Visiting the Demo Farm of Mr. Esemple in Zambales – the 66 year-old Organic Farming Specialist

It’s been a while since I left this blog on a hiatus that it needs a lift and so, here we are bouncing back again to life with our farm adventure.

Entrance to the Demo Farm

Entrance to the Demo Farm

It was already late in the afternoon when Dennis and I get into the Victory Liner bus bound to Iba, Zambales. It was a 4 – hour trip from Caloocan Bus Terminal and the moment we reached Castillejos Market, it was already dark. Kuya Mario, a therapist who was staying and learning from Mr. Esemple, fetched us.

At less than 30 minute-tricycle ride, we were already in the farm. Paving our way in the gleam of the farm house’ lights, farm dogs barked at us but stopped soon after Kuya Mario asked them to. So, we found ourselves inside the house shaking hands with Mario’s wife who would give me an excellent massage later, and Mr. Esemple’s nephew who was just a new trainee under his supervision. After our simple dinner of fried fish, they showed us the room where Dennis and I can have our night’s rest.

Related: Exploring Finca Verde: The Farm of Organic Greens and Herbs of Dos Mestizos

The next morning, Mr. Esemple who also came a night before and a few hours later than us, waste no time with his gardening routine and showed us around. As lively music filled the air around his farm and having traveled alone from Caloocan, he showed no signs of lethargy. At almost 67, Mr Esemple still tills the soil and hauls his crops. Whenever he is in the farm, he feels rejuvenated. For him, this place is a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city life.

The gate’s sign were unnoticed the night we arrived at the farm as it was just too dark to notice it. Finally, this is it…

Signage

Something peculiar about it because the Filipino word PERA means money but Mr. Esemple told us that PERA is like his hidden treasure and it’s not all about money. The primary purpose of his farm is for relaxation and rejuvenation as it provides him positive energy, thus the name PERA which obviously stands for Positive Energy Recharging Area – a genius idea.

Related: The Unlikely Educational Farm Tour

He would always give credit to his Creator for whatever he has in his farm and his family as he quipped, “Health is Wealth”; and when we also once asked him if he doesn’t grow tired every time he travels back and forth from Caloocan to Zambales, his quick answer was, “Ah kay God, hindi ka malo-lowbatt!” (“With God You can never be low batt’ or “With God, you won’t run out of energy”).

Around the Farm

Moving around the farm, Mr. Esemple showed us his herbal garden. He introduced to us his several medicinal plants and their health benefits. I saw cat’s whiskers, potted Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), and Serpentina among others.

I spotted a lush growing Holy Basil also flowering in his mini forest garden. This herb can cure many ailments and in India it is sacred and is considered as an elixir of life.

Holy Basil

Holy Basil

Mr. Esemple surprised me when he asked me to cook a veggie dish and he said that it’s really good if we can have at least ten varieties of vegetables picked right from his food farm. I said okay but was nervous. When was the last time I cooked veggies of several varieties? I couldn’t remember any. No choice but to try and off we go for a day’s harvest. He handed me a pair of scissors and a huge and round blue plastic food cover to place all our day’s pickings.

 With Mr. Esemple picking Jango chilies from his Forest Garden


With Mr. Esemple picking Jango chilies from his Forest Garden

I started my way with Jango and siling labuyo, picked some eggplants, chives, talinum, sweet potatoe tops, white corn, upland kangkong, ampalaya, malunggay, saluyot, and lemon grass.

Here’s some of our harvest tucked inside this deep stainless basin. I have had a picking spree of the veggies I could find around the farm and it totalled to more than ten varieties!

Veggies tucked into this deep basin

Veggies tucked into this deep basin

These veggies were to go with some mushrooms, and some fresh fish from a nearby market we went to that morning after the lecture with the man of the farm.

007

Here’s the final verdict. The vegetables and its soup tasted good without any seasonings of some sort. Mushrooms and glutinous corn kernels did the trick for this fresh and nutritious mixed veggie dish. This is commonly known as “Laswa” – a simple Visayan dish without the corn and lemon grass. Thanks to Mario’s wife who did most of the preparation and the cooking.

008

Learning More about Organic Farming with Mr. Esemple

We also have a quick overview of What Organic Agriculture is all about, the Organic farming practices, the components of an organic farm, and about the nature and varieties of seeds and how to sow them.

Notes

Notes

There’s one thing I am not sure of when he asked our opinion about peanuts whether it is a fruit or a root crop. Thinking that root crops are always an underground specie, I thought it as a root crop. I was wrong. It’s a fruit and I got to believe him, he is an Agronomist after all. Another new thing for me is about how the corn flowers pollinate the corn’s ears and how are they different from other flowers.

Related: 15 Things I learned from Organic and Natural Farming Seminar at Herbana Farm

Farming with Vermi

After a short lecture and some hands on demo about some plants, Mr. Esemple showed us his vermi plots and the lecture continued with some fun. We learned from him that he was the first to spearhead Negros Nine Foundation’s Farm on Vermiculture in year 80’s.

He showed us how to sieve the vermicastings once it’s ready. Another tip to start a vermiculture project is to get all your feeds or what we call substrates ready for composting, that way, you can ensure enough food for the worms otherwise, worms will escape leaving your vermi bed empty.

010
After spending a night and a day at Mr. Esemple’s farm, we felt like not leaving the place for its fresh air, the relaxing atmosphere and the refreshing scenery of the mountains seen not far from the farm’s back door. What also seemed not enough for me, as I considered him as a think-tank of farming info, was the knowledge that he would be more than willing to impart to us had we not need to go back to our own turf back in the city.

I said this because there’s a lot more to learn from him like how to plant crops like corn that would provide your family with food the whole year round. The actual exposure in doing the relay and staggering method in planting corn is what I’d been looking forward to try later on. I am grateful though we learned new things about farming practices and that inspired me again to grow my own food whenever and wherever possible.

We left the place in the afternoon and it seemed our stay was not enough to explore more around the farm with Mr. Esemple who never had a dull moment to be with and to learn from.

Related: Q&A with Gil Carandang

Let us feature your farm on Farmers Notebook Farm Visit Series! Do send us an email via farmersnotebook(at)gmail(dot)com or contact form and we hope our next post is all about your farm!

Get a chance to learn from Mr. Esemple during the Grow Your Own Food Seminar on December 5, 2015, Saturday. Please click the image below for details. We hope to see you there. Thank you!

 photo gyof_banner_ad_zpshqpqcpb8.jpg

Exploring Finca Verde: The Farm of Organic Greens and Herbs of Dos Mestizos

Entrance to Finca Verde

Entrance to Finca Verde

That was one sunny morning and we were at the busy Caticlan Jetty Port heading to Nabaoy, where the farm is situated.

In less than an hour, we get off from a tricycle in front of an open bamboo gate. All you can hear was palpable  silence except for the sound of gentle wind through the bamboos and birds chirping in the background.

It was like nobody was there. Suddenly, there was this white furred little thing crawled out under the two-story nipa hut. This cute little one barked at us strangers!

Related: Visiting the Demo Farm of Mr. Esemple in Zambales – the 66 year-old Organic Farming Specialist

In a few minutes, a caretaker came out from behind the house too , olala my heart almost dropped! Popping out from nowhere of the puppy and the caretaker actually took me by surprise. He smiled at us coyly. He asked us to wait for his boss and took the cute puppy inside.

We relax ourselves as we waited and in no time Binggoy, in white polo shirt, khaki pants, and farming shoes welcomed us warmly. He toured us around and here are the pictures we took to share with you.

What to Find at Finca Verde

Farm’s To Do List

DSC_0133

This is an attention catcher and this is a must-have to any farm.

The Herbs

Herbs at Finca Verde

Herbs at Finca Verde

Arugulas in this bamboo greenhouse are newly harvested. They trimmed the leaves off, leaving the main plant to regrow leaves. On the further left is a row of coriander. These herbs are used to add to the dishes served at Dos Mestizos in Boracay.

herbs_02b

Coriander, arugula and tarragons.

herbs_01b

The herbs in the farm’s nursery at germination stage.

The pathway

IMG_20141228_093011

I loved these giant fern leaves as a canopy. It’s refreshing as you walked through this stone path under the sun.

Labyrinth

 

This lead us to where the labyrinth of tarragons and other herbs. There are nipa huts for the guests who would like to stay for a night or two. Near it, is the river.

The River

Binggoy himself and guests enjoyed tubing up and down the river especially during summer. They also hold picnics in one of the areas in the farm and on the other side of the river.

Binggoy himself and guests enjoyed tubing up and down the river especially during summer. They also hold picnics in one of the areas in the farm and on the other side of the river.

The Animals

finca verde_pato

Saw these free-range ducks roaming around. At the right, is the ducks’ house. This is located at the other side of the farm, away from the river. Binggoy said that he wanted to raise chickens again and pigs later on in this farm.

The mountain behind it is planned to fill with a variety of wild and local orchid collections. Can you imagine the lush green mountain with blobs of multi-colored orchids in bloom?  Soon, that would be an awesome nature backdrop to behold!

Other Plants

IMG_20141228_094035

This kind of pepper is hotter than cayenne. The birds just dropped the seeds at the farm and it just grew there on its own. Binggoy noticed that once this hot pepper is planted near eggplants, the veggies are pest-free.

DSC_0158

At one glance, this bush looks like an eggplant especially the appearance of the leaves. But the yellow fruit tells you it’s not. This is not edible, but it can serve as another attraction to your farm. Name of this plant? Mickey Mouse. Such a vibrant mouse in the farm!

Vermi Bed

Binggoy showing his vermi bed.

Binggoy showing his vermi bed.

Binggoy here showed us the vermi bed with vermicasts ready to use for his plants. When I asked, where can we buy the ANC (African Night Crawlers, he referred us to an Organic Farm expert named Paul Henares.

The Improvised Carbonized Rice Hull (CRH) Burner

DSC_0105

The farm’s caretaker is seen here with his Carbonized Rice hull burner. CRH is produced through slow burning of rice hull or what we call “ipa”. CRH is used to enrich the soil the organic way.

It was a quick farm tour and we are happy to share it away with you. To those whose interests lies in farming related activities, hope this post helps.

By the way, Finca Verde also accepts visitors, to those of you who are interested, please see contact details below:

Finca Verde
(by reservation only)
Brgy. Nabaoy, Malay, Aklan
+63 998 545 7279
beachadventurer@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!

Let us feature your farm on Farmers Notebook Farm Visit Series! Do send us an email via farmersnotebook(at)gmail(dot)com and we hope our next post is all about your farm!

 photo Farm_DB_footer_zpsd4avtmt5.jpg

The Unlikely Educational Farm Tour

An instant fruit treat and shelter for (L-R): me, Warren, Noemi & EJ

It was one hot sunny day of July when we trouped to a farm. It was a trip unplanned, got no idea who will be with us and everything seemed to happen so fast. Soon, we all found ourselves in Warren’s car amazed at each other’s story on how we get into that trip.

Noemi Tirona of Philippine Natural Farming Philippines Inc., has a scheduled out-of-town flight in the afternoon and has to leave at 4pm. EJ, of Bohol Farm Resort was also in a haste to see Warren Tan – the farm owner, thinking they were just going out somewhere. Dennis and I took Warren’s invitation a day prior to the tour as one simple get away from the city, see the farm, then buy some vegetables to bring home right after.

Warren’s Natural Farm

We left Quezon City at 9am and reached the farm in Samal, Bataan at around 11am- under the heat of a scorching sun.

At 10,535 sq. meters, Warren’s farm is not the usual farm with vegetables and animals that I’d been expecting earlier. Acquired in 2011, the farm has its rugged terrains with live fences of Madre de cacao and these trees serve as effective wind barriers. They are also nitrogen fixers which are beneficial to plants and animals because of the nitrogen it can emit in the air, better known as atmospheric nitrogen according to Warren.

Related: Visiting the Demo Farm of Mr. Esemple in Zambales – the 66 year-old Organic Farming Specialist

First thing he wanted us to see was the spring at one side of his farm, but the slope downhill was simply difficult for us ladies to trek so we did not push through.

We headed to the opposite side of the farm instead, and it was a feast to the eyes watching a bounty of santol fruits clinging on its branches. Then I noticed ripe Santol fruits left scattered on the ground- most of them were already rotten. Before I could ask, Warren started to explain (as translated from Filipino).

“I allow them to rot naturally to fertilize the soil, and I don’t use IMO because indigenous microorganisms are already abundant in this farm, so why add more? It’s only used for farms that needed extra nourishment.”(translated from Filipino)

Related: 15 Things I learned from Organic and Natural Farming Seminar at Herbana Farm

He said somebody wants to buy his Santol fruits but he chose not to. According to him, the decaying fruits serve as soil conditioner which save him further expenses on nitrogen inputs and some unnecessary farm tasks.

Those ideas sounded new to me and I was left thinking about the possibility of fertilizing a farm with rotten fruits and atmospheric nitrogen.

Bamboos along the off-the-beaten-path

Warren then took the lead towards the lush green bamboos and as we trekked down the hill, cool air touched our skin and bamboo leaves swayed in a gust of wind. Our steps began to take strides with excitement, wondering what to see next as we trod a narrow path that seemed to me was Robert Frost’s road less traveled. With the air so invigorating, so fresh and cool, nature was certainly a beckon of tranquility in this natural farm.

farmersnotebook_warrentan_03

Of all plants, Bamboo – a grass, is the most efficient oxygen-emitting plant. (L-R): EJ, Noemi, Warren

The sight of dark green poles of bamboos in a vertical array instantly soothed our eyes from sun’s exposure. Oxygen loaded bamboo leaves was certainly a breath of fresh air to our lungs that has been so long occupied with the metro’s carbon monoxide and other air pollutants. This variety according to Warren is called Buho and it has many uses around the farm like where he houses some of his chickens and turkeys for shelter.

Beating around the bush of Papayas

Here’s the papaya plantation seen in only a portion of Warren’s property. The farm’s terrains are rugged and papayas according to Warren are best suited for such a kind of land. When asked why plant Sinta Papayas and not lettuce and other high value vegetables, he said (translated from Filipino), “It’s already common; besides, I am planning to sell them not raw but bottled “atchara” Also, Sinta variety is more profitable than the Red lady variety, that is why I preferred Sinta. Our own local farmers would usually sell them raw or ripe but it’s not profitable, and if it’s not profitable, it cannot be sustainable.”

To Warren, for a farm to be sustainable, it should also be profitable.

Now, Dennis had to climb the water tank just to take a photo of this horizon: Cavite City at the left, West Philippine Sea at the right .

Rows of Sinta Papayas

Rows of Sinta Papayas at Warren’s farm.

farmersnotebook_warrentan_11

The Farm Boys

Below (left), the papaya stem has been destroyed by a typhoon and it needed to be cut down. To save it from rotting during the rainy season, Warren wrapped a plastic bag around it for protection. Eventually this will grow branches from its sides and that’s the time to unwrap. This is one useful tip from Warren.

Further right are kalamansi plants growing in between papayas – a kind of integrated farming.

papaya_kalamansi tree

As we trekked up and down Warren’s farm, we encountered more useful plants .

madre de agua

One is Madre de Agua (left), a nutrient-packed forage for pigs. Another is Biga (right), a plant with juices that is used as natural insecticide.

The Water Source

We continued the journey further down the farm, and there nestled right below the bamboos and the fig-like trees was a pond with some big rocks dotting its surface. Once this pond is developed, I figured out, could be one beautiful attraction of the farm. EJ, Noemi and I shared the same thoughts.

Tibig tree

Tibig tree

Group photo

At the pond

Then when I gazed above the pond, I noticed some fruit-bearing trees. Pointing at one of the trees, I asked Warren: “Fig tree ba yan? (Is that a fig tree?)

Warren answered:” That is Tibig– and that tree can release thousands of liters of water per year. ”

Tibig trees grow abundantly in his farm and wherever tibig trees are many, there is a water source. No wonder the first stream on the other side of his farm was formed and it was all because of a variety of trees around it,- and Tibig trees are the major contributors on the making of that spring. Tibig roots are sponge-like that absorbs water during the rainy season and releases water during summer.

Related: Exploring Finca Verde: The Farm of Organic Greens and Herbs of Dos Mestizos

Warren lead us to another water source, clean sparkling water run down the water pipe he made available to anyone visiting his farm. Water drops from the water pipe was just so fitting to have it right there at the end of the slope to quench one’s thirst.

Here’s a stream just near the pond. This stream, according to Warren, is rich in silica and other minerals. From this water source, atmospheric minerals are derived from it.

farmersnotebook_warrentan_05

Atmospheric minerals are also needed by the plants – the reason why he is giving emphasis on making energized water as an abundant source in his farm-a quantum farming principle.

Learning experience

The heat of the sun that afternoon was still unbearable to take notice of other things; more so on exploring the other side of the farm where a spring is located. We failed to take photos of the spring, of some vegetables, turkeys and the chickens, and of the papaya that branched out after the onslaught of a typhoon. The farm tour however offered some eye opener – from the purpose of decaying santol fruits to the suppliers of water source called Tibig among other things.

That day was a great learning experience that I least expected; and- it was something not so easy to take for granted, as it was simply rare, and was so different.

Read our interview with Warren Tan. 

Let us feature your farm on Farmers Notebook Farm Visit Series! Do send us an email via farmersnotebook(at)gmail(dot)com or contact form and we hope our next post is all about your farm!

 photo Farm_DB_footer_zpsd4avtmt5.jpg