Psychic profit & savings
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - June 1, 2020 - 12:00am

I just paid for 20 XL Kalamansi plants yesterday and I immediately hoisted them up to my roof deck using an electric hoist in order to save my back and not have a heart attack while hauling them up 3 floors. Even before the ECQ went into effect, I had been meaning to buy about a dozen of them since they are one of the most useful fruits in the kitchen and also the toughest plants I know of. Two weeks before that I received my order of 20 Lacatan banana seedlings I was planning to bring to Lipa but they too have ended in quarantine up in the roof deck and there they will now stay. In the middle of all that I’ve planted several paint buckets with ginger so the dream is that in a few months I might get to sip my own Kalamansi + Ginger drink.

I used to have a poly carbonate roof over our home but after a couple of years of leaks and mini waterfalls, we decided to simply replace it with a solid concrete roof that was also designed to be a vegetable garden. It burned a hole in our savings but we needed the roof so we simply maximized its purpose. The beauty of the concrete roof (which was naturally cured or allowed to solidify on its own) is that it provides you with big enough of a space for a vegetable patch that helps keep the house cool most of the year.

Urban Gardening recently caught people’s attention after we all went into quarantine back in March. Fears of shortage had people starting up their vegetables in pots programs while some started digging out their ornamentals and replaced them with pechay, tomatoes, talong etc. Unfortunately the panic did not take root well enough because our hybrid quarantine allowed the flow of goods and services so that the vegetables never really disappeared, the prices never went sky high, and the summer heat was just too much for most non-farmers or gardeners in the Metro. In fact there are some who would argue why we should bother, given the constant supply and the fact that we would be taking away livelihood or “markets” from traditional farmers.

We all have our reasons. Mine begins with the “Psychic profit”. My initial investment will probably be way bigger than the financial return. But you can’t buy the satisfaction and enjoyment of planning, doing, working and harvesting and tasting your homegrown vegetables. It’s the dream, the accomplishment and being able to continue doing it. To begin with, I don’t just buy all my stuff. I recycle a lot of things and turn them into compost, planting material, planter pots and boxes. I only buy plants I can’t grow from scratch or I need NOW because I number my days and it would be more beneficial to enjoy having these now rather than struggling in my ignorance and misadventure. At 64, it is best to fast track certain things than penny pinch and clock watch. From March to June, I have managed to transform a 120 sqm roof deck into the beginnings of a vegetable garden, while working from home hosting AGENDA for Cignal TV out of my living room and constructing a full size clothes cabinet with no prior experience, on the side. I don’t mean to brag but rather convince those of you who are aspiring to work on something to try!

In any case, there is the possibility that urban farming or backyard farming may give you more than “Psychic profit” if you happen to be someone who loves to do the family accounting. In my travels with BMeg Feeds as a Volunteer speaker and product endorser, I regularly encounter housewives, single parents and couples who love to tell us how they were able to “graduate all their children” just from raising and selling pigs. Accountants often wonder just how accurate those stories are. But as I study them I realize that regardless of what you grow, it means that you are harvesting a product and are selling or consuming a product that you did not have to buy or pay for. That automatically is a savings, which means you now have the cash equivalent that you can keep or spend to pay for something else.

When I harvest pechay, it may only be good for one family meal, but I saved money and the effort it takes to buy it. If you multiply the times you harvest vegetables, fruits, chickens, pigs or fish over a year, do you have any idea how many thousand pesos you actually saved? There was a time when every household had a kamias tree, every barangay had a few Sampaloc trees and every household had lemon grass or Tanlad or Pandan. Nowadays, they’ve been replaced by “herbs” or packed additives! I have a neighbor who has a tall Malunggay tree by his fence and almost every week someone would be asking if they could trim a few branches for cooking. If he simply gave away seedlings he would probably save himself the hassle of answering the doorbell so often.

Imagine the collective savings we make as well as the fact that we would be eating healthy. Many of those backyard pig farmers or hog raisers sell on a lump sum seasonal basis. Interestingly they also need the lump sum during enrollment season and Christmas. I often tell people that farming or agri-business does not afford you a regular cash flow. But the savings or lump sum sale usually covers several months in the year. Whether you raise vegetables in your roof deck, chickens or pigs in the backyard, you can save/ collect enough profit to cover a month or a couple of months. Even better they are “Instagramable” or worthy of the “Humble Brag” on FB.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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