AGRICULTURE MONTHLY INSPIRED THIS READER TO START THEIR OWN FARM THAT IS NOW THE FIRST DOT-ACCREDITED FARM TOURISM DESTINATION IN BOHOL
BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
For Raymond Michael B. Roldan, it was an article on Costales Nature Farm in Agriculture Monthly that started his career as a proprietor of a leisure farm in Bohol. “I loved farming. My first business right out of college was a broiler contract-growing farm which was unfortunately wiped out by typhoon Ruping. But I have always dreamt of retiring at 50 and living on a farm, growing my own food and enjoying it,” Roldan said. When he saw a copy of Agriculture Monthly which featured the beginnings of Costales Nature Farm and how a former corporate employee retired from his job to start his own farm, Roldan was inspired to follow suit. This was coupled with an impromptu side trip to an island Farm in Queenstown, New Zealand while he and his wife had their second honeymoon in celebration of their 24th anniversary which helped him realize the potential of farm tourism. “It was an ‘aha!’ moment for me. As I joked with my wife, sometimes a honeymoon can conceive a business instead of a baby,” Roldan shared. Now, he is the proud owner of Vita Isola Leisure Farm. A FARM THAT HIGHLIGHTS THE ISLAND LIFE The farm started in 2016 when Roldan and his wife decided to build a rest house in the countryside and grow their own food so they can be sure that it’s pesticide-free, fresh, and healthy. Several years later, they decided to open it to the public. It was about the same time Republic Act 10816, otherwise known as the Farm Tourism Act, was approved. “I promptly applied and became Bohol’s first and only Department of Tourism (DOT) Accredited Farm Tourism Destination at that time. A few years later, we also became an accredited learning site for the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute, ”Roldan said. Vita Isola is an integrated natural farm which grows lettuce, herbs, and local vegetables. “What makes it different is that we applied the principles of edible landscaping wherein we creatively combine and arrange our veggies and herbs into aesthetically pleasing designs. Instead of planting solely for food, one can actually use these edible plants to beautify your place so you can enjoy the view while they grow,” the farm’s proprietor said. It also features farm animals such as native chickens, turkeys, quails, goats and rabbits whose wastes are used as natural fertilizer for the plants. Plant wastes are also used to feed the animals so nothing goes to waste. Vita Isola also practices vermicomposting with African nightcrawler earthworms to supplement the nutritional needs of their plants. Being in close proximity to the sea, the farm also has an aquaculture element about it as it cultivates bangus, pompano, ketong, abalone, and seaweeds. “At Vita Isola, one could experience agri and aqua culture in one place and enjoy a farm- to-table and sea-to-table dining experience, aqua activities like kayaking and stand up paddling, a mangrove tour, and a first-hand experience of the island life,” Roldan said. He added that the farm’s name, Vita Isola, is an Italian term which directly translates to “island life.” Guests can cap their day off by swimming in the farm’s crystal clear infinity pool overlooking the ocean. Or they can simply relax to destress and enjoy the magnificent ocean view amidst the verdant landscape, the therapeutic pure sea air, and soothing sound of the waves. CONSULTING EXPERTS FOR MAXIMUM PRODUCTION “We initially hired a consultant to teach and train our workers on natural farming. I also attended online seminars to compliment [our efforts],” Roldan said. By making themselves and their farm employees knowledgeable about natural farming, Vita Isola produces various vegetables such as different kinds of lettuce, local vegetables like ampalaya, eggplant, okra, pechay, beans, tomatoes, squash, raddish, carrots, and herbs which include stevia, peppermint, moroccan mint, basil, dill, tarragon, wachichao, oregano, and more. Roldan added that they also asked for technical assistance and sourced their livestock from their local Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and the ATI. Most of the farm’s produce is used as ingredients for their farm- to-table restaurant. Any excess is sold to local restaurants, friends, and guests at competitive prices. “I must admit, farming is a challenging enterprise compared to my trading and marketing businesses. In farming, you have to properly prepare the soil before you can plant and have to consistently and patiently tend to it and apply the necessary nutrients for it to grow then you have to promptly consume or sell it since it is a perishable product. On top of this, you are exposed to the elements of nature and have to adjust to the local culture of the workers and strike a balance in order to effectively manage. To succeed and sustain in farming, you have to be passionate about it. If you are just after money, you will not last,” Roldan said. When it comes to succeeding in farming like he did, Roldan advises those who want to go into farming to learn about it to avoid losses and heartaches. “If you can afford a consultant, you hire one at the start. There are also government agencies like the DA, BFAR and ATI who offer free technical assistance. There are also a lot of free online references and videos that you can access for free,” the proprietor of Vita Isola Leisure Farm said. Most importantly, Roldan stresses the importance of starting out small since no amount of seminar or reading can replace firsthand experience in farming. Thanks to that issue of Agriculture Monthly, Roldan made the first step to making his farming dream come true which he now enjoys and learns from. As for those who are still waiting for the right push to jumpstart their farming career, inspiration can come in all forms. One just needs to keep their eyes and minds open should that opportunity present itself.