LAOAG CITY – Oliver Cariaga Millet, 46, of Barangay Nangalisan here has never been happier seeing his papaya plantation burst with fruits while pickers join him with excitement, taking photos here and there.
Sprawled on a less than one hectare lot, Millet's Nangalisan Papaya Farm is being frequented by loyal customers as it is just near the highway when going to the city proper. Other farmers likewise visit him to exchange good agricultural practices from land preparation to selecting good seeds and most importantly, not using harmful chemicals.
For 19 years or from 1995 to 2014, Millet was employed at the provincial government of Ilocos Norte as a computer programming expert. But when his now six-year-old youngest daughter Orivell was born with down syndrome, he decided to become her personal caretaker while his wife, who is also a provincial government employee, continued working
While taking care of Orie (Orivell's nickname), Millet became engrossed in planting papaya and eventually harvested fruits, to his utmost excitement.
Papaya, he said, has become his family's favorite fruit.
“It all started as a hobby but when I saw a papaya producer’s success in YouTube, I was inspired to venture into papaya farming,” he told the Philippine News Agency during a visit to his farm.
Today, Millet calls himself a "papayayo" or papaya grower and farm caretaker, with an 8,800-square meter farm lot that he rents. He said his agricultural venture gives him joy and self-fulfillment in life.
He maintains more or less 600 papaya trees which are on fruiting stage. Others are in plastic mulch and about to bear fruit. Some are on seedbeds being prepared for transplanting in order to have a steady supply all year round.
Other farmers and plant hobbyists also buy seedlings from him for added income.
As one of the largest papaya producers in the province today, Millet said he sells his pesticide-free papaya harvest to the public and private hospitals, public markets, government offices as well as the Ilocos empanada vendors in Laoag and Batac who regularly buy from him at a farm gate price of PHP25 per kilo.
During this time of coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, the former technology geek said he came to realize that sustainable farming is the new norm and the main secret to success in this endeavor is loving what one does and to share it with abundance.
At his Nangalisan Papaya Farm which is just a stone throw away from his residence, loyal customers and traders reach out to him as he produces the best varieties — sweet, virus-resistant and sturdy as a result of good agricultural practices.
When visiting his farm, be ready when he says, “pick at your own risk” with a smile. (PNA)