Agritourism, (re)learn from Nature
Why not enjoying a break at the farm between a visit in a handicraft workshop and a bath in crystal clear water at the beach? You still don’t know what peanuts plant look like, how to grow mango trees or avocados, what vermicomposting means or what are the advantages of organic agriculture? But above all, you want to understand how natural farming can help reducing poverty of farmers and their dependence to chemical fertilizers by simple methods inspired by nature? The past few days, we traveled in Guimaras and Negros islands and met an outstanding man and woman who changed their life to promote organic agriculture in the Philippines, respectful towards human and the environment.
During college years, Rose was dreaming of becoming a farmer but to support her family, she conducted business administration studies. When her husband retired from being a pastry chief, working in big hotels in the Philippines and Asia, they went to Guimaras, bought a 7ha hilly field and started producing organic mangoes. Ramon, ambitious foundry manufacturer from Kalibo supplying the mining industry, was hit by the late 90s financial crisis, after having significantly indebted its company. Discovering vermicomposting, he developed a shredder coupled with a training service for farmers which is revolutionizing the agriculture for small farmers in the Philippines.
Both of them are dedicating their new life to promote natural farming by making their respective farm a training centre and a demo-farm to showcase the success of this specific type of agriculture. Professionals and individuals can discover natural methods to become independent of chemical fertilizers, indexed to oil price. Particularly, vermicomposting: Rose uses it as her only fertilizer. Ramon made his new activity out of it. Briefly, vermicomposting consists of worms who digest biowastes and make compost from it: 1kg of worms eats 1kg of “food” resulting in around 600g of compost. And Ramon recalls: worms are like industrious and un-unionized volunteers which become 30 times more numerous in a period of six months.
While we are visiting the Guimaras Wonders farm, where mango trees grow aside eggplants, beans, pumpkins, as well as cows, pigs and hens, Rose explains us her special recipe of a natural pesticide/fungicide: a mix of beer, gin, garlic and ginger, fermented, diluted and spread on mango trees and other plants. While we are visiting the May’s Garden in an electric cart (thermal-energy supplied), Ramon tells us he is continuously learning from the farmers he is serving. Regular experience and knowledge sharing meetings are organized between its clients. He told us that a farmer from Mindoro managed to avoid a rat infestation without using chemical fertilizers, unlike the surrounding fields all devastated by the animal; he just used the vermicompost which had a similar smell to the snakes’ , harsh predators of rats.
Vermicomposting, mango flowering or eggplant’s growing are not really our hobby. But walking around in the farm, discovering how peanuts and other plants look like, learning stories about agriculture development and natural alternatives inspired by biomimetism (imitation of nature), particularly the fact that any waste can be a resource, raised our interest.
Discovering the experience of these two outstanding personalities, their passion, how they changed their life and farmers’, was an enriching experience. They offered them opportunities to raise their income, while avoiding threatening practices, stuck in the mind of farmers for more than 50 years. It is worth the trip, before sunbathing on a pristine beach.
These two initiatives share one common characteristic with many projects we discovered along our trip. Tourism was not really planned and came after, as a result of the dedication of the entrepreneurs and the awareness of their work. While the activities of Ramon cover the demo-farm, his foundry providing his services in 3000 barangays, the EcoAgri foundation in which he donates 10 million pesos, and Fresh Start, an organic products’ company, the farm of Rose is only operating on a small scale. However, like us, you can visit the Guimaras Wonders farm, share with Rose about her passion, and taste a (organic!) fresh fruit shake. Like us, you can have a walk in May’s Garden in Kalibo, learn the story of the place, eat in the organic restaurant, sleep in the resort, or paddle on the lake in a swan (unlike us).