Thursday, January 26, 2012

Natural Farming with Andry Lim

Last Sunday, the Bohol Coco Farm sponsored a talk on Natural Farming.  The owners, Efren de Guzman and his wife Julia, had Andry “Less is More” Lim flown in from Davao, the country’s guru of Natural Farming and recipient of the 2009 Secretary of Agriculture Awardee for Outstanding Organic Agriculture Initiative (Individual Advocate Category).

And just what is natural farming? It is farming without the use of any chemicals, only natural elements that promote the growth of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil.  The concept is to feed the soil in order to generate healthy plants.  Thus, whatever crops you plant in this kind of soil will grow with the right amount of nutrients and resistant to diseases to boot.  And when we consume healthy, nutritious, and chemical-free plants, vegetables, and fruits, we consequently become stronger and healthier as well.

During last Sunday’s talk, Andry mentioned the Marcos administration’s aggressive promotion of the so-called “Green Revolution,” inspired by American farming techniques.  And that the fertilizer of choice in the Philippines became the American-produced Urea, which according to Andry, is technically petro-based.  Among its adverse effects: a bag of which produces a three-car emission as it also destroys the soil.  Sadly, many farms in the Philippines still operate using this fertilizer.

Natural farming essentially stemmed from organic farming, but unlike the latter, natural farming strictly uses folia fertilizer (derived from plants and vegetables).  Organic farming uses some chemicals.

Andry also cited the low cost/high yield value of natural farming: a farmer can harvest 100 cavans of rice per hectare at a cost of 5,000 pesos or less.  This translates to 3 pesos/kilo (production cost) that yields a 12 pesos/kilo selling price.  To top it off, natural farming is environment-friendly, more beneficial and less negative, and supports a balanced ecosystem.

Andry Lim learned all about the merits of natural farming way back in the late 90s while he was working for a tribal mission foundation that conducted community development activities among the tribes in Mindanao, helping them earn a living.  He had the good fortune of attending a seminar on natural farming in 1997 conducted by Dr. Cho Hayn Yu, a Korean natural farming expert who was invited to Davao by a Korean missionary.  He was then able to apply such new-found knowledge when he took over the management of his family’s run-down farm –– Helen’s Farm in Joaquin Biao, Calinan district, Davao City.

Andry Lim described it as a run-down 30-hectare farm due to more than two decades of continued use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The soil had become acidic and the cacao trees that were about 20 years old had become sickly. The trees had few small yellowish leaves and they yielded very few fruits, most of them damaged by pod borers. The soil was virtually dead because the beneficial microorganisms had been killed by the chemicals.  Rehabilitating the sickly cacao trees was a big challenge that Andry faced right from the start. But he was undaunted. He was very confident that the techniques he had learned from Dr. Cho would work. And he was right.

He produced his own fermented fruit and plant juices (FFJ and FPJ), fish amino acid (FAA) and oriental herbal nutrient (OHN). He mixed the different fermented juices and added two tablespoons to a liter of water. He sprayed this on the sickly cacao trees once a week. After just two weeks, Andry said that new leaves had come out. Not long after, profuse flowers followed.

Eventually, the trees became healthy and productive – the leaves were big and glossy, while the trees yielded fruits virtually throughout the year. Even as the fruits were maturing on the trunks and branches, new flowers kept on coming out.  The trees have become very robust, which provided two profitable peak harvest seasons during the year. During November to December and April to May, he harvested an average of 200 kilos of wet beans every two weeks. During what he called the off-season months, the average harvest was 150 kilos of wet beans every two weeks.

In addition, also using the natural farming way, Andry grew a lot of high-value vegetables in another part of the farm, such as lettuce, spring onion, spinach, celery, eggplant, ampalaya, beans, tomato and many others.  The garden beds as well as the plants were sprayed with his own concoctions of beneficial microorganisms. Decomposed leaves of leguminous plants were also incorporated to enrich the soil.

Andry staggered his planting of the different varieties so that he had a continuous supply of the right quantity at the right time. He practiced crop rotation to avoid buildup of insects and disease organisms. He grew plants that repel insects together with the main crop of vegetables. Mint and lemongrass are two such plants that repel insects.  He planted a row of leguminous shrubs along the edges of the garden plots. The purpose is to prevent erosion of the planting beds. Another of his purpose was to have rich leafy twigs ready for use as green manure. Some may also be harvested to feed livestock on the farm.

He also started a piggery that was operated the natural farming way – about 800 pigs – which did not produce the familiar foul odor that would usually warrant a Barangay invitation instigated by irate neighbors. The pigs were not given any baths throughout their life; neither the pigpens were washed – a tremendous savings on water bill. 

Instead of the usual cement floor found in commercial piggeries, the pigpens were excavated one meter deep then filled with a mixture of sawdust, clean soil and a little salt. To be more specific, for every 10 sacks of sawdust, 5 sacks of soil and one kilo of salt are mixed together. The mixture served as the bedding that absorbed the manure as well as the urine of the animals.  Just the same, the pigs were raised the natural farming way.

The pigpens did not have the usual foul odor because Andry also applied his concoctions of indigenous microorganisms (IMO) that he used in his cacao and other crops. He explained that the bad bacteria that cause the bad smell are suppressed by the beneficial microorganisms.  

The technique: while the pigpen is new, the bedding is sprayed with the IMO every week for the first few months. After that, spraying is done only once or twice a month.  In other words, the pigpens are ‘infected’ with beneficial indigenous micro-organisms right from the start to kill the harmful bacteria. As opposed to the ordinary piggery, the pigpens are ‘disinfected’ with chemicals that kill both the bad and the good microorganisms.

Andry’s pigs were fat and contented even though they were fed only once a day with his own feed formulation. The pigs did not get excited when visitors arrive. They were relaxed on their comfortable beds, albeit the piglets were playful, some burrowing in the bedding. Andry explained that by burrowing in the bedding, both the piglets and the mature ones get the minerals they needed for their good health.  Hence, no need for injecting or vaccinating the pigs with veterinary drugs.  Instead of antibiotics, Andry used in his own feed formulation the various fermented extracts that he and his wife Joji concocted.

His feed formulation: for every 100 kilos of rice bran, he added 50 kilos of cracked yellow corn, 10 kilos of soya meal (5 kilos if for young pigs), 5 kilos copra meal and 3 kilos salt. To these, he also added 2 to 3 liters of fermented fruit juice and plant juice, 2 liters of fish amino acid, and one liter each of oriental herbal nutrient and lactic acid bacteria serum. He also mixed in 2 to 3 kilos of powdered coconut shell charcoal to help prevent diarrhea.

During that time, Andry’s feed costs only 15 pesos/kilo compared to the usual 27 pesos/kilo of the commercial feeds in the market. That was the reason why his cost of production per kilo live weight was a third less than the cost of commercial formulations.

Andry fed his pigs with his formulation at four o’clock in the afternoon. Those that are two to three months old were given a kilo while the bigger ones are fed 2.5 kilos each. Before that, at 3 p.m., the pigs were fed about a kilo each of green feeds that include what was usually known as Madre de Agua, ornamental peanut, Flemingia, Rensonii and many others. The more varied the green feed, the better because they contain different nutrients. Some have herbal attributes while others were high in protein and other nutrients. All these green forage crops were grown on the farm in combination with other crops.

It took about four to five months for the fatteners to reach market size of 80 kilos each. While Andry’s production cost was much lower than most other commercial hog growers, he sold his pork at P10 per kilo higher than the conventionally produced pork. He had no problem selling his pork in the supermarket owned by his family. He usually slaughtered 12 heads per week but he eventually doubled it due to increased demand for his naturally farmed pork.

Related links:

* * *

Comparative analysis on various farming techniques in the Philippines


Conventional: This system uses the commercially produced fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, feeds, antibiotics, etc.

Organic:  This system uses organically produced fertilizers as the means of fertilizing the soil.  Pesticides and fungicides are also applied only when needed.

Natural:  This system brings the soil and environment back to its original form where nature works for the production of its needs.


Conventional: On horticulture, the first few years, profit is high.  But with the continued use of chemical inputs on commercial fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides, the soil’s nutrients become degraded so that its profits goes down at the same time.  For livestock, profit is very slim due to high capitalization.

Organic: Profit can be high but can be eaten up by the high amount of inputs.

Natural:  For horticulture, the profit is high and will increase yearly.  For livestock, profit is also high due to low labor requirement and low consumption of feeds.


Conventional:  On horticulture, during the first few years, the production is high but as soil becomes degraded, production goes down as well.  For livestock, production is good, but its life span is short.

Organic:  Low and slow.

Natural:  Production is high and increases yearly.


Conventional:  For horticulture, it destroys the soil and environment.  For livestock, it is very slim and fragile.

Organic:  Can’t sustain for the next generation.

Natural:  Can be beneficial for the many generations to come.

 * * *

Andry Lim

Julia de Guzman of Coco Farm

Efren de Guzman of Coco Farm

The Bohol Coco Farm will be conducting a 3-day 
Natural Farming Seminar 
with Andry Lim as resource speaker 
on February 28, 29 and March 1
from 8am to 9pm.  

Besides the essential application of natural 
farming on horticulture and animal 
husbandry, attendees will be introduced 
to various herbal healing techniques 
by using indigenous plants and vegetation.

For further details, contact:
Efren de Guzman of Coco Farm: 0926-444-6186
Andry Lim: 0917-705-1008

* * *

Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!



  1. great info. Organic farming is so huge nowadays coz people are scared of pesticides. Problem is sometimes we can't be sure if the ones sold as organic ( which are pricier) are really organic ! But as they say, - you can be deceived if you trust too much but will live in torment if you don't trust enough- :) If I want organic I only go to reputable supermarkets.

    1. Natural farming is even better than organic, BW. Organic resorts still to pesticide and fungicide at certain cases.

      But what troubles me with the organic/natural produce is that there is really no need to jack up the prices, albeit some farmers do take advantage of supply and demand. Technically, it is cheaper to farm with natural and organic methodologies.

  2. I would have enjoyed listening to this talk - lots of information!

    Thanks for linking up with Rural Thursday :-)

    1. Hi Lisa! I plan to attend this 3-day seminar and I intend to share whatever insight I gain on this matter with Rural Thursday.

  3. Natural farming must be very challenging. I'm not sure it would catch on here in the U.S., due to the use of biotech seeds. A very interesting article.

    Thanks so much for sharing at Rural Thursdays! :)

    1. My pleasure Nancy! As I've said, I do intend to share with Rural Thursday whatever insight I gain from this seminar.

      I'm assuming at this point that the methodology is more on using what is available in a given area.

  4. I thought this was very interesting. I would love to be able to make my farm more natural. It's very difficult while I'm still paying it off with a government held loan. Once the farm is truly mine, I do plan on practicing more earth friendly agricultural practices.

    1. Hi edenhills!

      I will share by posting any new information as I gather them about natural farming.

      Good luck and God bless on your farming endeavor :)