Farm tourism catches attention of OFWs

Carlo Lorenciana, Johanna O. Bajenting

FARM tourism is potentially rising as a sunshine industry in various parts of the country with the combination of agriculture and tourism seen as an economic driver.

Sen. Cynthia Villar said the interest in farm tourism has been “tremendous” in recent years.

“Farm tourism sites have been mushrooming everywhere and they are doing really well, so much so that even non-farmers such as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are showing interest in it,” Villar said at the Farm Tourism Conference at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019.

Villar, who is the Senate’s committee chair on agriculture and food, said farm tourism is among the business ideas that really interest OFWs.

“At the rate farm tourism is growing, mukhang kailangan na naman namin i-update ang directory of farm schools, tourist farms and learning sites in the Philippines,” the lawmaker said.

“The combination of agriculture and tourism is really a potent and effective one. The active involvement and continued interest, and of course investment, of people like yourselves will also help fast-track the growth and development of farm tourism,” Villar said.

Open for educational tours

The Cebu Alliance of Tour Operation Specialists (Catos) is urging landowners to open their farms for educational tours.

Catos president Alice Queblatin said this would inspire students, especially the children, to develop the love for farming at an early stage and at the same time boost farm productivity as farms welcome visitors in big groups.

Queblatin cited the Adlawon Vacation Farm in Cebu as a model farm tourism site.

“What makes the Adlawon Farm really outstanding is that it is open to educational tours for children. They accept bookings from international and local schools. It has rooms and camping facilities,” she said.

The Catos official encouraged farm sites to be accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

“The moment they do that, they will be part of the DOT-accredited establishments and they will be part of the packaging and the marketing initiatives (conducted by the DOT here and abroad),” she said.

Queblatin said there are many successful farms in Cebu which include flower farms, strawberry farms and vegetable farms.

However, for a farm to be a complete destination, it should have accommodation facilities. Also, for a farm site to stand out, it should offer interactive activities.

“This means that it should be an active farm, so you have people moving around and there’s a farm tour. You have the animals, the trees or vegetables and there are many activities that you can do,” she said, referring to activities like farm-to-table meals, pick and pay and other experiential activities.

The 6th Philippine Farm Tourism Conference gathered around 350 participants from different parts of the country.

“We are now going to learn beyond the flowers. You’ll learn about the story, the community that it has touched and the livelihood activities that are created because of a presence of a farm. The objective of farm tourism is to bring in business by coming up with tourism activities that will benefit the farm itself and the community around it,” Queblatin said.

Farm Tourism Act

Under the farm tourism law, the Department of Trade and Industry’s Bureau of Small and Medium Enterprise Development and the Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion and the DA’s Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service shall assist farm tourism operators and practitioners in the marketing and distribution of their products and link them with consumers’ cooperatives and organizations and retailers.

The formulation and implementation of the Farm Tourism Strategic Action Plan is also mandated under the law.

“It will put in place a comprehensive set of programs, projects and activities for the growth of farm tourism in the country,” Villar said.

The plan also covers investment promotion and financing, market research, promotion and development, accreditation of farm tourism camps, agriculture and fishery research and development and extension, institutional and human resource development and infrastructure support.

“The creation of the Farm Tourism Development Board attached to the DOT is also a crucial component of the law as it will be the one to formulate plans and programs for the development and promotion of farm tourism in the country and the implementation of the Farm Tourism Strategic Action Plan,” said Villar, who authored the Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016.

“I am glad that since its enactment and implementation, it has been helping farming families and communities all over the country,” she said.

The farm tourism law is now providing farmers with opportunities to increase their income by having alternative sources. They are also earning from their produce or crops, from their farm when they convert it into a farm tourism site and from their trainees when they put up a learning site or farm school.

Villar said training and education should be sustained to encourage farm tourism camps to become learning sites and accredited extension service providers.

The senator urged farmers to also turn their farms into learning sites.

“The establishment of farm schools in every town in the Philippines is also supported by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. This is one way to provide our fellow Filipinos the access to agri-related tech-voc courses, especially those in the countryside. This is also a big help in rural development,” Villar said.