If Baguio has “La Presa,” Bukidnon has Alomah.
Alomah is a gem of a two-hectare farm in Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. It takes around an hour to get there from Cagayan de Oro City, but the long trip is worth it as Alomah embodies countryside ambiance, replete with rolling verdant hills, pristine cool waters, and robust, regal horses.
Visitors often ask what “Alomah” means. The name, according to Benjohn Mahistrado, could be an acronym for “A Love of (Mountains) and Horses” or “A Look of (sic) Man’s Agricultural Haven.” But Alomah is actually a combination of the couple’s surnames, Alombro (for Grace) and Mahistrado. Both had farmer-parents who served as their major influences in farming.
In their early beginnings, they literally had nothing but dreams. They worked for a contract grower of pigs for Monterey for 15 years. It was during those times that they absorbed knowledge and information like sponge. They put their minds into whatever they saw as a learning opportunity.
According to Grace, the evolution of Alomah came about from the demands and opportunities presented by walk-in patrons. It started out as a passion in 2010 and the idea of earning big was far from the couple’s minds.
“In 2012, six batches of Girls Scouts of the Philippines (totalling about 100) came here. The coordinator found our place ideal for camping and demonstration of survival lessons,” she recalled. In 2014, Alomah commercially opened to the public after gradual development under the auspices of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI). Now, they are slowly becoming a farm-tourism destination.
Before Alomah was established, Benjohn was already business savvy. The couple went full time into farming after seeing the opportunities presented during exposure trips and training sessions they attended, which they enjoyed when their farm was accredited as an ATI Learning Site.
Some of the farming innovations that they are into are soil conservation (riprap), edible landscaping, and container gardening for potted herbs and potted lettuces. Their regular patrons are families and friends wanting a respite from everyday life in the city.
In Alomah, the main crop is lettuce. In 2013, the demand for lettuce was so high that the couple decided to keep up and meet the challenge head on. They are the first and only farm to produce organically grown lettuce in their community. The varieties they plant year-round are Romaine, Green Leaf, and Red Leaf, and these are the farm’s main staples at major trade fairs and agrievents the couple attends within Region 10.
Alomah’s edge over other farms is their readily available vegetable salad with a dressing that Grace formulated, and herb tea to promote good health and well-being.
For promotion and marketing, the couple rely on word-of-mouth. For now, they can cater to one to three groups consisting of 10 to 15 persons at the same time, having built two training halls. They have also built additional cottages for overnight accommodation. It is during weekends and holidays like Holy Week that they are fully booked.
Going the Distance
Now that things are going their way, the couple was right all along in “shifting passion to attraction” and turning their zeal for farming and good food into an enterprise.
With their growing popularity and influence, they took to heart their social responsibility as communal farmers by reaching out and generating employment. They even encouraged other farmers to engage in backyard gardening. They put effort in educating consumers and wholesale buyers about their produce and the organic way of farming.
Occasionally, they offer free farm tours to farmer colleagues. Benjohn is currently president of the civic work group KALINDA (Kalugmanan, Lindaban, Dahilayan) Irrigators’ Association. This keeps him busy and in touch with neighboring communities in addition to his daily farming engagements.
Future development plans for Alomah include a spa and wellness center, a restaurant using its own fresh produce, and a regular horse show—born out of the couple’s shared love for horses. Trophies belonging to them and their children from various horse competitions adorn the Training Hall.
The legacy they want to leave behind and be remembered by is for serving the freshest vegetable salad and herb tea in Bukidnon.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2018 issue.