October – November 2015
Heartwarming. This was how the hosts of Rosa Farms felt about the sincere appreciation expressed by some 150 farmers and agricultural extension workers from the Cordilleras whom they recently trained for Good Agricultural Practices and Farm Tourism.
Not even typhoon Lando, nor the long, 12-15-hour travel to Zambales for the participants could stop the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute CAR Center Director Dr. Arlene Luna-Flores from pushing through with her program of actual exposure and practical capability-building for these farmers. Dr. Flores’ close collaboration with Rosa Farms, a GAP-certified mango farm, and its partner training service provider, Clearvision Outsourcing Consultants.
Rosa Farms booked the participants at Crystal Beach Resort, a partner establishment, where they enjoyed fun-filled teambuilding beach activities. Day One was then capped with a first-time experience for most of the participants –- a boodle-fight dinner with the hosts. These symbolic yet delightful activities set the tone for positive anticipation for the next two workshop days at Rosa Farms.
Days Two and Three saw the farmers actively participating in a GAP and Farm Tourism Training Workshop facilitated by the farm owners Ding, Nelda and Leo Zulueta. They were supported as resource persons by Rosa Farms’ technical consultant, horticulturist, mango production specialist and professor of Ramon Magsaysay Technological University, Ferdinand ‘Fritz’ Domingo, and Mrs. Flor Domingo, a specialist in pest management and control. The workshop included a GAP compliance farm inspection tour while guided by a GAP requirement checklist.
Ding and Nelda Zulueta spoke of their experience in developing the 12.5- hectare Rosa Farms, how they achieved the GAP certification and Rosa Farms’ evolution into an agritourism destination. Prof. Domingo discussed in detail Good Agricultural Practices covering the six areas for assessment: Farm Location, Farm Structure, Farm Environment, Farm Practices, Farm Maintenance and Farm Management. Further, he gave a brief overview of mango production, the challenges being faced by mango farmers today, and the technology by which these are mitigated. This presentation was further boosted by Prof. Flor Domingo’s lecture on best practices in pest management and control, which gave the participants deeper understanding on the correct usage and application of fertilizers, pesticides and other agro-chemicals.
In addition to an inspection tour around the farm, Prof. Domingo also gave a hands-on demonstration on grafting Rosa Farms’ mango variety scions with mango root stock. He also introduced the participants to the different organic herbs found in Rosa Farms’ Edible Landscaping Garden, their major properties and uses, and how to propagate these.
Being an agritourism destination, and in its effort to promote farm tourism, Rosa Farms made it a point to let the participants experience for themselves what it had to offer to the `agri-tourist.’ Thus, sumptuous snacks, non-stop, were offered to the participants, including Rosa Café’s famous mango pizza, mango fruit shake and mango turon. A delicious buffet lunch was prepared for the guests, Rosa Farm-Fiesta style, which got the guests coming back to the lunch spread for more. This was followed by a siesta break with outdoor massage in the cabanas for the participants by Rosa Farms’ on-site massage therapists. The guests also had fun selecting and buying treats for pasalubong from the Rosa Farms country store.
After the siesta break, the participants focused on some strategic planning for their farms, the facilitators requiring each participant to translate the experience and knowledge gained into action upon returning to his farm back in the Cordilleras. Concrete, doable actions were encouraged, and this activity resulted in quite a successful outcome. The second day was capped with an on-site demonstration on fruit tree pruning, and a tour of the nearby Ramon Magsaysay Technological University’s campus orchard and processing facility.
On the last day of the 3-day workshop, Atty. Leo Zulueta shared his experience in joining the week-long Agribusiness Workshop facilitated by Cornell University in Bangkok last July 2015, sponsored jointly by the Asian Productivity Organization and the Development Academy of the Philippines. He shared interesting global trends in agriculture and focused on promoting community farm tourism, as is being developed in leaps and bounds by our ASEAN neighbors. He shared developments in agritourism in Taiwan, the US, and the very interesting `rice field art’ in Japan.
The three-day GAP and Farm Tourism Workshops at Rosa Farms for all five batches of farmers and agricultural stakeholders from the various provinces of the CAR ended on a very high note. The gratefulness expressed by the participants and their strong commitment to apply all learning to their respective farms left the workshop facilitators and hosts of Rosa Farms with much joy and fulfillment.