By Yvette Tan
Villa Socorro Agri-Eco Villages is a 11-hectare eco-resort in Pagsanjan, Laguna. It is known for its relaxing vibe, as well as its different concept rooms such as a quonset hut that was once part of a movie set as well as glamping (glamorous camping, or camping without sacrificing luxury) arrangements.
Raymund Aaron, a 4th generation farmer, explains that the farm is his dad’s love letter to his wife, Aaron’s mom.
Aside from resort amenities, the eco-village is also a working farm. One of its chief crops is banana, and one of its top products is Villa Socorro Farm Healthy Chips made from native saba bananas from CALABARZON which are packed within 24 hours from picking. The chips are available in places such as Kultura, Duty Free Philippines, and Snack Exchange, are a big hit as snacks and pasalubong. Aaron is in charge of this operation, which is why his business card reads ‘Banana Chief.’
The Banana Chief spoke about this endeavor at the 2018 Global Farm Tourism Summit, using it as a springboard to outline a process of sustainable practices that can help add value to a farm, particularly if there are plans to transition to farm tourism. Here are the points he made:
- Look for Different Ways to Make Money
Farming is a business, but making money doesn’t have to stop after harvest. Look for other ways to present your crops. Villa Socorro turns bananas into banana chips, which have a longer shelf life and can withstand shipping. Villa Socorro Farm Healthy Chips is available in 15 countries worldwide.
Aaron adds that package design is important as being Instagrammable will go a long way in helping your product take root (see what we did there?) in the public consciousness.
And don’t just stick to one product, either (unless this is exactly your game plan). As of the time of the recording, Villa Socorro had just launched Farmony Corn Pops.
The question Aaron says you should ask yourself is, “What products can I make from my own farm?”
2. Make It Eco-Friendly
‘Green’ is more than just a buzzword—it can be a way of life, and one that’s good for the planet, to boot. Villa Socorro practices what it preaches in several ways: Bananas are cleaned with harvested rainwater before processing. Rice husks are used to cook the banana chips. The burnt rice hull and the banana peel are used as fertilizer and pig food. The fertilizer helps the banana trees to grow, and the pigs become lechon. The farm also recycles wood from fallen trees to make furniture, fondly called ‘farmiture.’ These eco-friendly practices not only help preserve the earth’s resources, but they help the farm save money, and coincidentally also makes for excellent marketing.
The question to ask yourself is, ‘What green practices can I do for my farm?’
3. Involve the Community
Don’t let your company be the be all and end all of your business. Thinking outside the box and involving the community around your endeavor will, in the long run, galvanize your efforts. This can rage from creating different agriproducts that can lead to higher earnings, to encouraging community activities. “The root of the existence of our company is heart,” the Banana Chief says.
Aaron cites their operations as an example: “If you sell a banana as a banana, you get it from the farmer at Php.50 and sell it at Php3 a banana,” he says. “But one banana (packaged) as banana chips is Php15, so you can buy (the product) from the farmer at Php1.25 per banana.”
The farm further invests in their community by organizing Saturday anticipated mass. All of these are conducted in line with the Farm’s 2020 Vision of a ‘community of empowered farmers living with pride and dignity.’ “The business of doing good is good business,” Aaron says.
The question to ask yourself when thinking about this is, ‘How can I create a bigger impact in my community?’
These three practices are what drive Villa Socorro and its various endeavors. Because according to Aaron,“All you need is a better mindset, good capital, and you can make the most of your land.”
Villa Socorro Agri-Eco Village
Agawin Road, Barangggay Dingin,
Pagsanjan, Laguna 4008