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Brewing change: A young lad's impact on Sultan Kudarat’s coffee farming

Before devoting himself to coffee planting and production, Denz Bert Deramos acknowledges that coffee may generate significant returns by taking strategic risks and working hard.

However, Deramos does not focus solely on financial gain. His larger goal is to influence and uplift other farmers in Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat. Many coffee farmers in his municipality still struggle with both poverty and a lack of familiarity with sustainable coffee production techniques. Deramos is bent on changing that over the long haul.

Deramos studied Marketing Management at Notre Dame of Marbel University, where he began selling coffee in 2020 as part of a requirement for an entrepreneurship class.

For his Entrepreneurial Track subject, Deramos decided to focus on coffee as his business instead of doing the usual on-the-job training. During a presentation for his entrepreneurship class, he presented a business plan centered around coffee.

Among the judges was Kenneth Clint Bajade, a Q Arabica Grader from South Cotabato province. Impressed by Deramos' potential, Bajade encouraged him to fully pursue coffee farming and production. With the support and collaboration of Master Roaster and Farm Technician Denis Cocoba, Deramos embarked on his journey into the world of coffee.

The young lad totally committed himself to coffee production after graduating in 2022, specializing in both commercial coffee and fine Robusta. At just 23, he made the fearless choice to launch his own coffee business rather than pursue the conventional career path like many of his peers. Deramos, who was eager to establish himself in the coffee industry, decided to pursue entrepreneurship rather than the stability of a permanent job.

At first, Deramos was interested in sports. However, he later discovered the value of coffee farming and its potential to improve not only his own life but also the lives of others in his town.

"Farming has always been a part of my life. I grew up helping my father on the farm and fell in love with the work. For me, farming is more than just a way to make a living - it's a path to achieving my dreams,” Deramos said.

Initially, Deramos sold commercial-grade coffee with his classmates as resellers for distribution. After attending various coffee trainings and receiving mentorship from Bajade and Cocoba, he expanded his business to include specialty coffee.

The Traditional Way of Coffee Farming

Harvesting coffee was no easy feat for Deramos. He needed to use a ladder to get to the ripe cherries since the coffee trees around his property and other places had gotten so tall. Deramos meticulously picked only the reddest cherry, assisted by other farm workers. He persevered in the face of many challenges and was able to gather more than 130 kg of fresh cherries in a single day. 

"It's disheartening to see the traditional farming methods still in use in our town. Many farmers don't practice sustainable agriculture, and their coffee trees grow too tall. The lack of knowledge about proper care and maintenance of coffee trees makes harvesting and processing a challenge.”

Deramos candidly admitted that in the past, he and his family neglected their coffee farm due to a lack of knowledge about proper care and maintenance. Without the necessary expertise, they were unable to fully realize the potential of their land.

“In the past, we only checked and cleaned our coffee farm three times a year. But now, we've stepped up our game. We perform monthly care and maintenance to ensure that our coffee trees are healthy and thriving."

Deramos practices integrated farming by using banana plants to provide shade for his coffee plants. He earns a weekly income from selling bananas and also raises pigs. This diversification helps support his coffee farm.

Deramos also draws inspiration from his fellow coffee farmer and trader, Rey John Basco, and his efforts to produce high-quality coffee. Despite his youth, Basco has already made a significant impact on the region's coffee industry.

Another challenge that the young farmer faces is that most coffee farmers in his town are skeptical of his advice due to his lack of experience. He has yet to demonstrate that his farming techniques can increase productivity on their farms.

“It's difficult to convince them to follow my advice because I have yet to prove that my techniques can lead to success in coffee farming. Many still hold onto the belief that seeing is believing," said Deramos.

Other coffee farmers do not believe him because he is young and has not yet proven himself. Instead of just telling them what to do, he showed them the results.

On joining coffee competitions and exhibitions

Deramos, who had received encouragement from his mentors, joined the 2023 Kape Dose Coffee Quality Competition and finished fifth in the fine Robusta category. This achievement marked his first significant progress as a newcomer in the coffee industry.

“To maintain consistent quality, I follow the techniques I learned from my mentors and coffee trainings. I also innovate to improve my coffee production,” he said.

Deramos's Robusta coffee was showcased alongside other Philippine coffee products at the 2023 Specialty Coffee Expo in Portland, Oregon. He got the top spot for the best Fine Robusta.

"I was pleasantly surprised when my coffee received high marks. I simply followed the advice of my mentors," he said.

He regularly participates in various coffee competitions and exhibitions to ensure that the quality of his coffee remains consistently high.

Deramos is passionate about sharing his knowledge with those who are eager to learn. He emphasizes that taking the right actions is crucial for achieving good results and that the results will speak for themselves.

“It's easier to encourage other coffee farmers when you can show them results. Without tangible evidence, it's difficult to convince them to adopt quality coffee farming practices,” Deramos said.

"What sets us apart is our ability to control the quality of our coffee because we have our own farm. Even if we don't come out on top, as long as our coffee is high-quality and valuable, I'll do my best to produce quality beans,” he added.

Deramos's mentors advised him to set realistic goals for himself and to go slowly rather than aim too high too soon. This move has helped him stay grounded and focused on his desired path, even when he has already achieved initial success.

“My hope is to inspire the new generation of coffee farmers to take an active interest in our town's coffee industry. By adopting new farming technologies, we can work together to improve farm productivity and ensure a bright future for our community."

"If you have a goal and a passion for farming, don't give up on it,” he said. (Genory Vanz Alfasain/Soccsksargen Coffee Council/PIA SarGen)

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Harlem Jude Ferolino

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