Farms now serve many purposes, as farm schools or tourist destinations are just two of them. The latter was what Cathy Turvill and husband Mike did for the Nurture Wellness Village in Tagaytay.
I recently asked Cathy to host our Asean Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) delegates to try out her spa after our meetings in Manila. I wanted them to enjoy the cool breeze of Tagaytay before returning to their equally hot climes in Myanmar, Bangkok and Cambodia. But they got more than the cool breeze. They went home with lots of ideas on replicating what Cathy and Mike have done to what was first called the Nurture Spa.
Soon after opening their spa, Cathy, being the tourism and wellness advocate that she is, expanded the spa to include a small farm. And because the property straddled in Amadeo, Cavite known—or the coffee town—she also included coffee trees in the tourist experience. Moreover, she grows vegetables like Kale, now called the “super food” among health and fitness advocates.
So besides having your foot and body massage and other aromatherapy spa experience, the farm offers other options that you can equally get lost in.
The best testimonial came from Onie and Dana, two ladies representing Cambodia who happened to be on the same flight I took to Bangkok the next day. They just could not stop talking about their farm tour. In fact, they will bring their women entrepreneurs to Manila on a study tour at Cathy’s farm! They confirmed that it was not just a spa retreat but it was an enlightening and inspiring business tour that awakened their entrepreneurial genes after asking (and paying!) for extra time on their foot massage.
This is what “farm tourism” is all about. It’s not just about planting and harvesting coffee, for example. It is about making that experience so memorable that people would eventually want to bring back their friends and family.
The ladies shared their photos of Cathy serving a snack of sticky rice with mango, of them walking a bit around and soon partaking in a boodle fight for lunch. As if not full enough, they were served snacks again after a satifying foot massage. Everything was memorable and enriching for these ASEAN ladies whose cultures are both similar yet diversified from ours.
Another idea of farm tourism is allowing people into the vegetable farm to gather their own harvest, be among greens and be able to touch the earth.
We get a lot of these tourists in ECHOfarms, also in Amadeo, Cavite. Weekend tourists pass by to take photos while harvesting their own food. If pre-arranged our farm manager serves them ice cold buko (fresh coconut juice) straight from the natural container. Sometimes she also makes vegetable lumpia and a garden salad from whatever greens available.
Though summer is almost gone, people still drive out to Tagaytay City, Cavite and check out other destinations in the surrounding towns—Amadeo, Silang, Alfonso—where many chefs and entrepreneurs have opened shops, opening their weekend homes to tourists who both want to get away from the city traffic and eat wholesome food.
In these farm destinations, you can commune with nature and do some soul searching instead of just noshing on a steak or having champagne. You can harvest vegetables or coffee when it is in season, learn a dance step or yoga, and eat “boodle” style or the way many Filipinos prepare food at fiestas.
Drive around Silang and you may also find Ilog Maria at Km. 47 where you can see honeybees in action and visit Joel and Boleng Magsaysay’s abode built by honeybees. Take home some honey propolis or some natural soaps. Joel started farm tourism back in 1997 when we first met him, and when he could still personally demonstrate how to take honey straight from the hives.
Farm tourism—it’s a new business model that farms can get extra income from and a new experience city slickers are willing to pay for.
Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra ,Salcedo Village, Podium, Centris QC mall, Davao, Cebu City, Iloilo and Antipolo City. She also is Chair of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org