From tour to food provider: Couple grows food to supply their tour business with fresh produce amid food inflation

Published July 27, 2021, 10:00 AM

by Vina Medenilla

Food is connected to everything. Any adjustments or significant changes in food or agriculture can affect all industries in various ways and levels. See how the rising prices of commodities can impact the financial stability and food security of many individuals and businesses. 

Al and Mae Linsangan, 44 and 46 respectively, the owners of Calamianes Expeditions & Ecotours, one of the pioneer tour operators in Coron, Palawan, are familiar with this situation. 

Al and Mae Linsangan, owners of one of the pioneer tour operators in Coron, ventured into farming in hopes of securing food for their clients’ meals during island and inland tours.

For the past two decades that they have been in the travel industry, the time they’ve greatly felt the impacts of food inflation was in 2016. The price of calamansi spiking up to P120/kilo became the turning point for the couple to grow their own calamansi trees that can provide them enough supply for their guests’ meals on tours. 

From 1,000 calamansi trees, they now produce a wide selection of crops on their farm, including pineapple, papaya, jackfruit, banana, tomato, lettuce, eggplant, and other vegetables mentioned in the Filipino folk song “Bahay Kubo.” 

Coron Natural Farms (CNF) stands on a three-hectare land in Barangay Decalachao, Coron, Palawan that was acquired by the couple in 2010. CNF used to practice traditional agricultural methods at first until the Linsangans switched to natural farming in 2016.

Coron Natural Farms is a three-hectare farm that naturally grows crops and raises farm animals in Barangay Decalachao, Coron, Palawan.

The duo has turned the farm into an ATI-accredited Learning Site for Agriculture (LSA) that offers programs on natural farming and more.

A relaxing space inside Coron Natural Farms (CNF).

Enriching their knowledge and experience in farming

Besides attending agriculture conferences and trade shows, the Linsangans have visited several farms in the Philippines and in Bali, Indonesia where they gained an understanding of different farming techniques. 

Al currently spends most of his time at CNF conducting classes and running the daily operations, while Mae tends to their urban garden (that’s an hour drive away from the farm) where they also offer classes on hydroponics, urban farming, and vermicomposting.

Mae Linsangan with her lettuce harvest from the urban garden.

Integrating crops, fishes, compost, and tourism

CNF practices integrated farming through its six components: vegetable patch, orchard, livestock, bio-composting, aquafarming, and farm tourism.

The farm has three separate ponds for ducks, ulang or freshwater prawns, and various fish species (hito, dalag, and tilapia). Aside from these aquatic animals, they also raise goats and native chickens, which they all feed with the available farm resources such as duckweed and azolla. 

Full-grown tilapia and dalag at Coron Natural Farms.

The couple keeps their farm and urban garden as natural as possible. “When we farm, [we] utilize the land or soil. We do not deplete it, but rather, we enrich it. In this particular practice, we do regenerative agriculture and we do not use any or single chemical or synthetic pesticides—all natural,” said Al. Instead, they grow crops that can naturally drive away pests like herbs. 

The Green Roof Garden of Coron Natural Farms.

To keep a circular economy, the two make sure nothing goes to waste by converting any possible materials into reusable items.

CNF also offers outdoor activities that bring guests closer to nature, such as river kayaking, bird watching, cycling, farm tour, and earthing or grounding.

As an added boost on the farm, CNF offers tourism elements where guests can avail of activities like river kayaking.

Along with the therapeutic activities are healthy food options that CBF sells, such as seasonal fruits and farm-fresh meals for the guests. Customers can also purchase vermicompost, garden soil, and produce on-site. 

Welcome snacks for guests are also fresh from the farm.

Prototype garden

The Linsangans also introduced a prototype garden that they call “15-30,” because it’s a 15 sqm model garden that grows 30 vegetables and herbs in a matter of 30 days or so. By having this garden, families can save at least P3,000 a month in terms of food costs. 

“We have presented it to UPLB, SEARCA, and Kansas State University. To date, we are establishing these gardens in Coron, Busuanga, Culion, and Mainland Palawan. We have introduced this model garden to LGUs, schools, churches, and communities,” said Al. 

Food self-sufficiency

The farm has become a valuable food resource for the couple’s business over the years. However, the pandemic has forced them to stop offering travel and tour services due to the health protocols imposed by the government to fight COVID-19. Despite this, they shifted to offering their harvests to local visitors in the form of farm-to-table meals and fresh produce. 

Al credits God, who continuously provides their farm with bountiful harvests amid the pandemic. In this photo, he poses with his pineapples that weigh 3.4 kilos each.

To date, CNF is composed of six families that are in charge of the six farm components. The farm hands are former traditional farmers who converted into natural farming after learning the ropes of it at CNF. 

What sets them apart from others? They start the day with prayer. Every morning before work, interns and farm staff gather for their daily devotion and prayer time where they worship God and alternately share their testimonies.

[From left to right] CNF farmhands Ding De Guzman, Rizaldy Juan, and Eric Juan, with the couple, Al and Mae Linsangan.

The farm has provided not only the farmhands, but also the animals, with enough food supply amid the quarantine period. 

Turning to natural farming has brought monetary and non-monetary rewards to the couple. Not only did it sustain their tourism business for several years, but it has also allowed them to have a healthy food system and alternative source of income amid the ongoing health crisis.

For more information, visit Coron Natural Farms.

Photos courtesy of Coron Natural Farms. 

Read more about farming and gardening at agriculture.com.ph.

 
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