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PSIA VP Julius Barcelona in Manila Bulletin's "What’s Now, What’s New, What’s Next in Agriculture"

Julius Barcelona: A dignified society for the Filipino farmer

Farmers are among the most marginalized sectors in the country. Their crucial role in feeding the Filipinos is often overlooked and taken advantage of, thus giving a negative connotation to farming that’s being passed on from generation to generation.

This is what Julius Barcelona, executive assistant at the family-run Harbest Agribusiness Corporation, aims to correct. “I want to leave this life having contributed to a society of dignified life for the Filipino farmer, free from hunger, fear, and social injustice,” Barcelona said.

Barcelona is the son of Arsenio “Toto” Barcelona, a man who has contributed a lot to Philippine agriculture. Inspired by his father’s attitude towards farming, Barcelona also aims to raise awareness of how farming is an honorable job that puts food on our plates.

“We treat agriculture like a welfare service and turn farmers into pity-porn. In doing so, we strip farmers of their dignity, and no one wants to work in a profession that people view as undignified,” he said.

The right way to look at farming, according to Barcelona, is to treat agriculture for what it actually is: “a vibrant and incredible world of new frontiers to explore, problems to discuss, and solutions to create.”

Despite his knowledge and experience in farming, Barcelona admits that he has a long way to go before he can say that he has succeeded in the industry. But as he works with farmers and biostimulants, he finds small achievements worth striving for.

“We had two research trials, one in Ilocos Sur and one in Quezon. The farmer in Ilocos Sur planted eggplants that were devastated by typhoon Ompong, while the farmer in Quezon planted papaya that was blanketed by ashfall from the Taal eruption. Yet to their surprise, the crops that were being treated with our biostimulants actually regrew from what looked like near-death, and they were able to harvest these crops and profit while their fellows were forced to replant,” he shared.

Should these results be replicated into other crops, Barcelona notes that private Filipino farmers will be equipped with disaster resiliency, as the Philippines is prone to calamities such as typhoons, earthquakes, and the occasional volcanic eruptions.

Since the fate of the agriculture industry falls into the hands of the next generation, Barcelona recognizes their potential in creating that society he envisions and to tackle the many issues of agriculture that exist today. (Patricia Bianca S. Taculao)

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