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    Why Farm Tourism?

     By Mina Gabor

    In a country where the average age of farmers is 57, where rice is still the main farm produce and the income is low, where the most produce are highly seasonal, where there are limited areas for families to visit and enjoy nature – farm tourism is a refreshing new addition to the list of tourism products that generates added income to the farmers.

    The interest of many people to partake of healthy food and share that same experience with their immediate families has aroused their curiosity to know how crops are produced and livestock is raised. So has farm tourism sites began to flourish.

    Farm tourism is the business of attracting visitors to farm areas generally for educational and recreational purposes while encouraging economic activities that can provide both the farm and community additional income.

    Among the many activities that can be experienced when visiting a designated farm-tourism site are children and even adults feed animals, collect eggs, learn the flora and fauna in the area, go horseback riding, hike, learn nature-­based arts and crafts, sing, swim, visit the farm museum if there are any, eat meals with freshly cut vegetables, camp, pick fruits and harvest vegetables, buy products made by the community, try new varieties of fruit juice or winetasting, and stay overnight in the area. The activities vary, depending on the farm that is visited.

    As chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, Sen. Cynthia Villar, worked for the passage of vital legislation and amendments to existing laws to complement this growing subsector of the tourism industry.

    In a speech at the second Farm Tourism Conference in Daet, Camarines Norte, Villar lauded the organizer of the event, the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST), for actively supporting and promoting farm tourism.  At the same conference, she vowed to assist farm owners, through legislation, to provide technical, financial and marketing assistance.

    By the way, ISST will soon open its farm-tourism and camp-site model where landowners who do not have sufficient funds to develop their properties can learn how to open up camp sites by attending farm-tourism courses.

    During the Senate hearing on the farm-tourism bill, many of the farmers-turned-farm tourism operators, reported that they were earning from this newfound activity more than from their usual harvest.

    Imagine a farmer who sells his lettuce at farm-gate prices of P10 to P15 per kilo, but by the time it arrives in Metro Manila, the same produce can be sold as high as P50 to P80 per kilo, depending on the season.

    In a farm-tourism area, the same lettuce has higher value added. Visitors are willing to pay higher prices per kilo, because it is freshly picked, or the vegetable would have been offered as a meal or fruit juice.

    I have visited farm-tourism sites in Australia, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, Costa Rica and some European countries, like Italy.  There, I noticed that jobs and revenues generated for the community are sourced from this activity.

    For example, in Costa Rica, a famous coffee plantation has eventually put up one of the world’s best ecolodges where you can stay and wake up the morning after to visit the plantation and try your hand in picking coffee berries. It also has a wonderful restaurant that serves its famous varieties of coffee, sells soaps made from coffee, and other farm products.

    In Italy you can rent a cottage situated in the middle of the farm.   If you want to cook your own meal, it can provide the ingredients, like fruits and vegetables, that you can pick just outside your doorstep.

    For me, farm tourism is an excellent example of inclusive growth for the communities.

    On May 16 President Aquino signed Republic Act 10816, or the Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016. Under the new law, a Farm Tourism Development Board shall be established to formulate plans and programs for the development and promotion of farm tourism in the country and shall set the overall direction for the implementation of the Farm Tourism Strategic Action Plan.

    There are around 100 or more accredited and nonaccredited farm-tourism sites in the country, ranging from micro, small, medium and large sizes.

    Farm-tourism sites or farm camps help promote tourism and products of the area, especially those produced and manufactured by the rural industries.

    To know more about farm tourism or if you are interested in farm activities, join the Philippine Farm Tourism Network. For more information, you can reach us at +63 2 8832 0996.

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