By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Vaikuntha Forest Farm in Tanay, Rizal is a farm nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains. It offers its guests an all natural albeit rough and tumble farm tourism experience that’s hard to come by.
The farm’s proprietor, Shai Tamayo, shared that the farm doesn’t invest in modern technology to entertain their guests. Rather, they keep things as simple as possible to emphasize the beauty of nature that can be found in the starry night sky, the cool breeze, and unparalleled sights of the mountain as well as the forest.
In the previous article, Tamayo discussed the various natural amenities that the forest farm has to offer in terms of promoting health, relaxation, and creating a closer bond with nature. Now, she talks about the natural farming aspect of Vaikuntha Forest Farm and how the farm endures despite the challenges it faces.
A sufficient and sustainable pantry
To complete the all natural experience at Vaikuntha Forest Farm, Tamayo and the farm’s staff follow a strict vegetarian diet which is supplied by the naturally grown produce in the farm.
“We have lots of fruit-bearing trees such a langka, kamansi, calamansi, dalandan, guyabano, guyatis, rambutan, mango, avocado, santol, bananas, durian, marang, pomelo, papaya, coconut, etc. Not all are avid producers so we keep a lot to offer variety,” the farm’s proprietor said.
There are also other indigenous trees and more uncommon sources of food.
Vaikuntha Forest Farm also has lots of herbs both cultivated and wild which we consume as food and also as medicine.
“For veggies, we have various types of tomatoes, lettuces, eggplants, peas and beans, okra, sitaw, upo, patola, ampalaya, corn, pineapple, dragonfruit, gabi, camote, cucumber, pechay, wild spinach, and other seasonal veggies like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and sayote,” Tamayo added.
She admitted, however, that she had no prior experience in farming but she made up for it by reading her fill, taking examples from visiting other farms, and keeping an open mind to try out new things to find out which practices are suitable for growing plants.
“We practice natural farming with no use of any chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.
We have vermicomposting, composting using cow dung, guano (or bat droppings) when it’s available, and chicken manure. We also follow a lot of permaculture practices like making our own plant nutrients, enhancers and pest repellents from available materials at the farm,” Shai said.
Aside from the fresh produce, the farm also offers processed products such as jams and teas made from the raw ingredients growing on the farm.
Despite their efforts to strictly follow natural farming practices, Shai shared that it’s not always smooth sailing.
“Natural farming becomes harder when your neighbors are not practicing the same. When a neighboring farm sprays their trees with deadly pesticides, the pests run to our farm for shelter. And there you go—a major pest problem. So we spend a lot more time trying to solve that problem with our organic sprays, smoking the pests, and strengthening the plants so they don’t look too attractive to pests,” she said.
The farm’s proprietor added that nature is a great teacher. In dealing with natural challenges, it’s important to listen, learn, and then apply the lessons learned from nature.
Some tips in managing a farm
In securing a natural farm’s success and productivity, Shai shares a few tips that anyone can follow.
“First, you have to be hands-on. It just doesn’t work when you are not hands-on. Next, you have to be patient. Nature has her ways, her time. You can’t force or push it. Chemical farming does that. It always ends up badly, no matter what,” she said.
Next, the farm proprietor emphasizes to not make money a goal.
“Money is needed for sustainability, of course, but if you place first the good and the true, like taking care of Mother Earth, nurturing the soil, the other creatures who share the space with us, money will come as a matter of course,” she said.
The important thing, according to Shai, is to think and live simply. Start by always having food on your plate.
“If it goes the other way around, money first before anything, it won’t turn out good. You end up being a slave of your farm. We have to go above the money mindset and search for true purpose and meaning,” she said.
As Shai said, she and the staff of Vaikuntha Forest Farm aim to live a simple life that revolves on the natural and healthy because they believe that true wealth lies in a person’s well-being.
For more information, visit Vaikuntha Forest Farm on Facebook.