Mary Ann Cogollo, 57, faced a lot of hurdles before she successfully developed her flower farm that has multiplied into three separate sites. Out of a love for plants and flowers, Cogollo established a farm and named it Dafalongs Flower Farm. The name “Dafalongs” was coined by her priest friends, and means “dapa ilong” or flat nose in Hiligaynon.
From being an educator, she now runs her three gardens full time. Cogollo took a rest from teaching due to an ectopic pregnancy and used the time to develop the property that her parents gave her.
“They were actually worried if we will stay at this place because at that time, it’s just the house and cogon grasses all over. No electric current, no water source, and few motorbikes are passing by our area,” said the farmer. When Cogollo saw the lot, she knew that there could be more to it than just cogon grass. “From the moment I saw the place, I remembered I smiled; there’s an instant connection,” she added.
Her late parents were both farmers. At 12, she helped in the farm and worked as a ‘kabo,’ a person who helps people in the sugarcane and rice fields. Her mother used to collect orchids as well, which is what influenced her love for plants, particularly for flowers.
In the beginning, she planted veggies and fruit-bearing trees, but she eventually filled the garden with flowers. “I plowed the place with the help of Rudy, a farmworker who’s raising our carabaos. From there, I started planting ‘tam-is’ (a variety of yam), gabi, and kamote. My husband used to fetch water 220 meters away from our house every day in the late afternoon,” said Cogollo.
A DREAM VENTURE
15 years ago, she had to expand her garden due to the growing number of propagated plants at home, so she established Dafalongs Flower Farm with the primary goal to provide a livelihood to mothers and wives in the community.
When asked what it was like when she was starting, she answered that it was tough because aside from limited resources, it was not an ideal location for a business; her gardens are distant from the city and national roads. The inaccessibility made her doubt the capabilities of the gardens.
There are days when there was no income from them, but the farmer didn’t stop and continued propagating. She attended flower shows and established good rapport with other gardeners who eventually bought plants from her. She also used her skills to style for events like fiestas, graduations, and weddings in their municipality.
Cogollo got the motivation to try landscaping as well after she attended a landscaping class together with her friends in Iloilo. Now, she doesn’t need to worry if the plants are not sold because she can use them for her landscaping projects. The income during the early days of the garden was R5000 per week, which eventually increased through the support of other gardeners and farmers from different regions.
A FLOWER ENTHUSIAST
Some of her first flowers were orchids, roses, petunias, and hydrangeas. Cogollo used to ask for orchids from her mother so she had something to put in her garden and fast forward to now, she’s the one giving and selling flowers and plants to others as her garden blossoms with thousands of them.
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