Empowering support staff one seed at a time

Each week, armed with scissors and crates, approximately twenty-five maintenance and security personnel at the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) headquarters complex in Ortigas walk through muddy paths to comb neatly laid out vegetable beds, eager to complete one of their most important tasks for the week: harvesting their own urban farms.

This group includes the first batch of participants in the company’s “Backyard Bukid” urban agriculture project, where each is given a plot to grow their own vegetables and use their harvest to increase their own food supply or earn extra income by growing them. selling to other employees.

SMC Backyard Bukid has already produced over 300 kilos of bokchoi, camote, eggplant, kangkong, green lettuce, romaine lettuce, mustard, okra, siling labuyo, pechay, cilantro, winged bean and kale.

“Our goal is to create an environment where our employees and support staff can learn new skills and gain new experiences to help them become more resilient and self-reliant, especially during these uncertain times. We have similar programs underway in some of our host communities in the provinces. This version at our headquarters is much smaller, but every little effort goes a long way, especially when people are going through a tough time,” said SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang.

When asked how the city farm has helped him, “We learned to grow vegetables the right way. More than that, we also learned how to make our own fertilizers, to fight pests. We learned that you can plant and make money even on a small plot of land,” said SMC maintenance staff member Nestor Reofier.

Andy Detorres, one of SMC’s staff messengers, stresses how critical teamwork is to the success of this project: “Everyone is helping out to make sure we’re maximizing the project. We know we will all benefit from it. What I like the most about the Backyard Bukid project is that we can harvest and sell the products quickly to other employees. We get extra income.

Participants in the Backyard Bukid project completed a month-long agribusiness training and mentorship program with the School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) Philippines. They learn about organic vegetable production, soil management, and pest and disease management.

Once the vegetables are ready to harvest, each participant contributes to the sales process, with tasks that include collecting and consolidating orders, purchasing produce, repackaging and delivering orders, and keeping records. .

In recent months, participants have also tried their hand at trading, as demand for Backyard Bukid vegetables has outstripped supply. Each week, they compile a list of employee orders and work with Silong Kabataan Community Farm Enterprise to increase their supply and sell them at a profit. From there, they learn about farm and supply chain management and agribusiness development.

“In addition to growing food, Backyard Bukid has created a sense of community among participants. It has become a place where they can connect and work together for a common goal. I hope they will support the program, build on it, and inspire others to engage in sustainable agriculture,” said SEED Mentor Renn Inopia.

As one of the largest and most diverse conglomerates in the country, San Miguel Corporation has launched numerous initiatives to help farmers and agricultural workers throughout the pandemic.

When the country first entered lockdown in 2020, it allowed farmers to open Kadiwani Ani at Kita’s pop-up stores at its Petron gas stations in Metro Manila, allowing them to sell their produce directly to consumers and avoid food waste.

It has also increased its purchases of local crops to support farmers and cooperatives. He even purchased excess milk production and donated it to poor communities, to avoid spoilage and financial loss for carabao farmers.

He has also partnered with social enterprise Rural Rising to set up Better World Diliman, a ready market for surplus produce from across Luzon, which also aims to prevent food waste and keep farm incomes down. raised. It is, however, the company’s Backyard Bukid initiative that has had a direct impact on the very people who provide day-to-day services to the company and its employees.

As SMC’s Backyard Bukid program continues to grow, SMC’s hope is that more businesses and individuals will be encouraged to transform urban spaces into working green spaces and help agriculture thrive.