BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Established in August 2020 at Palomoc-Culasian Rd, Titay, Zamboanga Sibugay, Artemio’s Heritage Ecofarm was born after the Sablay family moved to the province to ‘escape’ the community quarantine in the city.
Noel Sablay, a physics teacher by profession, thought that he could turn his wife’s idle property into a farm while they were in the province. Presently, the farm boasts of a piggery that followed the Babuyang-Walang-Amoy concept, which is the process of raising pigs without the distinct stench that comes from their pens and minimizing health risks while mimicking the pigs’ natural environment to promote humane practices.
They also have a poultry farm, and a tilapia fish pond. They’re also growing green lady papaya and backyard vegetables. The couple is also expecting to start their high-yield crops and dragon fruit section.
Sablay plays a hands-on approach on the farm since he does the directing, planning, and even doing the farming himself since he and his wife were the first to develop the farm to what it is now.
“When starting, start with a farm overall vision, what do you want it to look like after, say 10 years. You are a small farmer but you can dream big. And then identify priority areas to develop and start with something that has income to sustain the farm development,” Sablay said.
He added that farmers also need to be hands-on from the very beginning.
“I tell my staff, I can do, and I show them I can, all types of work on the farm. If staff are absent and I am there, I do the cleaning, the feeding of livestock, and the restocking of feeds,” Sablay said.
This dedication to the farm comes from Sablay’s perception of farming as an art. For him, it alleviates stress and promotes creativity. It also helps that he enjoys having time to think and work on how the farm will look like in a few years. His principle everytime he leaves the farm, is to leave it better than when he went in, either through small or big things.
“I enjoy making the farm unconventionally beautiful, like as if there are no pigs inside because their pig pen looks so nice. I enjoy helping staff keep the farm very clean because I want to walk in the farm sections without worrying about the bad smells, etc.,” he said.
Working on the agritourism aspect
One of the goals that the couple wanted for the farm was to become a farm tourism site that also practices a farm-to-table concept. In a week or two, Artemio’s Heritage Ecofarm is set to open its campsite and farm restaurant, depending on the situation of COVID in the area.
The couple also hopes to inspire other farms in their area to follow a farm-to-table concept and promote agritourism.
Here are some tips on how they can develop their farms to make them a tourist destination:
According to Sablay, to create tourism amenities, one should consider the climate and weather of the place and build structures that make people comfortable when they visit the farm.
“Since we are an agri-tourism space, I also make sure to introduce new concepts like our unlimited feeding system, conditioning of the animals to create a good ‘behavior’. The animals and crops should be accessible by visitors and they can learn from them,” Sablay said.
But, Sablay adds, some areas should be kept off-limits to visitors due to biosecurity measures employed in the farm.
The next thing to consider is to know the habits of and the people around the area by talking to them since knowing and understanding their culture gives farm owners significant ideas on how they can entice visitors to come to the farm tourism site.
Lastly, Sablay advises farmers who are looking to start a farm tourism site to build amenities.
“Make sure they fit the natural environment so they do not look out of place or awkward,” he said.
Developing the tourism aspect of a farm does more than just generate more income for a farm. If fully realized, a farm tourism site can help raise tourism in the area and the economy since it can help generate more income for people and other establishments.
For more information, visit Artemio’s Heritage Ecofarm on Facebook.
Photos courtesy from Artemio’s Heritage Ecofarm on Facebook