Farms as tourism sites
Who says agriculture and tourism don’t mix? My family, down to the grandchildren, just spent a refreshing weekend in a farm resort barely 20 minutes from our home in Los Baños in the quiet neighboring town of Pila. It was for us yet another gratifying experience that proves that agriculture and tourism can indeed go together — and in many beneficial ways (more on this below).
Our weekend sojourn at Bali-inspired Dewi Sri Farm was not the first farm tourism experience for the family. Just a few weeks before, we had a similarly enjoyable time at Graco Farm and Leisure, also in Pila. In July, I had a sumptuous dining experience at fellow UP Los Baños alumni Rey and Merlou Quisumbing’s Sayao Farm with its “farm-to-plate” Kan-anan sa Balsa restaurant, south of Pagadian City in the municipality of Kumalarang, Zamboanga del Sur.
These are but three of many family farms that have found a following among tourists, thereby marrying two sectors that are considered among the best drivers of inclusive growth in the economy. Agriculture and tourism, apart from creating jobs for many, both possess wide forward, horizontal and backward linkages to the rest of the domestic economy.
Forward linkages refer to one’s product being used as input by other industries, as when farm products find use as raw materials to food manufacturers and nonfood agricultural product processors (e.g., rubber products), restaurants and hotels. Backward linkages refer to use of other industries’ products as inputs, such as when farmers buy the products of seed producers, or manufacturers and dealers of fertilizer, agricultural chemicals, or farm equipment. Similarly, tourism enterprises such as hotels, resorts and restaurants buy various products needed by their customers like furniture and furnishings, beddings, soaps and toiletries, towels, food, and many more.
Horizontal linkages occur as demand for other related industries’ products and services is created among an industry’s customers, as when tourists buy souvenirs; personal items; medical, health and wellness services; and various pasalubong (gifts to bring home).
Put agriculture and tourism together, and we get a powerful combination of job generation and domestic economic linkages to promote even more widely inclusive growth. The potential impact on the overall domestic economy is thus tremendous.
Agritourism’s benefits go well beyond invigorating the economy. For a grandfather like me, there’s great joy in seeing the grandchildren learn while enjoying playing with and among farm animals like goats, ducks, geese, turkeys, peacocks, rabbits and even ostrich (at Graco). There’s no better way for children (and grown-ups) to learn their science than by actually milking a goat, picking fruits from the tree or vegetables from the stalks, catching fish from a pond, feeding a rabbit or an ostrich, or even riding a carabao-drawn kariton.
As such, young people’s interest in farming can start early, especially at this time when the farmers’ own children are being drawn to white-collar jobs, as many worry about aging farmers and a dwindling successor generation to take their place. Farm tourism, by drawing interest to the farms among young people who did not grow up in one, can help change that.
But these farm tourism sites, and many more like them, are much more than places for a leisurely visit with the family. They are also formal learning centers for grown-ups wishing to learn improved practices in organic or traditional farming. Graco Farms and Leisure is a certified learning site by the Agricultural Training Institute of the Department of Agriculture, for integrated diversified organic farming. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority has accredited Sayao Farm to offer Agricultural Crops Production National Certificate courses. Dewi Sri works with the Departments of Agriculture and Social Welfare and Development as it develops locally suited practices in hydroponics (soilless agriculture) and organic farming.
As for me, I’m happy just watching the grandkids have fun, and savoring Graco’s succulent durian, Dewi Sri’s homegrown nasi goreng, or Sayao Farm’s yummy soft-shell crabs.
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