VEA BROTHERS. Michael Vincent (left) and Marvin Xavier Vea of Barangay Bagbago, Solsona, Ilocos Norte sell hydroponic lettuce during a Kadiwa trade fair recently at the Laoag City Centennial Arena. To inspire young agripreneurs, the Department of Agriculture is giving start-up capital and other incentives to those who have a promising agri-business venture. (Contributed photo)

LAOAG CITY– Marvin Xavier Vea, 24, and his brother, Michael Vincent, 23 of Barangay Bagbago, Solsona, Ilocos Norte dream of having their own agribusiness while pursuing a career to build roads, bridges, and buildings.

As they work hand-in-hand and step up closer to achieving their dreams—Marvin just took his board examination in civil engineering this week while Michael is currently taking his agriculturist licensure examination in Baguio on Wednesday, the Vea Eco Farm Food Products which they help put up during the pandemic is now gaining ground in the local market for supplying hydroponic lettuce and organic tilapia.

The siblings are both winners of the Department of Agriculture’s Young Farmers Challenge Fund (YFCF) program.

Michael was included in this year's provincial awardees and was granted with at least PHP50,000 start-up capital for his proposed tilapia gourmet with purslane. The award was given on Tuesday.

Marvin, on the other hand, won PHP150,000 at the regional level last year for hydroponic lettuce and organic tilapia production.

Aside from selling fresh lettuce produced in styro cups and organic tilapia which they harvest from their 800-square meter eco-farm in Bagbago village, Marvin said in an interview, they are coming out with value-adding products such as lettuce chips and tilapia gourmet to ensure that nothing is wasted in their chosen line of agribusiness.

Located near the Madongan Dam where tourists flock to swim and go on a picnic, the Vea eco-farm has opened its doors to visitors to pick and pay for lettuce or catch tilapia in the pond.

Marvin said the pandemic has rekindled his family’s interest in agriculture by growing their own food from an idle lot his father inherited.

“Originally, we thought of establishing a fish pond for our own consumption. Through research from the Internet, we tried growing hydroponic lettuce too and the rest is history,” said Marvin who also initiated the construction of a Bali-inspired Kubo where his family and visitors can stay to rest or while feeding the fish and growing lettuce and other herbs.

As a young farmer entrepreneur, Marvin said agro-tourism looks promising in this part of Luzon.

“Farmers should not only learn to produce and lower the cost of production but also learn how to market their products,” he said, as he thanked the Department of Agriculture and other government agencies for initiating various programs to help farmers boost their productivity.

Through the grant of performance challenge fund and marketing assistance, young farmers like him and his brother, are inspired further to dream big as opportunities are boundless to those who work hard to make things happen. (PNA)