- The farm’s restaurant offers travelers the option to pick the ingredients of their food from the gardens.
- It also offers guests learning sessions on organic farming – from the basics of compost making to caring for plants.
- Its farm school offers training programs to help farmers use modern technology to increase profits.
- In 2020, the farm school had conducted free training to 75 farmers on the latest methods and technologies on producing high-quality inbred rice, seed certification, farm mechanization, and financial literacy under the Farmer Field School (FFS) program.
It’s called “Our Farm Republic” and it presents two faces of agriculture – tourism and training of farmers.
Our Farm Republic is in Mangatarem, Pangasinan, where farmers and tourists can find more information on organic farming.
For tourists, there is a restaurant where guests can pick the ingredients of their food from the farm, or purchase fresh organic produce to bring home. Those who have more time can learn about organic farming starting from the basics of composting to plant care.
Lea Santiago, OFR founder, said that through the training programs designed for farmers, they hope to help farmers stop the common practice of borrowing money to buy food for their families, an ironic situation since the farmers grow food for communities.
“I don’t want to hear farmers suffering because they don’t have anything to eat even though they themselves produce food. I always believe that there is money in agriculture. It will remain a sunrise industry,” Santiago said.
The OFR program was set up with the support of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
According to Santiago, she converted the OFR into a farm school to assist farmers to use modern technology to increase their profits.
Santiago is guided by experience. By attending training and certification programs, Santiago was also able to upgrade her family’s farm as a DA-accredited Organic Techno-Demo Farm, into a learning site for agriculture, and a farm tourism site accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT).
She said they had provided free training to 75 farmers in 2020, on the latest methods and technologies on producing high-quality inbred rice, seed certification, farm mechanization, and financial literacy under the Farmer Field School (FFS) program.
The program was supported by the Rice Extension Services Program (RESP) of RCEF.
“On the side, [we] teach smarter financial management among farmers since a lot of them still don’t know how to count their expenses, their labor, the time they spend on their farm, and the rent they pay,” she added.
Currently, OFR is among the over 200 farm schools nationwide that conduct the RCEF-FFS program which she said will help in transforming their trainee-farmers into “agripreneurs.”
Meanwhile, the DA’s Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) said farmers with at least a hectare of property can also set up their own farm school by submitting a letter of intent and attend series of training to be certified by the agency.
Scholarships and additional incentives for farm schools will also be provided by ATI and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in a bid to fast-track the modernization of farming practices nationwide.