Batangas farm for aspiring agripreneurs
(The Philippine Star) - November 3, 2019 - 12:00am

Manila, Philippines — An organic  agri-tourism farm village stretching over 8.8 hectares in Malvar, Batangas  has been put up for  aspiring farm entrepreneurs and hobbyists who may now run their small farms and be part of the bigger, more profitable agriculture value chain.

Agriculture economist Pablito Villegas has established four separate, non-contiguous farms that operate as one agro-ecological and natural farming complex under the brand name Villegas OrganiKs.

The farm village maximizes productivity and profit opportunities for small farmer-entrepreneurs or agripreneurs.

Four farms form part of the Villegas Organic & Hobby Farm Complex (VOHO) that are being sold to individual entrepreneurs.

They receive a package of assistance in the form of  organic inputs supplies, agriculture technology and marketing from VOHO and Malvar Organic Farmers Agriculture Cooperative (MOFAC).

The farm lots have been sold to farmer-entrepreneurs who may be taking the risk for the first time in agriculture business.

But fortunately, they face higher profit opportunities and enjoy better risk management because of VOHO’s package of aids and services even to newbies.

“We help amateur entrepreneurs to enjoy hobby and wellness farming and achieve economies of scale through consolidation of their produce together with other small farm lots owners,” said Villegas.

He is an agriculture economist who was a retired vice-president of Landbank at the age of 40 and has been a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) consultant on agricultural and rural development.

By operating one of  the farm lots, investors can produce or buy cheaper inputs and have full access to natural farming technology.

They are able to negotiate with local buyers and direct consumers for a higher price for their produce with their combined bigger volume that enables them to sell to consolidators and institutional markets.

Likewise, they are also able to obtain first and second party certification as organic producer or secure Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certification through VOHO’s assistance.

The  farm complex consists of the   San Pedro Uno Farm, San Pioquinto Farm. San Gregorio Agro-forest, and the Poblacion Eco Tourism & Agr-industrial Farm.

Located adjacent to the Star Expressway, the three-hectare San Pedro Uno farm had already sold out all 12 farm lots.  Some 5,830 square meters will be sub-divided into four to eight eco-farmville lots.       

Villegas also put up an 8,000 sqm amenities area and technology demonstration  site for organic farming.  The amenities area has air-conditioned three-door inn with outdoor kitchen for lodging of agricultural tourists. There is also a sauna facility, swimming pool, and gazebo. A water pump is available for irrigation and domestic waster use.

The 3.2 hectare San Pioquinto Farm, on the  other hand,  is offering  12 lots to interested farm-entrepreneurs.

On the other hand, the San Gregorio Agro-forest, located in the watershed and protected area of Taal Volcano and its Lakes, is a 0.9 hectare property, with seven agro-forest farm lots still available. 

With its sloping, hilly land area, it will be developed with a trekking pathway and a glamping (glamorous camping) area on the riverbed of Balete River that drains to Taal Lakes.  Continuous planting is ongoing in the agro-forest area (rambutan, Thai mango, Taiwan atis and guyabano, Malaysian Langka, a dwarf productive breed).

Meanwhile, the 1.73 hectare Poblacion Eco Tourism Farm will be subdivided into eight lots for eco-tourism and multi-use purposes such as events place, pension or retirement homes , warehouse and logistics, and trucking and storage). It is  located within the Metro Turf Racing Track in Malvar, and the nearby Summit Point Golf Course in Lipa City.

Through Villegas OrganiKs, farmers are able to access nearby markets in the booming economy of Batangas where the Malvar town is at the center of the province.

At the same time, the farm lots have  an easy access to Metro Manila as Malvar is just 60 kilometers away from Magallanes, Makati. That’s only a 40-minute travel (without traffic) via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR).

The farmer-entrepreneurs automatically get aid on agriculture technology, organic farming in particular, through the Malvar Organic Agriculture Cooperative once they hold membership.

Even before an aspiring farm-owner gets to own a farm lot at VOHO, farm produce are already waiting for him to harvest as the farms are already planted with different organically-maintained crops or fruit-bearing trees   that command high value (higher price) in the market.

The San Pioquinto Farm is planted to all-organic banana, dragonfruit, guyabano, malunggay, kalamansi, pomelo, cacao, coffee, durian, mangoes, chico and pili.  There are also areas for organic vegetables (empalaya, okra, sitao), winged and lima beans, yam, turmeric and ginger with non-sting bees as pollinators.

The San Pedro Uno Farm  is also an orchard planted to varied fruit trees coconut, mango, avocado, rambutan, chico, lanzones.

The San Gregorio Agroforest is planted to more than 150 fruit bearing trees including lanzones, langka, mangoes, avocado, coconuts and indigenous forest trees (bamboo and gmelina.)

As an employee or consultant then, Villegas  crafted value chain master plan programs and projects for agriculture and fisheries development in Africa, Pacific Islands and Asian economies including Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

He has long conceptualized the Nucleus & Satellite Organic Farm Cluster.  It was long ago just a concept that aims to optimize farm productivity and give small farmers the benefit of being connected to the bigger, even international supply chain.

But now he has made this concept into a reality in his own VOHO Farm model. 

In this case, the nucleus is the VOHO Farm Complex, and it is the link that connects small farmers to the value chain. The satellites are the small farms connected via membership with MOFAC.

Villegas encourages young and senior citizen investors to try farming initially as a hobby for health and wellness and eventually as a profitable and rewarding experience.

“While one is young, he should invest in agriculture, so that he will see his investment’s opportunity grow through the years,” he said.

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