WHO says farming is never fun? Over 500 farmers and farm enthusiasts, farm owners and workers, local government executives, municipal tourism and agricultural officers, barangay officials, entrepreneurs, community stakeholders, start-up business owners and farmer wannabes from all over the country, plus local and international experts, gathered for three days in Tagaytay to learn from each other and discuss about farm tourism.
Organized by the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) and supported by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the departments of Agriculture (DA), Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Trade and Industry (DTI), the provincial government of Cavite, the municipal government of Tagaytay and the private sector, the three-day confab put the spotlight on the unique fusion of farming and tourism.
This emerging tourism sector takes center stage during the fourth Farm Tourism Conference set at the Summit Ridge Hotel in Tagaytay, from July 14 to 16. The BusinessMirror was invited as media partner, as well as to witness the momentous event and take part in the farm tour of the city. And to say that we rubbed elbows with some millionaires and entrepreneur farmers and farm owners in the country is an understatement.
ISST President Dr. Mina Gabor and her team were ably supported by local and foreign stakeholders, who also served either as resource persons or speakers for the highly successful conference. Among them were Cathy Turvill of Nurture Wellness Village and Robert Yupangco of the Zoomanity Group, two entrepreneurs, who blazed the trail and helped mainstream farm tourism in the country, Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, a panel of experts on honeybee propagation, officers from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), plus local and international experts in the field of agriculture and farming.
Gabor noted that this year’s conference is special because it coincides with the celebration of the FAO International Year of Pulses (or dried beans) that would help heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed toward food security and nutrition.
“Farm tourism attracts visitors and travelers to farm areas, generally for educational and recreational purposes that encourage economic activity to provide farm and community income. It is one of the country’s sunshine industries, which can be developed because of the agricultural nature of the economy,” she noted.
The local government of Cavite, led by Gov. Jesus Crispin Remulla, as well as DOT Region 4A Director Rebecca Villanueva Labit, were thankful for having their province chosen as venue of the fourth edition of farm tourism.
“We thank Dr. Mina Gabor for choosing Region 4A as a venue for this conference for the second time, as we take pride with the initiatives of our private sector and local government units in farm tourism. As far as the Department of Tourism is concerned, the region [Region 4A] has the most number of DOT accredited farm-tourism sites in the country,” Labit said.
Indeed, farms have metamorphosed from being simple plantations to unique travel destinations showcasing the country’s fertile soil where everything can grow. And among the highly successful farms in the region include “Costales Farms in Majayjay, Laguna, the first DOT accredited farm-tourism establishment and the first certified producer of organic pork and processed meat Certified by Negros Island certification; Kahariam Farms in Lipa City, the biggest supplier of vermicast in the country; Moca Family Farms who specializes in small farm management learning and rabbit meat; Forest Wood Farms in San Pablo City offering an extraordinary farm to table dining like no other; Flors Garden in Antipolo City, an integrated farm of organic vegetables and horticulture; Gourmet Farms in Tagaytay City whose farm not only specializes in organic vegetables, but on different varieties of coffee, like arabica, robusta and kapeng barako; Terra Verde Farms in Maragondon, Cavite, an integrated farm and our first RC Resort in the Philippines; Nurture Wellness Village and Amadeo Nurture Farm also in Tagaytay, combining health and wellness spa with organic farming; and Ato Belen, besting itself on orchard farming with a little bit of everything.”
Day Two of the much-anticipated event was devoted to an in-depth discussion on the newly signed Republic Act 10816, known as the Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016, by no less than its author, Villar.
Signed by the former President Benigno S. Aquino III on May 19, the law recognizes that “tourism, coupled with agriculture extension services, can disseminate the value of agriculture in the economic and cultural development of the country.”
Currently, the country has around 100 to 150 farm sites with about 50 of them accredited by the DOT.
Accreditation by the DOT officially recognizes a farm-tourism camp as having complied with the minimum standards for farm tourism. Farms are also assessed by the DA to ensure that the farm engages in organic cultivation to promote health and wellness with high-quality farm-produced food.
Farmers with accreditation are eligible for loans to support research, investment promotion, training for staff and management, and marketing and promotion, among others.
Third day of the confab was the visit to model farms in Cavite, namely, Nurture Wellness Village, The Flower Farm, Paradizoo Residence Inn and Gourmet Farms, to offer participants a firsthand experience on innovative activities and products they offer.
Indeed, the integration of tourism and farming allows more efficient resource utilization, which can provide jobs, increase income, business opportunities and reduce urban migration. With many among the Filipinos, including the millennials, in the recently concluded conference, we can say that farm tourism is fun!
See you again on the fifth farm-tourism edition in Davao next year.