By RALPH LAUREN ABAINZA
Being one of the towns adjacent to Tagaytay City, the town of Amadeo in Cavite also experiences a relatively cool climate suitable for growing a variety of crops – and eating samgyeopsal, a Korean grilled pork belly cuisine. This one-of-a-kind dining experience offered by Fresca Farm entices a lot of customers daily, on top of their variety of freshly harvested vegetables, of course.
Jerry Buenaventura, the owner of Fresca Farm, was originally into furniture and the junk shop business before he ventured into farming. His family business used to sell scrap metals, plastics, and made-to-order furniture made from scrap wood. Though busy with their shop in Amadeo, Cavite, he always had time to pursue his hobby of backyard farming. He has loved planting vegetables ever since he was young.
In 2015, after their junk shop and furniture business suffered several losses, the family decided to pursue farming instead. Besides, Jerry was already deeply acquainted with planting vegetables by then. They decided to let go of the previous business and rented a 500-square-meter lot in Amadeo, Cavite to establish Fresca Farm. According to Nico Buenaventura, Jerry’s son, the name of the farm is a combination of the words Fres, to denote “fresh”, and “Ca”, to denote “Cavite”. “My father always say[s] that FRESCA means FRESH FROM CAVITE,” he said.
Though the family started with the planting of commonly grown vegetables, such as eggplant, radish, and tomatoes, a friend’s suggestion that they grow high-value crops further expanded their agricultural endeavor into a thriving farm that currently provides livelihood to eight employees and ten farmers to date. According to Nico, Fresca Farm grows lettuce in a natural way to ensure that they are fresh and safe from any harmful chemicals. Aside from producing a variety of vegetables, they also let their visitors try harvesting the crops themselves.
As lettuce became more popular in the market, more and more farms in Cavite, especially in Amadeo, started growing the crop. The boom in lettuce production eventually led to an oversupply, dropping its farm gate price to as low as Php 25 per kilogram.
To deal with their lettuce oversupply problem in 2019, they thought of establishing a “samgyup” place since samgyeopsal, was gaining popularity at that time. Pork belly is barbecued and served with fresh vegetables, such as lettuce. “It all started as a simple samgyup sa bahay (samgyeopsal at home) gathering with friends and the idea suddenly clicked. Since we are experiencing difficulty in selling our lettuce [which] sometimes lead[s] to oversupply, why not put up a restaurant on our farm instead? From that idea, we started offering a one-of-a-kind samgyupsal experience where you can pick your own lettuce, fresh from the farm and enjoy it with our [F]ilipino-[K]orean fusion of unique side dishes, Nico said.
Their “Samgyump sa Farm” restaurant is situated inside their farm, where customers can enjoy fresh air and revel in the view of surrounding greenery while enjoying their meal. They have huts, tables, and open-air dining areas in the middle of their lettuce fields, an experience mostly enjoyed by those coming from busy city centers. According to Nico, their place also caters to a lot of company events, birthdays, and christenings.
Nico also shared that at first, they really had no idea how to run a samgyup restaurant. They had encountered difficulties in logistics, stock procurement, staff, and irate customers, but surpassed these challenges along the way. Their booming farm and restaurant business was also affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but they continued to thrive, especially after one of their posts became viral on Tiktok and Facebook, reaching 700,000 engagements, attracting a lot of attention, including features from media organizations.
To maximize this opportunity, they stepped up their game by meeting with the different suppliers, especially to deal with the holiday influx of customers. They also increased their workforce and researched ways to increase their productivity while being cost-effective, especially since they are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic.
From a mere backyard hobby, their farm and restaurant grew into a cozy place attracting a lot of people daily. Fresca Farm proved that while trying out new things may come with challenges, it is one of the keys to success. “Agricultural farming will always improve through the times so always explore and innovate since that will be your edge if you wanna stay long[er] in the business,” shared Nico.
Just last October 11, 2022, they opened their second branch in Indang, Cavite to cater to more people. Though the future remains uncertain because of the ongoing economic crisis, they are determined to put up another branch offering the same farm-to-table, al fresco dining in Cavite.
Amidst the ongoing food crisis, Nico shared “Patronize our local produce, [and] encourage and introduce agricultural farming to our youth because this can be a huge factor in fighting the food crisis that we are currently facing in our country.”
Photos courtesy of Nico Buenaventura
You can check their Facebook page here.