Lawmaker cites economic benefits of farm tourism

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A party-list for marginalized farmers is now pushing for agri-tourism as a key economic driver, noting that local farms can be viable tourism destinations once the Farm Tourism Act is signed into law.

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In a statement, AAMBIS-Owa Party-list Representative Sharon Garin said that local and foreign tourists interested in experiencing life on farms first hand could add farm visits to their travel itinerary after House Bill 3745 becomes the Farm Tourism Act.

“The fusion of tourism and agriculture will benefit both sectors as it will boost the country’s economy by improving the income and potential economic viability of small farms and rural communities,” Garin said.

Agri-tourism, also referred to as “farm tourism”, is a form of tourism activity conducted in a rural farm area which may include tending farm animals, planting, harvesting and processing of farm products.

It covers attractions, activities, services and amenities as well as other resources of the area to promote an appreciation of the local culture, heritage and traditions through personal contact with the local people.

“Milking cows, fruit-picking, harvesting vegetables, fishing, horseback riding, watching butterflies, tending bees, tasting wines or juices, and sight-seeing are just some of the exciting recreational and educational activities tourists can do in a farm tourist spot,” said Garin, who is the author of HB 3745.

The House Committee on Tourism conducted hearings on HB 3745 with farm owners, tourism officers, agriculture experts and other stakeholders and government officials last August.

The bill seeks to create a Philippine Farm Tourism Industry Development Coordinating Council under the Department of Tourism to ensure the development and promotion of farm tourism in the country.

Farm tourism is already a thriving industry in many parts of the world, with each country having their unique selling points. An example is the sweet potato-based, tea-based, and pomelo-based farm tourism industry in Taiwan.

Malaysians, on the other hand, have coconut-based farms for tourists; while Indonesia is known for orange-picking tours. In Japan, rice-based farm tours are renowned.

In the Philippines, publicly listed food firm AgriNurture Inc. has recently launched an agri-tourism park in Rosario, Batangas with the aim of helping local farmers earn more while educating visitors on the different stages of food production.

Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park offers an integrated approach to environmentally sustainable agriculture based on the company’s “farm-to-plate” business model.

The agri-tourism park includes a greenhouse where lettuce, bell pepper and tomato are grown; three separate farms for mango, mahogany and asparagus, and an orchid farm.

Another success story in this niche is that of street food vendor- turned-millionaire farm owner Desiree Duran.  In 2001, Duran first embarked on planting off-season vegetables. Over the years, her backyard farm grew into a 3.6-hectare farmland now known as Duran Farm.

Duran Farm, located in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, is now a well-known farm tourism destination in Luzon where local and foreign visitors go to learn about best practices in vegetable production. Her farm also serves as venue for private companies who conduct  seminars and training for their clients.

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