Bantay Kalikasan

Making Farming Cool, Sexy, and Rich

Althea Cahayag
June 21, 2018

According to Bureau of Agriculture Statistics, the average age of Filipino farmers now is 57 years old. When you ask the sons and daughters of farmers, most of them will say they do not want to be a farmer like their parents for there is no money in farming, aside from the pressing issue that the country’s agricultural lands are transformed into residential or commercial lands. This is a saddening scenario when Philippines is considered as an agricultural country and exports its agricultural products around the world.

This is what BantayKalikasan is trying to change. As said by Pia Alexa Pastrana, the Director of By the Sea Hotels, Inc., they want farming to be known as cool, sexy, and profitable, especially to the younger generations. That those students in K to 12 classes will be engaged in agriculture as a business and make it an investment.

Recently, BantayKalikasan, Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corporation popularly known as Fast Cat, and By the Sea Hotels, Inc., signed a memorandum of agreement to develop an eco-tourism site in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. The Victoria Nature Farm is located atBrgy. Bambanin.

An aerial shot of the land where the Victoria Nature Farm will be built.

In collaboration with Agricultural Training Institute – Regional Training Center MIMAROPA and LGU of Victoria, Oriental Mindoro, the Victoria Nature Farm will be a farmer’s learning site aside from being a tourist destination. Fast Cat and By the Sea Hotelsare the main funders of the project while ATI-RTC MIMAROPA will provide the technical know-how on organic farming to the farmer beneficiaries. The LGU will also donate the seeds needed by the farmers.

L-R: Cattleya Victoria (ALKFI-BK Operations Head), Pia Alexa Pastrana (By the Sea Hotels, Inc. Director), Mary Ann Pastrana (Archipelago Philippines Ferries Corporation “Fast Cat” Director), Susan Bautista-Afan (ALKFI Managing Director), Pat Andrew Barrientos (ATI-RTC MIMAROPA Center Director), and Hon. JoselitoMalabanan (Victoria Oriental Mindoro Municipal Mayor) during the MOA Signing

Pat Andre Barrientos, the Center Director of ATI-RTC MIMAROPA pointed out, “Isa pong malakingproblemanakinakaharap ng ating gobyerno na kailangan po nating gawan ng magandang programa ay mapababa po natin iyong ating average age of 57. Gagawa po tayo ng ganitong Farm Tourism Program na kung saanpo ay iyongmga farms ng atingmga farmers whether mahirap, middle man, o mayaman, to engage into farm tourism para po magkaroon po tayo ng mind setting sa mgabata.(One of the biggest problems our government is facing now, is we need to create a good program so we can lower the age of 57, as the average age of our farmers. We will make a farm tourism program where the farms of our farmers, whether they are poor, middle man, or rich, will be engaged to farm tourism so we can also engage and change the mindset of the younger ones.)

“‘Yung tinatawag naming IDOFS or Integrated Diversified Organic Farming System, lahat po doon pwede nating ituro. ‘Yung farmer natin tuturuan nating maging educator sa larangan po ng pag-aalaga ng palay na organiko, pag-aalaga ng mais, pag-aalaga ng isda, pag-aalaga ng gulay, pag-aalaga ng mgababoy; mga herbs o mgapag-aalaga po ng tinatawag nating pagkaing madali nating mai-produce tulad po ng mushroom at paggagawa po ng fertilizer na organic tulad nung Vermi Culture among others,” Barrientos added.(We have IDOFS or Integrated Diversified Organic Farming System that will teach them to be educators in the field of organic farming, may it be raising organic rice, corn, fish, vegetables, livestock and poultry, mushrooms, and fertilizers such as vermi culture among others.)

BantayKalikasan and its partners believe in agri-preneurship or when farmers also become entrepreneurs. According to Barrientos, they have trainedfarmers who now earn more than a hundred thousand pesos for their farms also become a learning site under the assistance program. These farm schools house agriculture students and teach them about organic farming.

Mary Ann Pastrana, the Director of Fast Cat said that they are doing the eco-tourism project because they hope their passengers will not only see the eco-tourism sites where Fast Cat serves, but will also care about the environment. “In Bambanin, Victoria Nature Park, we are excited because it will be a farm school wherein you know, these young students get to learn about organic agriculture. It will be an eco-tourism site where we preserve nature while at the same time our guest will enjoy, learn, relax, and just really enjoy the beauty of Victoria as a town.”

Once the site develops, Pastrana hopes to see rambutans,durians, and mangosteens in the farm. “We must remember that Victoria is the Fruit Basket of Mindoro,” she said. “It is our hope that we let the people see all of the produce of Victoria and let people enjoy it as well.”

Aside from a farm, a farm-to-table restaurant, pool areas and cottages, and souvenir shops will also be built in Victoria Nature Farm for the guests.