Farm tourism shows potential

There are farms in Southern Leyte that could be developed for sustainable farm tourism. The Gerona Farm in Buac, Sogod has been operational for around fifteen years and is a popular model farm in the province for students and guests. Some other farmers and owners are struggling to develop and maintain their land.

Awareness of farm tourism is institutionalized with the annual Philippine Farm Tourism Conference which was initiated more than ten years ago by former Philippine Tourism Chief Mina Gabor.

This tourism conference is for farmers, farm owners and farming enthusiasts. Discussions center on the best practices in farming, aquaculture, artisanal fisheries, and the cultivation of fruit and vegetable farms involving appropriate and novel practices that promote farm tourism. The yearly gathering includes teaching farmers and farm owners new, alternative ways, and complementary uses for their farms.

This year, the Philippine Farm Tourism Conference is scheduled at Panglao, Bohol on February 26 to 28. The International School of Sustainable Tourism is collaborating with the Provincial Government of Bohol and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture

The event is also supported by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, Department of Tourism, Tourism Promotions Board, Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport), and the Department of Trade and Industry. The main theme is anchored on healthy living.

Topics in the conference include hospitality industry embracing sustainable farm-to-table concept, processing fruits and vegetables – key to food security, right marketing and revenue, value added benefits of artisanal fisheries, revival of the country's multi–million peso seaweeds industry, the pompano fish as upcoming star of aquaculture, and green investment in agriculture and tourism in the Asian setting.

"With farm tourism, we married the farm and the tourism aspect using the same resources," Gabor explained. "So, if you have a farm, you can just bring in the tourism component. And the tourism component is there because once you visit an area, it becomes already a tourism area. Because if you're solely into farming, only the farmers will be there planting and harvesting. But the moment you invite guests, then all the amenities have to be there. May bathroom ba 'yan? How do they come in? How will they pay? Will they be safe? Where and how will they eat? Is there a restaurant in the facility?"

In the three-day gathering participants will tour notable farm sites, such as Loboc Cacao Farm, Asin Tibuok makers in Alburquerque, Kinaiyahan Forest Park in Bilar, Lasang Cacao Farm in Maribojoc, Green Thumb Farm in Corella, South Farm in Panglao, Bohol Bee Farm in Dauis, Manay's Farm in San Miguel, Ubay Dairy Farm, and Jagna Recycling Facility and Eco Farm.