In 1987, Carlito and Julieta Alfonso, newly married and with a first baby on the way, only had a small piece of farm land and a hundred pesos to build a life on.
Almost three decades later, they managed to parlay what little they had into more than 20 hectares of land, a growing herd of more than 30 purebred dairy buffaloes, and a handsome investment in crops.
Their buffalo portfolio also garnered them respect from their fellow dairy buffalo farmers and for Carlito, the distinction of being a two-time “best dairy buffalo farmer” awardee, a recognition granted him by the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC).
Now with three grown-up children, the Alfonso couple looks back on their long and hard climb towards where they are now, standing on the apex of success.
Marrying while still in college, the couple from San Jose City, Nueva Ecija ventured into agriculture as means of livelihood to support their family.
“We really had no capital to invest in a business. We only had a small piece of land that Carlito inherited from his parents. We planted it with onions,” Julieta recalled.
Fortunately for them, the first batch of onions turned in a good profit, which they used as additional capital to rent a bigger farm land. Thus began a cycle that lasted for several years.
“We would borrow money from other people and invest it in rice and onions. We were really lucky that our consecutive harvests turned in big profits. We used our earnings to buy small pieces of land, save some in the bank, and pay our debts,” she added.
Eventually, they were able to gradually acquire a respectable number of hectares of land.
After years of hard work and a determined effort to better their lives, Carlito and Julieta were able to slowly rise from virtually nothing and transform themselves into successful farmer-entrepreneurs.
From a small nipa house, they were able to build a new, bigger dwelling. They also made it a point to continue their studies and finish college. Moreover, they invested on various farm machineries and equipment and kept a growing bank account.
“Businessizing” the carabao
In 2007, the couple decided to expand their business and foray into carabao-raising. Carlito was already a member of the Eastern Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative (EPMPC), which was then a fast-growing dairy cooperative in their area.
“We heard stories of farmers in our area with thriving dairy carabao business,” Julieta shared.
To get things started, Carlito bought three purebred dairy buffaloes as initial stock, which grew when he became a beneficiary of the PCC’s 25-cow module program.
“We were granted seven purebred dairy buffaloes under the PCC’s animal loan scheme,” Carlito recalled. Two of the loaned animals went to his eldest son, Herson, who had decided to follow in his parents’ footsteps.
Applying the same vigor they demonstrated in their rice and onion farming, the couple and their son took dairy carabao-raising to heart, learning the tricks of the trade and applying technologies that would help improve their new venture.
With Carlito taking the lead, the family continued to expand their herd. They bought additional buffaloes from other dairy farmers using the proceeds from their milk sales. Sometimes, they also sell male calves for additional income.
In 2011, Carlito suffered a heart stroke, which left him partially disabled and unable to undertake heavy farm work. His son Herson took over the reins of their dairy business. He now owns three buffaloes, aside from those belonging to the family.
The Alfonsos are usually the top buffalo milk producer in their cooperative since they have the largest herd. With the raw milk priced at Php42 per liter, which they sell to the EPMPC, they once earned an income of Php60,000 in one month.
The success of the family in dairying did not go unnoticed. In 2011, Carlito was adjudged by the PCC as the “Best Dairy Buffalo Farmer” under the small-hold category. In 2014, he got the same award, this time under the commercial category after his herd grew to 32 animals.
Prior to his stroke, Carlito was also tapped to extend his leadership abilities as chairman of the EPMPC from 2009 to 2011.
“It was probably because of our family’s diligence in taking care of our carabaos and in our farming business that brought us to where we are now,” Carlito said.
Julieta and their son Herson, also an EPMPC member, are mainly in-charge of the whole business but even with his illness, Carlito still monitors it.
“We intend to further expand our herd,” Carlito revealed. Julieta added that they used the cash prize that came with the award from PCC to put up additional pens for the carabaos.
“We want PCC to see where we are spending the money,” she declared.
The Alfonso family has come a long way indeed and can now lay a claim on success. Not surprisingly, though, they see this as an added challenge to work even harder and continue to grow the business that nurtures their family.