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Tor Bibar: Media professional turned passionate farmer

When the pandemic hit, from March 2020 until about the last quarter of 2022 , everyone’s movement was restricted to say the worst, or limited to say the least.

One of the sectors adversely affected is agriculture. During the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, there was a global decline in farm production marked by downward trends. This dark picture, however, didn't stop Hercito "Tor" Bibar, owner of Bibar’s Farm, from venturing into agribusiness.  Instead, it encouraged him to start building his own mini-empire that can contribute for the betterment of the nation and can inspire future generations.

Regional winner

Bibar’s Farm turned out to be the sole winner for Agribusiness under Micro Enterprises during the 2023 Regional Productivity Olympics on August 8, and it will serve as the representative of Region 8 in the National Screening Committee for the said competition. Bibar also received a cash prize worth P10,000 as regional winner.

"Naniniwala po ako na itong trabaho sa farming nakakatulong hindi lang sa sarili natin kundi sa mga tao sa paligid natin, o nasa barangay," Bibar curtly said.

It was back in high school when Tor first learned farming until it became one of his favorite hobbies. Growing up in a household with parents deeply involved in farming, he was inherently influenced by their agricultural background. This upbringing not only awakened the farmer within him but also served as inspiration for his decision to delve into farming later in life.

Despite having dedicated 25 years to a career in broadcast journalism and presently hosting a noontime show on DYVL, IBC 6, and 87.7 FM Idol Radio, his passion for broadcast journalism did not deter him from pursuing agricultural ventures.

Even while maintaining a demanding role as a media practitioner, his income from being a regular employee at a private media station—earning a monthly salary of only P5,000—was inadequate to meet his family's needs. 

He realized the importance of having multiple streams of income.

"Ako sa media, I controlled my time sa media. Isang oras, isang araw. Yung maraming oras nasa ibang trabaho tayo, dun tayo sa farm," Tor said.

Going into agribusiness

The 52-year-old farm owner first entered the world of agribusiness as an experiment in 2010. He further expanded his knowledge of farming as well as his farm business by availing the free training, programs and services provided by the various government agencies especially during pandemic.

Located in Brgy. San Pablo of the Municipality of Tabon-Tabon in Leyte, the 2-hectare Bibar's Farm has been developed from a small backyard into an Integrated and Diversified Farming System.

Bibar pushing a cart of fresh ripe langka (jackfruit) at his farm. (Bibar's Farm photo)

The award-winning farm had a ricefield, a variety of fresh and organic fruits and vegetables, livestock, small fishery, and even a recreational area.

“Yung gilid.. yung parang gilid sa palayaan ko, mayroong tinaniman ko ng mga dragon fruit. Merong mga string beans doon meaning Integrated Diversified Farming. Hindi lang iisa. Kung nagkaroon ng problema sa farm mo, yung tanim mo meron kang ibang kikitain dahil hindi lang isa yung tanim mo, ‘di ba? [I planted dragon fruit and string beans at the side of the ricefield to start an Integrated Diversified Farming wherein I can have multiple produce. At least, if I encounter problems, I will have another source of income from other produce],” the journalist-farmer shared.

It was not only his farm production that is diverse but his customers as well, serving the people from his province but also those other provinces not part of the region.

"Ang mga customer namin yung mga nagtitinda lang sa paligid, yung mga nasa palengke. Pumupunta sila or tumatawag sa akin through online, nagdedeliver naman ako. So, yung sistema namin...In fact, may mga taga-Samar, may mga taga-Manila pinapadala ko ang mga produkto natin, [Our customers are mainly vendors in the market. They either visit here or just order online for delivery. We also have customers from Samar and Manila who buy our products]," he said.

Moreover, he does not only value his customers but also his employees who have helped him grow his farm.

"Meron akong mga empleyado. Lima lang kasi considered as a micro yung farm ko. Maliit pa lang kami pero yung mga benepisyo na natatanggap hindi kagaya sa gobyerno at malalaking private company. Parang tulong-tulong pero may SSS, may PhilHealth sila. Nagsusunod tayo sa lahat ng mga kautusan ng gobyerno. [I only have 5 employees since my farm is considered as a micro business. But, we provide benefits for them such as SSS and PhilHealth. We adhere to the policies of the government for employees. Definitely, we will continue despite some challenges]," he assured.

New farming technology

Since majority of the farmers in the country are in old age and are much accustomed to the manual and traditional farming, many are still hesitant to adapt the new methods and technologies in farming.

However, Mr. Bibar believes in the importance of adapting to new technologies which has been proven effective and efficient in providing convenience in farming and harvesting.

“Actually, yung parents ko nasa farming industry din. That's why nacha-challenge ako sa kanila na yung old system nila eh na makatanim ngayon, okay. Pababayaan na lang, iiwanan na lang after that babalikan lang. Hindi iyan. Sa bagong mga technology naini-introduce ngayon, dapat gawin mo iyan, [My parents are also involved in farming. I saw how they used to farm through old ways and I was challenged by that. I saw the importance of technology that can be used in farming],” he said.

Trainees are being taught of processing of Indigenous Micro Organism (IMO) during their Organic Agriculture Production NC II at Bibar’s Farm. (Photo courtesy of Bernadette Efren Cadalso)

The support of the local government and government agencies through technical, financial assistance and other services made Bibar's Farm a duly accredited Farm Learning Site by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and officially certified by TESDA to offer programs in Produce Organic Vegetable leading to Organic Agriculture Production NC II.

"Unang -una ang technical assistance mula sa government unit ng Municipal Agriculturist Office na talagang sinusuportahan din kami at nang Agricultural Training Institute. In fact, nang mag-umpisa ako dito sa farm ko, nagbigay sila ng financial assistance na P120,000 at ibinili ko naman ito ng mga farm equipments, yung land master, yung tracer at iba pa. Yun ang ginawa ko, [I received technical support from the Municipal Agriculturist Office as well as Agricultural Training Institute. In fact, when I was starting my farm, they provided me with a financial assistance worth P120,000 for farm equipment and land master, tracer, among others]," Tor shared.

Meanwhile, he also mentioned that the Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the Provincial Government of Leyte, built the road leading to his farm.

He was also grateful to the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board 8 (RTWPB), organizer of the Regional Productivity Olympics, for recognizing Bibar’s Farm and giving them the opportunity to inspire other farmers through the innovative farm practices they have adapted.

Tor holding a bouquet of freshly harvested lettuce inside his farm. (Photo courtesy of Rowel Montes)

When asked about the secret behind his success in achieving the award, he responded by saying, “Initiative. Isa sa mga initiative natin of course sa tulong ng RTWPB ang ginawa natin, continuous yun. Importante dito yung recording. Yung parang yung lahat ng mga activity mo sa farm mo. Gastos, kung anu-ano, production, ini-rerecord mo iyan kung gumaganansiya ka o hindi, [Initiative is important specially with the help of RTWPB. Then, recording of all the activities in the farm, including expenses and profit, is also essential to determine if the business is earning profit or not].

He noticed that there is a need in the redirecting the focus of the youth of today, which most of the time is glued on social media instead of more worthwhile activities. This left him wanting to inspire the younger generation to venture into farming also.

"Ang mas maganda kung meron kang ibang trabaho like sa farming sigurado anumang mangyari sa mundo meron kang kakainin, 'di ba? Kung nakababad ka lang sa computer, wala iyan."

MSME productivity tilt

The Productivity Olympics, which was first launched in 2008, is a national competition designed to promote commitment in quality and productivity as well as encourage healthy competition among MSMEs across the nation.

Bibar’s Farm owner, Tor Bibar, at the podium giving his thank you speech during the Awarding Ceremony of the 2023 Regional Olympics. (PIA-8)

This year banners the theme, “From Striving to Thriving:  Reset and Reposition for impact” and it has evaluated the MSME winners under the agribusiness, industry, and service categories based on their Business Excellence (50%), Employee Engagement and Expansion (50%), Innovation and Green (15%), and Corporate Social Accountability (5%).

RTWPB 8 does not only recognize the MSMEs through productivity olympics, they also provide free trainings that will help their businesses.

“We also give them training on BCRP or Business Continuity and Resiliency Planning. This is intended for making the MSMEs ready for the calamities and disruptions on the operations of the business,” RTWPB-8 Secretary Reynaldo Soliveres said. (MMP/VCCL/PIA Leyte)

About the Author

Leonilo Lopido

Assistant Regional Head

Region 8

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