By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

Jesselle Hyacinth Suarez-Hablo from Negros Occidental, a chef by profession and an agripreneur by choice, believes that a healthy lifestyle is not limited to eating the right amount and kind of food. 

For her, being completely healthy means being aware of where your food came from, how it’s grown or raised, and whether or not it has traces of chemicals and other substances. 

That made me put my profession into action and I decided to start my own line of healthy products that include fresh herbs handpicked from our own farm,” she said.

She started by turning the piaya, a known delicacy from Negros Occidental, from a sweet treat into something savory and healthy by introducing a new and unique line of piaya flavors which uses herbs like basil and oregano.

The Suarez family farm grows the herbs that Suarez-Hablo needs to make healthy recipes for Negrense delicacies.

The raw materials that Suarez-Hablo uses in her products come from her parents’ farm located in Brgy. Abuanan, Bago City, Negros Occidental. 

Her decision to source from their farm stemmed from her advocacy of encouraging others to take up a healthier lifestyle. Additionally, she sees it as a way to make sure that the ingredients she uses are naturally produced. 

A diversified farm that started as a quail supplier 

Initially, their farm started in 2005 as a backyard farm that supplies quail eggs and quail meat to consumers in Bacolod City.

Over the years, the farm began incorporating other components such as crops, fruit trees, and various kinds of livestock in order to increase its diversity. 

Presently, the farm is planted with around 7,000 calamansi trees, the herbs that Suarez-Hablo uses in her healthy piayas, vegetables, and rice. It also raises chickens, ducks, turkeys, quails, and native pigs.

“We practice all natural farming methods in the farm since this method prevents the use of harmful chemicals thus keeping it from seeping into our soil and eventually, our produce,” she said.

Around 7,000 calamanis trees are planted in their family farm.

According to Suarez-Hablo, it is her father and their trusted farm staff, who have been with them for about 30 years, who oversee and care for their farm. 

She said that they decided to practice natural farming because they want to follow a sustainable method of farming that is good for both the environment and members of the community. 

Moreover, Suarez-Hablo recognizes the role of small farms in their area in producing healthy food which is why she decided to include them in her journey of encouraging others to eat right and support local products.  

In part 2, Suarez-Hablo shares how she established a brand that embodies her advocacy and how it became successful with the help of small farmers.