joseph Cruz, who emphasized the correlation between education and success in farming, stating, “An educated farmer is a successful farmer.” Utilizing the lockdown period during the pandemic, Jet started farm planning while immersing himself in the realm of “science-based farming programs.” He actively participated in a range of seminars, covering topics such as vegetable cultivation, chicken and hog farming, facilitated by both DA-ATI sponsored programs and private organizations.

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Administering vaccine to pigs. (Serrano Agri-venture Farm)

With a primary focus on chicken breeding, Jet’s farm enthusiastically follows a program developed by Dr. Cruz. “This program aims to empower both existing and aspiring farmers to easily start their own free-range chicken farming operations,” Jet said. “We intend to share this knowledge along with our advocacy of sustainable farming that can help provide nutritious protein to their family and even share surplus harvest of brown eggs and chicken meat that can be turned into a business.”

Even though Jet considers his farm to be relatively small, it strives to differentiate itself by adhering to science-based programs. Their chicken breeds are sourced from certified parent stocks capable of producing first filial generation chicks (F1) which “enhance the desirable and good traits from both parent lines that is passed on to their offspring,” he said. “This results in giving the chicks hybrid vigor that gives increased and predictable performance, hardiness, and uniformity.”

Additionally, a notable advantage of his farm is the ability to determine the gender of their chicks immediately upon hatching, a feat that conventional chicken breeders typically cannot achieve until around the 8th to 10th week of growth.

Challenges and struggles

As a small farmer in the Philippines, Jet faces numerous challenges. One prominent issue is the lack of adequate government support that could incentivize citizens to engage in farming. “Gaining access to funding is challenging especially to small farmers. They should also intensify education-driven programs that will empower and equip farmers to adapt to new methods of growing crops and raising livestock,” he said.

Reflecting on specific struggles and obstacles encountered along the way, Jet highlights the initial phase of establishing the farm. Building it from scratch entailed setting up power lines and ensuring a stable water supply. In addition, there was a lack of knowledge at the outset of their farming journey.

However, Jet and their family overcame these challenges through collective efforts. “We prevailed by working together as a family. We also equipped ourselves with knowledge, hand in hand with actual application of what we have learned,” he stated.

They sought out knowledge and combined it with practical application. Embracing the saying that “experience is the best teacher, and the worst experiences teach the best lessons,” Jet approached the struggles and obstacles as learning opportunities, integrating the lessons learned into their farming operations.

Pride in the farming profession

Jet takes great pride in being a farmer and acknowledges the significance of agriculture in sustaining communities and promoting self-sufficiency. He believes that farming is not just a livelihood but a noble profession that contributes to the well-being of individuals and the society. “Our farm has come a long way since we started. I have been advocating to like-minded individuals visiting our social media page that there is prestige in the farming profession,” he said.

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Eggs are placed in incubators for them to hatch the batch evenly. (Serrano Agri-venture Farm)

As a passionate farmer, Jet finds joy in sharing his knowledge and experiences with others who aspire to enter the agricultural industry. He actively participates in community outreach programs, conducts workshops, and collaborates with local farming associations to inspire and educate aspiring farmers. “It is also fulfilling that our farm has established a network of community farmers who got their initial flock from our produce,” he said. “I have imparted our farming methodologies and now share the same advocacy as well of being sustainable on producing their own food.”

Sharing quality products and knowledge

Despite challenges, what keeps Jet Serrano farming is that “we can share quality products that we produce and impart the knowledge we have gained so far to our community farmers,” he said. “Plus, the farm to table lifestyle we have been practicing since we have access to the freshest vegetables, eggs, and meat from our farm.”

Jet also finds inspiration in meeting like-minded individuals who are also entering the field of farming. He said that building a network of farmers allows for the exchange of collective ideas, lessons, and innovations that uplift the small-scale farming industry.

Jet takes pride in a notable achievement of his farm being selected as one of the incubatees of the DOST-PCCARD sponsored program called “Social Innovation towards Agri-aqua Enterprise Growth” (SINAG). This program, facilitated by the Bataan Peninsula State University, empowers agri-aqua-related enterprises in the provinces by offering incubation programs focused on business development, branding, marketing, and technology management support. This recognition reinforces their commitment to continuous growth and advancement within the farming industry.

Future initiatives and improvements

Jet has a clear mission and vision for his farm development. His mission is centered around cultivating and sustainably producing high-quality agricultural products while promoting environmental stewardship and community engagement.

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Lettuce grown in Styrofoam boxes. (Serrano Agri-venture Farm)

“We are committed to utilizing innovative farming practices, preserving natural resources, and ensuring the well-being of our animals,” Jet said. “Through our dedication to excellence, we aim to provide nourishing and responsibly sourced food for our customers while fostering a deeper connection between people and the land.”

In terms of his vision, Jet aspires to be a pioneering farming business that sets new standards for sustainable agriculture, quality, ethics, and environmental responsibility.

“We strive to create a thriving ecosystem where our crops and livestock flourish in harmony with nature. By embracing cutting-edge technologies, regenerative farming methods, and community partnerships, we envision a future where our farm serves as a beacon of inspiration, empowering individuals and communities to make conscious choices that promote a healthier planet and a more sustainable food system,” Jet said.

Looking towards the future, Jet has planned several initiatives and improvements for his farm. He is currently in the process of starting hog farming, with an initial flock already growing on their farm. His goal is to establish his own set of breeders, enabling a more sustainable production of piglets without the need to rely on external sources.

Additionally, Jet has set his vision on enhancing his hydroponics greenhouse. He intends to upgrade their current Kratky setup to a more efficient method using the nutrient film technique (NFT). This improvement will contribute to maximizing the productivity and effectiveness of their hydroponic cultivation, furthering their commitment to innovative and sustainable farming practices.

Jet also has clear hopes and aspirations for the future of his farm. “I envision the farm to be a learning site for agricultural activities that will allow us to impart the knowledge and skillset we acquire to a broader audience,” he said.

Network of community Farmers

Jet actively participates in establishing a network of community farmers who have access to certified and guaranteed breeds and genetics of chickens. Through collaboration and cooperation, this network ensures a steady supply of fresh free-range brown eggs and meat to local communities. By supporting and empowering fellow farmers, he contributes to the development and sustainability of the local agricultural sector.

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Eggs are placed on trays. (Serrano Agri-venture Farm)

Jet Serrano is a pioneer member of a farming association in their town. The association aims to promote “Support Lokal” produce within the town and neighboring areas instead of relying on imported food products. Through active engagement and collaboration, he supports the community by fostering local trade, encouraging self-sufficiency, and strengthening the local economy.

Advancements in local food production

When it comes to the agricultural industry in the Philippines, Jet has the desire to see significant changes and advancements. “I would like to see that our country improves on local food production and will not be relying on importing basic products like rice and meat products,” he said. “If our government starts to improve the farm-to-market road network or establishing localize trade centers, it will allow farmers to have more say in pricing their products instead of relying heavily on what the traders or middlemen dictate.”

Jet’s advice to aspiring farmers and the wider public is to start farming now. He emphasized that with the availability of the internet, there is a wealth of information accessible for acquiring knowledge, best practices, and farming methods.

“You don’t need to have a big land to start farming. Even at the comfort of our own backyard, we can start with planting fast-growing vegetables and raise egg-laying chickens that produce nutritious eggs daily,” Jet said. “The good thing about it is that they can also serve as our pets since they make a great companion, especially to children.”

Photo courtesy of Serrano Agri-ventures Farm

Read more about farming and gardening at agriculture.com.ph

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