Leisure farms can create new opportunities for people in the countryside. Just like what we have seen during a tour of the same in Taiwan from April 23 to 28.
Leisure farms are just like what we are beginning to call agri-tourism destinations in the Philippines. They are farms that offer more than just farm produce.
At the Daken Leisure Farm in the village of Daken in Tainan county in southern Taiwan, we have witnessed the progress that three generations have achieved. From simple conventional growing of broiler chickens, the Tsai family, from the grandpa and grandma Tsai to Papa and Mama Tsai, and then to the three wonderful Tsai sisters, the poultry farm has metamorphosed into a thriving destination of local and foreign tourists.
In 2012, according to Papa Tsai, some 30,000 local visitors flocked to the Daken Leisure Farm. And then there were also 5,000 foreigners who wanted to savor the invigorating environment that the leisure farm offers to visitors. Most of the foreign visitors came from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. And now the Taiwan Leisure Farm Developers Association is also targeting Vietnam and the Philippines as two other sources of foreign visitors.
While raising poultry may be a good source of income, there are also bumpy situations when there is an oversupply of chickens or if the cost of feeds is high, and profit could be jeopardized. And so the enterprising farmer has to create new sources of income.
And that is just what the Tsai family did some 20 years ago. Besides raising chickens, they started barbecuing their fowls. And since they had come up with such juicy and tasty ''Litson manok,'' the word spread fast and people flocked to the farm to partake of the juicy grilled chicken seasoned with aromatic herbs.
As visitors grew and grew, the Tsais also had the bright idea of adding lodging and other facilities. They now have 40 rooms with comfortable amenities, usually filled to capacity during weekends.
To this day, the barbecue chicken is a major attraction at the Daken Leisure Farm. The chicken is now free-range and so it is regarded as a healthy meat. One grilled bird costs the equivalent of P750 in Philippine money. And a lot is consumed during weekends when families bring the whole family for a feast of the famous Daken ''Litson Manok.''
Of course, there are many other gastronomical delights. Aside from the baby pig lechon, there are creative concoctions of Ruby Tsai, the chef in the family. There are bamboo and mushroom cuisines, pineapple and sweet potato preparations, bamboo shoots which the place is famous for. And there is also the ubiquitous herbal tea that is served in every meal.
The Taiwanese government has been promoting the establishment of leisure farms in the countryside as a means to increase the income of people on the farms. One of the contributions of the government toward this end is the construction of roads so that the leisure farms become accessible.
Aside from road construction, the government has been providing consultants who could provide some insights to the leisure farm owners. The consultants could suggest how they can make the leisure farms more attractive to target customers. They could suggest additional activities that will bring more income to the owners.
Among the attractions in the leisure farms in Taiwan are the DIY or Do-It-Yourself activities. In the case of Daken Leisure Farm, visitors can learn to make souvenir items out of pieces of bamboo and wood available in the farm. The visitors can also learn about the different herbal plants that are either culinary or medicinal or both.
At the frontyard of the the lodging facilities, the children as well as the adults, could be fascinated by the many tame animals that just run around. These include native chickens with their brood, very friendly pigeons that will alight on your palm if you have something to feed them, rabbits, ducks and others.
Of course one could also take to the hiking trail with some 800 steps to the top of the mountain where there is a view deck that enables one to see the lush vegetation all around, down below. And then one can try taking the rope bridge across a ravine. Or one can take the cable car to cross the same.
The hiking trail goes back near where one has started. And at the end is a spa where aching nerves could be refreshed with a gentle massage, complete with aromatherapy.
What is admirable about the owners of the leisure farms, not only the Daken Leisure Farm but also the others we visited, is that the owners are very hands-on. They are very humble and very friendly. These are traits that aspiring Filipino leisure farm owners could as well acquire.