A model “Gulayan sa Paaralan” instills value of hardwork and “Bayanihan” spirit
By Emily B. Bordado

More and more farm lands are being left idle as the elderly farmers retire from attending to them due to old age and disabilities without transferring their farming skills and techniques and the love and commitment to till land to their children or heirs. Majority of our youth prefer working in the cities and urban centers as they find farming a less dignified job. As a consequence the productivity of our country’s agricultural sector is also threatened.

There is thus, a need to inculcate and deepen appreciation among the youth the importance of agriculture not only in our economy but also in our life. This is the main rationale for the implementation of the Gulayan sa Paaralan Program by the Department of Agriculture in partnership with the Department of Education.

School gardens in public schools are being established and planted to various vegetables by the student themselves for them to appreciate the value and importance of producing the food that sustain us not only physically but also mentally and financially.

One such public high school which has participated in this undertaking is the Medroso - Mendoza High School in the upland barangay of Binanuanan Pequeño in Calabanga, Camarines Sur. The school has a student population of 393 students with 10 regular teachers. Under the supervision of the school head, Erning Peñaranda a portion of the school ground - about 3,000 square meters was converted into a vegetable garden. Land preparation was done using the tractor lent for free by the municipal government. The PTA provided the labor and the seed money of P10,000for the purchase of the seeds and garden tools. The LGU technician and DA regional staff provided technical assistance.

Planting was done in December of 2011. The garden was divided into plots and planted with the assorted vegetables. Upon the invitation of Dr. Gloria Salazar, focal person of Gulayan sa Paaralan - the author together with the documentation team of RAFID we visited the school first week of February this year. The garden was teeming with green vegetables which were already full grown and starting to bear fruit. According to Mr. Peñaranda they planted a total of 800 heads of cabbage; 1,500 radish, 1,000 tomatoes, 50 ampalaya (bitter gourd), and 260 cucumber. There were also 20 plant beds measuring 22 x 23 planted to pechay. At that time of our first visit the radish plants were ready for harvest and the PTA officers were around to do the harvesting.

We were invited for the harvest of the rest of the vegetables on the last week of February. This time we were with Mr. Abner Rivera, Technology and Livelihood Education Coordinator of DepEd Camarines Sur province and Mr. Jimmy Tipuno, TLE Teacher of Turague High School in Sangay who wanted to see and learn the good practices of the Model Gulayan and adopt these in his own school. The tomato plants were sagging and almost touching the ground despite the support that were set around them because they were laden with so many fruits. The highest count was 65 tomato fruits for one plant and the average is 50 fruits per plant according to Mr. Peñaranda.

Mr. Rivero computes that at a conservative estimate of 3.5kg of tomatoes per plant and a farm gate price range of P16 to P18 per kilo, the school will derive a gross income ranging from P56,000 to P63,000. And that was only the first harvest from the tomato plants. More fruits are expected to be harvested from them in the next several weeks.

Although the outer leaves of the cabbage were attacked by pests, its interior part were still intact and saleable. They still expect to earn an income of about P50,000 more as the ampalaya, upo and pechay have yet to be harvested. And more harvests are expected from the tomato plants.

Mr. Peñaranda reported that from the sale of radish harvested three weeks earlier. They were able to derive an income of P2,200.

Already, the school is preparing for the second cropping comes school opening in June. Eggplant and pepper will be planted. Seeds have already been planted in seedbeds. Dr. Salazar has also recommended the planting of indigenous vegetables which the DA is currently promoting. Some of these indigenous crops are winged beans, patani.

To distract the pests from attacking leafy vegetables planted in the garden,the municipal technician assigned in the barangay , Melinda Barrios recommended the planting of okra around the garden. She explains that instead of attacking the other vegetables especially the leafy ones like pechay and cabbage, the insect pests will be feeding on the broad leaves of the okra and this will have no significant loss on the okra production after all, what are being harvested are the fruits. She also suggested the planting of flowering plants like marigold or lemon grass as they serve as insect repellent.

Aside from the income that the school and the PTA had derived from the Gulayan sa Paaralan program, Mr. Peñaranda pointed out that the intangible results are the appreciation by students as well as the parents of the importance of agriculture in their life – as a source of food and income. It also provided an opportunity for inculcating among the students the value of work, industry, caring for the environment and discovering and developing the hidden wealth of the soil and other natural resources. He added that the activity also paved the way for a stronger and more harmonious relationship between the school and the parents. The bayanihan spirit was once more rekindled and revived as the parents, students, school officials, government agencies like the DA and DepEd, LGU and other members of the community joined hands to support the project.

Mr. Rivero said that the school is now considered a model school garden project and it will serve as a showcase for other schools to emulate. He said he will recommend to their Division Office to include in the itinerary of educational tours of various schools, visit to model gulayan school projects such as that of Medroso-Mendoza High school project.

There is a saying that to plant a garden is to believe in the future. Yes, the Department of Agriculture, the DepEd and other partner agencies believe in the future and that future is in the hands of our youth who will plant the seeds of hope for our country and people.