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Resilience and hardwork spell positive gains for this tobacco grower

RECENTLY, for some farmers in Abra, the process of planting tobacco has been a matter of anticipating the drought.

With the early planting schedule, the farmers will benefit from the remaining moisture of the soil and avoid the effect of the extreme dry month during the harvest season.

This has been the case of tobacco grower Celso G. Bayle, 62, of Pakiling, Bucay, Abra. He prepared his seedbeds as early as October 1. Also a seedling grower, he expected that the seedlings will cater to a total of 1.2-hectare farm including his own farm lot in Pakiling.

But the seedbeds were washed out during the onslaught of Super Typhoon Lawin in Northeastern Luzon last October.

Like most local growers who have learned to be resilient to adverse and unpredictable weather conditions in their farming lives, Bayle knows he must not stop from there. Barely a week after the calamity, he started recovery by doing the same process of preparing his seedbeds. With assistance from the NTA Branch Office in Abra through extension worker Melben Bejarin, he was able to produce seedlings in time for the start of transplanting in December.

Bejarin describes his farmer as shy and soft-spoken but when he speaks about farming, he does so with conviction and full of hope.

"Farmers are hardworking and not easily discouraged," Bayle said in Ilokano during a visit to his farm by the Branch Office headed by Manager Esmeralda G. Valera. His seedbeds that time were about three weeks old, and offering a promise of good, sturdy seedlings.

One cropping season, he recalled, his curing barn got burned in 2015 due to a technical problem. For the rest of his curing activities, he repaired the curing barn of his neighbor for temporary use. The local government provided him materials to construct a new barn: walling and roofing materials from the office of Governor Eustaquio Bersamin and hallow blocks, sand and gravel including complete set of Venturi type heating system from Bucay Mayor Victorino B. BaroƱa Jr.

But it was the quality of the majority of his produce scoring a high price in the trading floor that more than compensated for his loss.

Long-time farmer Bayle shifted from corn to tobacco planting only in 2011. "I gain more income from tobacco than from corn," he said. With tobacco production, other than improved economic gain, he is sure of production assistance from NTA and counting on the expertise of the extension workers from the Abra Branch to guide him from seedbedding to post-harvest activities.

Bayle and his partner in tobacco growing, his wife Elizabeth, 55, have reasons to take pride in growing tobacco, which is the major source of income for their family. Like most farmers in their place, Bayle went full-time in farming just after he finished high school.

With tobacco farming, Bayle was able to send all his three children to school, with the eldest now a college graduate and gainfully employed. He was able to purchase home appliances and farm implements and tools for tobacco production.

His attitude in farming and impressive works he has done in quality tobacco production bagged him the Tobacco Grower of the Year Provincial Award for Virginia Neutral category during crop year 2012-2013. He was also a recipient of farmers' incentive award for obtaining a high yield and percentage of grades of his produce, and for his diligence in the application of recommended technology and farming practices.

Other than tobacco production under the NTA Tobacco Contract Growing System, Bayle also earns income from other programs of NTA such as the Kahuyang Pangkabuhayan at Pangkalikasan, Synchronized Tree Planting program (as a seedlings grower), and the Wet Season Rice Production Program.

Bayle considers his TGY contest year as the best crop year for him. In the succeeding cropping seasons, however, he saw a decline in his income, which he attributed to the low quality of leaves brought about by the drought for the past two or three years. But it's still a gainful enterprise for my family, he countered. Last cropping season, Bayle earned a net income of P35,000 per hectare.

Before the year end, Bayle has completed transplanting seedlings for his one-hectare farm lot, hoping that he could continue producing quality leaves.

While, during the pre-production, it was a matter of the farmers anticipating the weather, this time, while the tobacco is being cultivated in the field, it is a matter of their diligence and good agricultural practices. (Neyo E. Valdez)