Strawberry farm began from just five seedlings

TWO OF THESE A-FRAME COTTAGES are available for visitors who would like to spend an overnight stay at the
farm for just P500 each night..

Cristina Lato Torreda remembers exact when she started her now thriving farm in Yocti, San Andres.
It was on Sept. 25, 2018 when she bought five strawberry seedlings on line and planted it.
“Napadami ko siya hanggang December nang napaabot ko siya ng almost 100,” the founder of Cristina’s
Strawberry Farm told the Tribune in an interview last week.

In the next two years, from 2019 until late 2020, she managed to increase that number to 5,000 pots,
which became the farm’s main source of income.
“Yung market po talaga kumikita ako sa seedlings,” she said. “Hindi lang po Catanduanes ang market ko
kundi nationwide.”
Torreda disclosed that before the pandemic, she was already sending seedlings throughout Luzon,
Visayas and Mindanao.
“May mga umo-order thru online,” she added, saying she used digital, online marketing as it allowed her
to earn even during the pandemic.
She sold the strawberry seedlings for P90 each while those ready for fruiting were offered for P250 each
pot.
By the third quarter of 2020, the farm also had scores of dragon fruit plants and a rosy future that
seemingly stretched into the horizon.
Then super typhoon Rolly struck on Nov. 1, 2020, flattening her plants, destroying the seedling sheds and
forcing her to start anew from scratch.

FROM AN ELEVATED COTTAGE, a visitor looks out at a grassy slope framed into a heart shape by flowering
bushes, with the farm itself sprawling around it.

“Sobrang nakakapanlumo po ang epekto ng Rolly kasi for two years na dinebelop ko yung farm, almost
nasa 400k na ang na-invest ko, nawasak lang in a short span of time,” Cristina recalls.
“Talagang kinapalan ko na yung mukha ako after nung bagyong Rolly para lang makahingi ng tulong,”
she said, adding that after the telecommunications signals were restored, she immediately posted on
Facebook asking for financial support.
She was overwhelmed by the response, as even people she didn’t even know sent her money that soon
reached almost P10,000.
Using this lifeline, she started growing strawberries again until by January, a lot had changed in the farm
with several facilities added.
“Hindi po naging madali bago maka-recover ang strawberries kaya nag-adopt ako ng ibang mga crops na
pwedeng mapagkakitaan nang madali tulad ng leafy vegetables like lettuce at celery, mga herbs and
spices,” Torreda shared.
By February, the farm was almost back to its feet, assisted by some income from visitors during the
holidays who paid entrance fees and bought plants, with the “plantito” craze in vogue then.
Now, she says the farm is 90 percent recovered, a year after the powerful storm devastated the island
province’s southern towns.
With her victory in the regional search for outstanding women farmers, the strawberry farm founder is
Bicol’s entry in the national level where the top prize is P150,000.
She is also one of the province’s three entries in the search for Kabataang Agri-biz Farmers. Having
earned P50,000 each, the young farmers are hoping that they will win at the regional level and grab the
P150,000 cash prize.

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