Four innovative farms in BIMP-EAGA are being promoted as sustainable tourist attractions in the Philippines.
The Department of Tourism recently launched “Future Farms,” a digital campaign to promote farm tourism, which offers pandemic-weary travelers a refreshing environment and new experiences.
Farm tourism is a supplementary activity to farming and provides an additional source of income. It draws visitors with such activities as harvesting fruits and vegetables, feeding and caring for farm animals, fishing, camping, hiking, and sampling local cuisine.
The Philippine tourism department is helping farm owners to innovate and diversify their business by offering food, wellness, and leisure activities to tourists. This enables agri-entrepreneurs to maximize the potential of their land, employ more people, and contribute to the country’s food security.
More than 200 farms have been accredited by the government agency as farm tourism sites as of 2019. In 2020, the Department of Tourism conducted a series of webinars that promoted sustainable farm practices and farm tourism. In the same year, it partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to make farm tourism sites more sustainable and help the tourism industry make a resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, major trends driving recovery in travel and tourism include open-air activities, nature-based products and rural tourism.
There is also a growing movement toward inclusive and sustainable tourism, which favors ecotourism and community-based tourism over mass tourism. This was the broad consensus among tourism leaders who are looking at ways to build back better from the pandemic at a Southeast Asia Development Symposium (SEADS) organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The Future Farms campaign is promoting nine must-see farms across the country, including three in Mindanao and one in Palawan, through social media. The farms were selected based on qualities that make them innovative, progressive, and sustainable.
Taglucop Strawberry Hills is situated 1,200 meters above sea level. The cool weather is ideal for planting strawberries. The farm also grows mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, and other crops.
The owner is an agricultural engineer and practices drip irrigation, hydroponic farming, and other sustainable techniques to save on water and produce quality yields consistently.
Taglucop is not just a farm but also a family-friendly resort that offer tours, strawberry picking, farm-to-table dining, and glamping accommodations in geodesic dome tents. It makes a variety of strawberry products, from ice wine to soap.
Agriya is an 88-hectare agritourism development project. The farm is at the center of a township that features a walkway lined with 67 varieties of bananas, an aquafun lagoon, open spaces where kids can play, and urban gardens.
Visitors can feed farm animals and learn about aquaculture and other farming techniques using sustainable infrastructure.
This farm was developed on barren land where small-scale mining took place. It is now a showcase for permaculture farming, which seeks to create highly efficient self-sustaining ecosystems. Organically grown crops include vegetables, fruits, ornamental plants, herbs, and medicinal plants. Organically raised livestock includes chicken and swine. The farm also makes its own organic fertilizers.
The 7-hectare resort has function halls, cottages, dining facilities, a swimming pool, and other amenities.
Founders of Yamang Bukid started the business producing food supplements using indigenous organic products, primarily turmeric tea. Their desire to spread alternative and science-based farming techniques led them to establish a training center at the farm to promote not just sustainable farming but also agro-tourism. They teach farmers how to produce crops efficiently and turn them into lucrative products.
In 2019, before the pandemic, Yamang Bukid drew more than 250,000 local and foreign visitors, making it one of the more popular destinations in Palawan. Main attractions are the farm’s flower gardens and local delicacies, such as a glutinous rice cake cooked in bamboo and flavored with medicinal herbs.
The farm boasts of 300 employees; most of them used to engage in illegal logging or tree poaching.
The Future Farms campaign also features other farms in Luzon and the Visayas region of the country. These are Diaspora Farm and Resort in Bacolor, Pampanga; Amancio Nicolas Agri-Tourism Academy in Cordon, Isabela; Orchard Valley Farm in Pavia, Iloilo; Vita Isola Leisure Farm in Loon, Bohol; and Damires Hills Tierra Verde in Janiuay, Iloilo.