“THERE’S big money in the farm,” Ruben Ragas, an agrarian reform beneficiary, declares, brushing aside the notion that farming is all work but promises too little for comfort.

Actually, Ragas feels like he’s still in cloud nine. The native of Barangay Sanghan, Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte had just been conferred with the first runner honor for the “2014 Gawad Pitak Ulirang Magsasaka” that the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) hosted annually in recognition of the significant contributions of farming communities to nation-building.

“Never in my wildest imagination did I entertain any thoughts that my efforts as a farmer would ever be recognized in such a very momentous occasion,” the 43-year-old Ragas says in local dialect.

Ben, as his peers fondly call him, attributed everything that he and his family enjoy to hard work. He is tilling a two-hectare farmlot that was awarded to him under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), something he never expected until a certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) was handed to him in 2006.

He says he proceeds to his farm each morning, feeling great and inspired to work as hard as he could, not wanting to waste the opportunity given to him, which he describes as “once in a lifetime.”

Using diversified farming he learned from various government-sponsored trainings and/or workshops, Ben plants vegetables, such as, eggplant, tomato, bell pepper, ampalaya and okra, and fruit-bearing trees like banana, papaya and mangoes.

To maximize the potential of his farm, he converted a small portion of his farm into a fishpond where he raised fresh water fishes for family consumption. He also allotted another portion for livestock raising, like goats, turkey, ducks and chicken.

“When we don’t have viand, my children just go to the fishpond to catch fish or pick up a chicken or a duck to serve on our dining table,” he says.

“This allows me to feed my family with healthy and organically produced foods, and we still have something for our keeps through the sales of our farm products,” adds Ben, who is married to Fe, 39, with whom he has five children, all are currently going to schools.

Though he refuses to reveal how much he earns, he compares his income to that of a middle-ranking government official, while proudly saying that farming is a noble profession that every farmer should be proud of as it promises so much blessing, as well.

“It’s all about loving the land and working harder for us to savor the fruits of our labor,” he says.