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

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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.

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Coriander, arugula and tarragons.

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

The pathway

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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!

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Warren Guasis Tan: A New Breed for Sustainable Farming Innovations

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On Warren Tan’s close encounter with the local farmers, he cited that not one sustainable farming system could feed the Filipino people but the combination of two or more depending on what is basic and essential to a certain type of farm and the farmers’ resources.

In an interview with him, he talks no end about his journey into farming, his views on sustainable farming systems and the issues that come along with it despite his previous work experiences and his educational background.

Farmers Notebook: Can you tell us about your career, if you don’t mind?

Warren Tan: I got a degree in IT (Information Technology) and had been working with multinational companies in Sales and Marketing Department of the Concepción Industries, and Credit and Collection Supervisor in Center of Communication and Information, Inc.. In short, I’d been with the corporate world. At present, I am into Farm consultancy and conducting seminars on Sustainable Agriculture.

FN: You said you are an IT grad, and been into Sales and Marketing, then what leads you into farming?

WT: It was when I was given a break to host at Agrilink and I witnessed Mr. Gil Carandang’s seminar on Organic Farming and his discussion made me curious about it. Out of curiosity, I decided to study organic farming under Mr, Gil Carandang – the Father of Organic Farming of the Philippines. Then I attended the seminars on Natural Farming of Andry Lim – Father of Natural Farming; Quantum Agriculture under Pam Henares of Los Baños Laguna; and Bio-Char of Greg Forbes.

Quantum Agriculture is also used in farming that deals about the energy flow around the farm, and Biochar is another kind of farming technology that is used to amend and build soil fertility long term.

I have also attended the 7-day seminar about Korean Organic Farming of Dr. Cho when he was here in Manila a few years back.

But before that, my mother’s death in 2006 due to cancer has given me more reason to go into farming. I searched and studied the disease and I found out that 98% of the human population has cancers in them. And what triggers cancer? Only two reasons: it is either from the genes or from the food that we eat or both.

Most of the food that we eat today is no longer real food, only 3% is real food, and the 97% is already synthetic. Meat for example most especially those processed meats, and even the rice we eat today is laced with harmful chemicals that poison our body. Food is supposed to nourish the body but what happens now? Safe food is disappearing. So, I decided to go back to the basics of farming.

FN: In your farm, what sustainable farming technology or system do you practice?

WT: Well, I am not a purist. I can be into organic, natural, quantum or biodynamic farming, which means all are under sustainable farming agriculture. I am not focused on just one farming system but a fusion of these farming systems. From these, I was able to develop one farming technology which is Integrated acropolis for urban farming. I also named my farming system as Integrated Progressive Sustainable Farming.

Here in the Philippines, most of the farmers who are into Organic farming would advocate on applying the technology to plants or vegetables first. In my case, going organic with animals should be the first thing to do when starting a farm because animal manure is rich in nitrogen that are needed by most plants.

In my farm, I raised animals first, mostly birds. I have hogs before but after a typhoon, I stopped raising them. Another thing is, the roads to my farm are still not feasible for hogs transport- there’s no right of way yet, but I am planning to bring it back, maybe later on.

Do you remember the spring on the other side of the farm that I was telling you? It was not there before. It lately sprang up because of the many trees in that area. Tibig however played a major role to that water source. Tibig trees can release thousands of liters of water per year and I make sure that water source are abundant, and that’s energized water much needed by both plants and animals.

If the farm is very dry, you can make a water reservoir by planting Tibig trees near it and wait for two to three years. Yes, 3 years, because in planting a tree, you really have to invest time on that.

Since the farm is still on its early stage of development and is biodiverse, I let nature takes its role on the decomposition of all organic matters around the farm like those santol fruits being left rotten on the ground, the leaves, the twigs etc, and organic fertilizers from the birds, turkeys, chicken and ducks manure. Nature is also at work in atmospheric fertilization with Madre de Cacao emitting atmospheric nitrogen and the atmospheric minerals like boron around the farm also help maintain healthy crops and livestock.

FN: As a Farm consultant, what farm projects do you consider successful?

WT: The one in Tondo, Manila. At 1,000 square meters, we can harvest 1,500 chickens every 2 months, 2,500 fish every 3 months, 30 pigs every 4 months and can harvest 100 to 300 kilos of vegetables and fruits every month. We also have a laboratory, a mini-solar house and a function room in that farm.

Another one is in Antipolo that supplies organic chicken to Healthy Options with a profit of not less than a hundred pesos per chicken.

Present project is in Bustos Bulacan, the Daily Bread Farm and Healing Resort. This is the first almost complete demo-farm because of its  rice field aside from the fish ponds, the herbs and vegetable gardens, the ruminants and its facilities.

FN: What can you say about farmers who may want to venture into organic or natural farming?

WT: If we do farming, we have to decide whether it’s purely a hobby or a business. If it’s a hobby, even if it won’t gain any profit, it’s ok- not a problem. But if your goal is for a business, then you have to really be serious about it. Before you start farming, know what to farm and find out first where to market your products.

Don’t experiment. Why? It can deplete your fund. If you fail to apply the farming technologies the correct way, you’ll end up bankrupt. So do it right from the start.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if your farm is still profitable, if it is, then your farm is sustainable.

FN: You have mentioned that most farmers who tried organic and natural farming failed and lost their money to it, is that because of the expensive Standard Organic Certification?

WT: It’s not only about the organic certification but also about profitability and sustainability. As I’ve said, many got bankrupt because of experimentation. Many farmers has turned their backs and shifted into their usual farming practices believing organic or natural farming is not doable and not profitable.

Here in the Philippines, only 40% is into Organic farming, and 60% of the farmers are into Natural farming. Most of those who have tried organic, natural and other sustainable farming types got discouraged eventually after failing on farm business and not meeting their expectations.

Why are these things happening? Mr. Gil Carandang had been advocating it for 30 years, and Andry Lim for 25 years now, and yet, why it’s still the same?

Profitability is the number one issue. For me, one sustainable farming system alone could not work in terms of profitability and sustainability. That is why we are trying to correct this by improving it through the combination of different types of sustainable farming systems so that the integration of these types of sustainable farming could bring profit to the farmer and his farm be sustainable.

FN: How about the issue if organic agriculture could feed the Filipino people, if not the world?

WT: It is possible, but it’s is even more possible if all help one another. It’s should not Organic agriculture alone but with the help of other farming systems like Natural, Quantum, Permaculture, and Biodynamic systems which are all under Sustainable Agriculture.

A table supported with four or more legs can stand stronger compared to a table with only a leg to support it.

FN: Any message for farmers especially to the younger generation?

WT: Respect the farmers. Embrace sustainable farming and be proud of it because it is where healthy good food comes from.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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