The coronavirus crisis is literally turning out to be a test of one’s strength. And this is not just in conducting business but especially on the personal front as well. With months of quarantine and practicing safety protocols at home and outdoors, the key to surviving is also eating healthy, exercising and doing all we can to stay mentally steady.
With the eased quarantine in the metro and the efforts of government agencies like the Department of Tourism and the Department of Trade and Industry, agricultural products and artisanal food items are made more available through pop-up physical bazaars in malls and through online stores. This is such a boost for our small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).
The Department of Agriculture continues to report that our Filipino farmers are ageing, with the average age as 57 and with the assumption that the average life span of Pinoys is 70 years old. This means that in a few years, we’ll have a shortage of farmers as the younger generation are migrating in urban centers to reach dream jobs in offices, commercial centers, or factories.
But there’s some good sunshine that’s somehow lightening up this pandemic — one that’s a quantum leap above the sweet plantita and plantito phenomenon. On social media feeds, the farm-fresh items that have become inaccessible due to various stages of lockdowns have been made within reach by passionate millennial entrepreneurs who bring in a new face to agriculture with their savviness in technology and digital transformation.
Hopefully, this could finally be a shift in everyone’s mindset as this generation of entrepreneurs know the importance of nurturing communities who need to connect with their food and of taking good care of their farmers as fellow stakeholders to truly make the farm business thrive. After all, agriculture is the foundation of our economy. Our rich natural resources are essential in infusing capital for industries.
How refreshing, for instance, to see entrepreneurs like Justin Gatmaitan of Gatty’s Fruit Farm feeding our Instagram with enticing photos of happy harvests from his family’s farm in Davao and Quezon.
From sweet pomelos, durian fruits of all kinds and beautifully shaped dragon fruits to raw wild honey and native chocolates, Gatty’s Fruit Farm truly energizes not just one’s quarantined body but also offers cheer to hungry minds awaiting the end of this pandemic.
In a phone interview, 32-year-old Justin expresses that sense of positivity and verve so important in growing businesses. A self-confessed people kind of person, Justin says his business has also been challenged, of course, but he was able to bounce back with the help of e-commerce, studying the market, “a lot of hard work” and, of course, sincerity.
On starting young, his other hustles and advice to newbie entrepreneurs, here’s our interview with Justin.
How did you get into this kind of enterprise?
I started selling the fruits of my dad in the village Saturday market in high school. My first ever work experience. Started my first business after I graduated as an independent distributor of Nu Skin Enterprises, a skin care and health care company. Learned lots of my business skillset from that one and applied it to the farm to adapt to the digital trend.
How has the farm been since the pandemic? What challenges did you face during this period?
The farm, growth wise, has been standard. The crops in season are blooming and fruiting as scheduled. Major challenge for us is definitely logistics as we opted to sell our fruits in nearby markets instead of bringing them in to Manila. The different rules of quarantine across area borders is too risky and was too much of a hassle for us to push a shipment to Manila. Flights from Davao to Manila are hard too making cargo queues long with a higher risk of spoilage.
What harvests have you been producing and are selling now?
We’ve been selling our Longkong Lanzones and Durian in Davao and our papayas in Quezon province. We sell our packed goods here in Manila, our cacao products and honey which we ship nationwide.
What preparations did you go through to run Gatty’s Fruit Farm?
I’ve been in business for 10 years now since I started distributing Nu Skin in 2010. The business experience, discipline and life lessons you learn along the way molds you to the person you are now. The biggest help would be the business, people and communication skills I learned through my 10 years partnering with Nu Skin alongside the discipline I got from being a student athlete (in De La Salle University) up until college playing football.
What’s your advice for those who want to start an enterprise like Gatty’s Fruit Farm?
Just do it. Start a business. Get out of your comfort zone. Take that risk and take action.
During this pandemic, what are you learning about the business and about yourself as a business leader?
All challenges are opportunities to grow. Learn how to pivot and adapt because if there’s a will, there’s a way.
And as an entrepreneur: Stay positive at all times. Stick with the positive and stay away from the negative. Been applying this for most of my life and amidst these troublesome times its a good reminder to keep at it.
What makes getting into a farm business fulfilling? And how can you inspire other people of your generation to get into the farming business?
Personally, I just love connecting people. I find joy in that. Even if there is no profit to gain, I do it all the time, sharing good information about what I enjoy or discover. Like sharing your favorite restaurant or movie or favorite video game.
I would probably say entrepreneurship as a whole is fulfilling. It’s an enabler and an equalizer. You can do a lot of great things if you put your mind to it. You can take control of your life. You can make an impact. You can lead others by leading yourself first.