THE AG DRAGON FRUIT FARM
…barangay Lilit, Lambayong (Sultan Kudarat, Philippines)
By Apolinario Villalobos
When I reached barangay Lilit, in Lambayong, I was surprised to find an orchard, not only planted to a cactus variety bearing fruits that came to be known as “dragon” perhaps, because of the skin that looks like scales, but also to lime or “calamansi” as well. The lime trees were profusely bearing late fruits, most of which hidden behind thick clusters of leaves.
According to the couple, G-Anne and Arnold, they started with the mangoes in the 3 hectare- farm. Unfortunately, the tropical fruit did not fare well, so that they were cut down to be made into charcoal. They tried the lime which somehow, brought in good yields. But, when Arnold got fascinated with the dragon fruit, as it has become a fad all over the country due to its nutritional value and consistently high price, he bought starter cuttings at Php50 per post. He used the upright system with stems that bear flowers allowed to extend freely. That was in 2016. Another type of raising the cactus for its fruits is by connecting the posts with wires or thin cables to form some sort of a trellis.
Of the 3 hectares, ¾ of the area is planted to the cactus while the remaining space is retained for the lime. Mrs. G-Anne Guerrero shared that the dragon fruit venture has so far shown a good promise of success. The first week of June saw a “pick and pay holiday” when the orchard was opened to walk-ins who enjoyed the American-style of fruit picking. On the other hand there is a need to check on a regular basis the clumps of cactus tied on the concrete posts so that segments infected with fungus could be cut off.
During my Sunday visit, the family was preparing for the arrival of guests from Manila and other parts of the province. Also, a relative, Ferdinand Pascua of the Department of Trade and Industry, Legal Department (DTI-Manila) dropped by. The rest who were around during my quick visit were Meciel Abalos de la Cruz and Paulo Guerrero, the couple’s son who works at the Provincial Capitol of Sultan Kudarat, and Gerril Guerrero, barangay Poblacion Kagawad. As it was a late breakfast time, kalentubo, a Maguindanao rice curry conically wrapped in banana leaf was brought out as well as slices of the red variety of dragon fruit to go with coffee.
The Guerrero Orchard at Purok Lilit is about three minutes travel from downtown passing through barangay Pag-asa. The way is replete with refreshing view of rice fields that would turn into a sea of undulating green and become tinted with yellow as harvest time approaches.
The AG Fruit Farm is a typical “micro farm” with every available space utilized to the maximum so that even standing pruned trees serve as hosts to the clinging cactus. Sharing the area are lime trees, as earlier mentioned. Even cluster of yam are left to grow on their own, as well as, cluster of kangkong for that matter.