Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday, October 02, 2016
1
Harvesting at the farm's Greenhouse










In this frenetic age of Wi-Fi, processed food, and Pokemon Go, Costales Nature Farms (CNF) defies the status quo of what a tourist attraction should be. It needs to be sustainable and certified organic. What most city dwellers don't know is that the farm is nothing like the monocultural site that outdated textbooks are fond of highlighting under the topic of agriculture. The 5-hectare space is actually an organic eco-farm that started as a family getaway in 2004. It's now a farm tourism destination at the foothills of the mystical Mount Banahaw after being formally established as a farm in 2005. With Cibo, Healthy Options, Italianni’s, and Solaire being essential clients that source organic vegetables from the farm, CNF is recognized as the first agri-tourism destination in the Philippines that's accredited by the Department of Tourism.

Costales Nature Farms is an attractive result of the combination of science, technology, and nature under the nurturing hands of its founder, the late Ronald Costales. He staunchly supported the practice of abstaining from the use of pesticides in crops so that they are not loaded with toxic chemicals for people to consume. Instead, the farm exists to foster a more holistic and natural ecosystem. With his passing, his wife Josephine or Josie is left to lead it but she's not alone in the endeavor as her grown-up kids have imbibed the same values for the environment that she and her husband were able to develop in the past decades. As chairman of the eco-farm, Josephine is positive that the legacy of Mr. Costales via CNF lives on.

With Costales Nature Farms Chairman Josephine Costales
Yellow Cosmos at the farm, both attractive and edible
A vivid view of the mystical Mount Banahaw from the farm
A healthy organic drink at the farm for afternoon snack



"...it's just a couple of hours of drive away from Alabang via the Majayjay-Lucban road."


One pleasant afternoon at the farm while booked for an overnight stay, I got the chance to have a brief conversation with her about attracting visitors and tourists to farm areas for production, educational and recreational purposes, and how it's becoming the new wave of tourism in the country. Known as farm tourism, the practice is actually now a law -- Republic Act 10816 -- that's intended to provide opportunities for farmers to augment their earnings, and at the same time, increase players in the rural tourism industry. As a member of the technical working group of its implementing rules and regulations (IRR), she's excited to have all the details finalized before the end of 2016.

Eager to relax in rural splendor of Laguna's Costales Nature Farms and imbibe the farming lifestyle for a day or two? If anything, it's just a couple of hours of drive away from Alabang via the Majayjay-Lucban road. Here are five more reasons why the farm is worth a visit in Majayjay:

A farm staff harvesting tanglad or lemongrass
Harvesting organic chicken eggs at the farm where they're also displayed for consumers at the souvenir center
A rabbit at the farm
Sorting the harvested crops by the farm staff

1. The Farm Is Self-Sustaining In Many Ways

Lemongrass As Farm Guards

With lemongrass or tanglad planted in strategic parts of the farm to drive out the harmful effects of pesticides brought about by traditional farming methods outside and in nearby areas, the quality of soil and air within CNF is ascertained to be conducive for organic farming.

Organic Pigs and Chicken

Lest you find seeing pigs a bit off-putting, the farm's piggery is not the usual one that can turn your stomach upside-down. During my visit, I managed to see its existing organic piggery which is not at all revolting to the eyes. What's more, it's odorless thanks to the combination of rice hull, coconut husk, and carbonized rice hull, soil, salt and mixed effective and indigenous microorganisms for the bedding. The well-kept area can also be attributed to the no-bath technology being used wherein the piggery's convection roof naturally enables cold air to stay where the pigs are -- at the bottom -- and lets hot air escape to the top, rendering the need for electricity useless.

(left) The African Night Crawler used for vermiculture; (top right) An organic drink; (bottom right) Magic Fruit
Where EMAS is made
The installation also uses vitamins sourced from different concoctions of fermented fruit and plant juices, oriental herbs, nutrients and minerals. Fermented organic feeds and vegetables are used in feed-feeding which makes the cost for feeds reduced in the long run. As a result, the growth rate of organic pigs is higher compared to commercially-grown pigs.

"...the growth rate of organic pigs is higher compared to commercially-grown pigs."

As for organic chicken, the breeds inside the farm are fed with feeds that are formulated and produced from its own organic feed mill.

Vermicast As Potent Fertilizer

After each harvest in its piggery, the manure-mixed bedding are converted into organic, nutrient-rich fertilizer by composting worms called African Night Crawlers as vermicast. The manure of the other livestock are also fed to the working worms. Vermicast is later on converted into vermitea at the farm by brewing it with a a technology known as EMAS.

The African Guinea Fowl that produces eggs larger than quail eggs
What's used as soil for seedlings
The farm is kid-friendly
EMAS Technology

Perhaps what makes CNF stand out from other farms is its use of such a technology which is also known as Effective Microorganism Activated Solution. It is used to improve the soil, increase plant health and yield and deter pests. The technology is basically multiplying microbes by awakening them from their dormant state through fermentation. EMAS is a mixture of water, EM1, and molasses that's fermented for a week in a clean and air-tight container.

The output is a source of beneficial microogranisms that the farm has also used in the construction of its newly-built celebration hall which initially looks like a modern contrast to the rustic accommodations in the same property. What makes the structure unique is that it's EMAS-induced from the tiles to the cement, making it last for more than 30 decades!

Excess vegetable harvest and farm rejects are ultimately fed back to the livestock completing the loop system of CNF's zero-waste policy.

The Seedling Nursery
Farm workers on a morning harvest duty
Newly-born rabbits

The beetroot and its plant

2. A Plenitude of Packages To Choose From For Guided Farm Tours

Getting down and dirty at CNF is what makes the visit memorable. A guided farm tour of the area makes this possible as it allows visitors to be familiar with the basic knowledge on crop-harvesting that include holding in your own hands organic vegetables like okra, ampalaya, onion, tomato, pepper, upo, patola, cucumber and beans, harvesting eggs, harvesting herbs and spices like sweet basil, rosemary, taragon, sage and thyme and fishing tilapia. Plus, guests can also enjoy feeding animals from rabbits to chicken. The experience is not just great for active adults because the whole area is constructed with wheelchair ramps, fences and railings along the walkways leading in and out our farm which make it suitable for old folks and kids.

Tarragon
Rural Life Appreciation

A guided farm tour is the best way to really imbibe the rural scenery as it lets guests appreciate the realities of life beyond living in the city. For example, you will be mindful of soil management in regard to chemical soil treatments that seep into your grocery-bought food because they can harm the beneficial bacteria, worms, and other microbes in the soil where they are normally harvested from unknown areas.


"...you will be mindful of soil management in regard to chemical soil treatments that seep into your grocery-bought food because they can harm the beneficial bacteria, worms, and other microbes in the soil..."


You will also show appreciation for the existence of a good compost because it makes methane-producing landfills unnecessary as it helps feed plants, conserves water, cuts down on weeds and renders food and yard waste nonexistent. What's more, you can learn on site how cutting off a crop with a pair of scissors during harvest time is better than ripping it off from the ground with your fingers as the latter can cause damage to the plant tissue.

Nursery Seedling
A local farmer coming out of the farm's Greenhouse
The scenery at the farm
The guided farm tour includes dealing with seedlings


Greenhouse and Seedling Nursery 

The tour will also let guests visit the farm's notable facilities like the Seedling Nursery and Greenhouse.

Before the farm's young seedlings are transplanted into the greenhouse and open-field production areas, they are first nurtured at the Seedling Nursery where they are subjected to an automatic misting facility to ensure that they grow healthy and robust.

The farm has a total of 24 greenhouse units that are owned by OFW partners who finance the construction of the facilities while the farm handles its production, management, and marketing of the produce. Revenue-sharing is practiced in this joint-venture arrangement, making the facilities lucrative regardless of the weather.

Different kinds of plants at the farm
Agri-Tourism Packages

With seven Agri-Tourism Packages to choose from, guests of any orientation can find one that suits a scheduled getaway.

Spending more than a day at the farm can be beneficial and it has various packages that feature different benefits. It has a Wellness Tour which is a two-night stay for Php4,000 per person. It also has a Life at the Farm Tour (Buhay-Bukid Tour) that lets a guest enjoy an overnight stay for Php2,500 per person. For those opting for something more affordable with an overnight stay, the Green Living Tour can work for Php1,200 per person. If two nights can spell a rural difference, its two-night stay package called the Organic Culinary Tour can work for Php5,000 per person.

"For those who opt for day tours, the farm has three such packages namely the Green Salad Tour, the Lakbay-Aral Tour, and the Lakbay-Aral Tour with Lunch."

For those who opt for day tours, the farm has three such packages namely the Green Salad Tour (day tour for half a day for Php400 per person), the Lakbay-Aral Tour (day tour for two to three hours for Php250 per person), and the Lakbay-Aral Tour with Lunch (day tour for three to four hours for Php650 per person).

Our booked rustic kubo
The accommodation has basic amenities for a relaxing stay
An accommodation at the farm that's good for three guests (Villa Josefa)
Nighttime at the farm means dinnertime





3. Affordable Bed and Breakfast

Romantic couples or families on a reset mindset can also make CNF their perfect getaway since it started off that way for the Costales Family anyway. The farm has five types of guest houses to choose from when it comes to relaxing overnight stays. The Bahay Kubo and the Balai Liwayway can each fit two guests for different rates. My favorite house in the farm is the Villa Josefa which can perfectly fit three guests.


"The farm has five types of guest houses to choose from when it comes to relaxing overnight stays."


Large groups (maximum of 10 guests) can book either the Villa Marcus or the Villa Angela for roughly less than Php8,000.

Our group's hearty breakfast table of organic treats
(left) Organic vinaigrette; (top right) Showstopping salad; (bottom right) Salad with vinaigrette
Crispy Spinach for dinner
Brick oven-baked organic pizza

4. Authentic Farm-To-Table Food For Dining

Dining at the farm's Apong Damian Restaurant becomes guilt-free after going through all the first three reasons because you can expect not just delicious food, but also healthy dishes that are guaranteed to be farm-to-table. 

"With pastoral views that complemented the dining experience, the meals were more satisfying than dining at some high-end restaurant inside a mall."

During my stay at the farm with friends, I enjoyed hearty meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I also indulged on custom-made organic pizza flavors that were freshly baked at the farm's brick oven, plus showstopping salads and appetizing snacks and drinks that were crafted on site. Because the ingredients were fresh from the farm, the flavors were more savory and textures were crispier. With pastoral views that complemented the dining experience, the meals were more satisfying than dining at some high-end restaurant inside a mall. Coffee aficionados can also find it appealing that the restaurant serves an affordable cup of brewed coffee for only Php50!

Dining huts and a snack of caramelized banana
The farm staff working on a custom-made organic pizza
Farm-to-table food for breakfast
(top) The view from our booked kubo; (bottom) Our booked accommodation

"Its celebration hall is strategically located at the property for sensational views of the majestic Mt. Banahaw on a good day."


5. A Sought-After Training Center In The Philippines

Aside from being a destination for relaxation and touring, CNF is also considered as a national training center for farm tourism. Being accredited as a private extension service provider for the Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Tourism (DOT), it conducts workshops for those who wish to learn about sustainable organic farming and farm tourism. Its celebration hall is strategically located at the property for sensational views of the majestic Mt. Banahaw on a good day. It's also large enough to accommodate more than 200 guests. As for parking, the property has such space for vans and buses inside its sprawling compound.

The Celebration Hall of the farm
According to the farm's founder, Ronald Costales, the best fertilizer is the owner's footprints in the farm. And he might have foreseen his immediate future for saying so because he's still absolutely present in every foliage and crop lot in his untimely absence thanks to the legacy that he left to the rest of the Costales family.

With rural tourism being supported by the Duterte administration, agri-tourism is finally being given the boost that it needs. And at the center of it all promulgating its purpose, methods, and benefits is Costales Nature Farms. It's just waiting for you to experience it.




Costales Nature Farms

Official website of Costales Nature Farms

Address: Costales Nature Farms Training Center, Brgy. Gagalot, Majayjay, Laguna, Philippines
Phone: (049) 576-3824
Email: inquiries@costalesnaturefarms.com


Check out my other farm-related blog posts:

JSJ Goat Farm: A Refreshing Tarlac Discovery
Good Earth Garden Cafe: Organic Dining In Tarlac
The Enduring Rose Farm of Benguet
Ligao City's Sunflower Farm In Bloom
Abe's Farm: A Paradise of Capampangan Cuisine
Melba's Farm: My Secluded Retreat In Talisay City




More Photos Below:

The interiors of the Villa Josefa accommodation
One of the accommodations at the farm that's great for a large group of 10 guests
The pathway to our booked kubo
Brewed Coffee for Php50 only at the farm's Apong Damian Restaurant

1 comments:

  1. Wow, this is amazing! I'd love to experience this trip! Thanks for sharing! Do they have volunteer programs at the farm? I'd definitely go for it, if they did! :)

    ReplyDelete

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