Wanderlust | A farm-to-table experience in Calinan

The farm-to-table concept has been here for decades but has not penetrated the interest of the masses. Thanks to recent heightened attention towards issues, like climate change, environment, and health, farm-to-table is in vogue again – and hopefully, it will stay for good – especially in this era of fast and instant food.In Davao City, there are a few establishments hawking the farm-to-table concept but it is in Huni Farm, a 3.5 hectare organic farm in Barangay Wangan, Calinan District, where we literally saw our food journey from the soil to our stomach.

“When you say organic farming or natural farming, it is actually an imitation of the forest. You just let the plant grow while you just take care of the soil by not using chemical fertilizers or pesticides. When you take care of the soil, the soil will take care of the plants,” said Rick Bongar Campos, who takes charge of product development and marketing of the farm, during our visit last weekend.

Campos, who also leads the farm tour, escorted our group as we strolled along their spices and herbs, vegetables and fruit gardens up to their vegetable nurseries and livestock ranches. The farm is right across the street to where their restaurant is located.

“In our farm you can see almost all of the vegetables in the (nursery rhyme) ‘Bahay Kubo’ except perhaps for garlic because they grow in dry areas,” he said. The farm is home to around 30 to 40 varieties of vegetables.

Campos also introduced some exotic vegetables not commonly found in public markets, such as their red okra, red pechay, red atis, red spinach, and even kale, which is considered a superfood. They also have fruits, like bignay, durian, mangosteen, rambutan, papaya, guyabano, marang, lanzones, guava, among many others.

“These days, if you want to be an organic farmer, you need to have sufficient knowledge on ecology and know the dynamics and interconnectedness between plants and animals. Like, if you want to grow more plants, you don’t need to use fertilizer – just get more pollinators. Plant a lot of flowers to attract pollinators, such as bees and birds, which in turn attract worms. Then plant a lot of fruit bearing trees to attract birds that will control the population of the worms,” he explained.

From the gardens, we proceeded to the farm’s livestock area.

“We grow organic chicken, cow, quail and pigs in the farm. We don’t inject antibiotics into our livestock. Instead, we allow them to grow naturally. If it’s 60 days, then it’s 60 days. You can’t force them to grow old fast with chemicals,” said Campos. To boost their immune system, they mix their food and water with turmeric, lemongrass and ginger.

Huni Farm also strictly conforms to the 300 heads of livestock to one hectare of farm ratio. “If there’s more than 300, oxygen supply will decrease, leading the animals to have lower resistance against diseases,” Campos explained.

We also observed that the livestock enclosures do not have flies hovering over the animals and do not reek of animal dung.

“Every morning and afternoon, we make our natural concoction of water and stale rice (fermented for 15 days) that we use to spray their cages. It doesn’t not only increase the level of good bacteria but also drives flies and other pests away,” he expounded.

Campos deems that it is high time for the government to educate the farmers more by incorporating technology, biology, ecology, and even engineering to farming.

“It is sad that our agriculture is one of our poorest sectors. In other countries, farming is a highly lucrative and an income generating industry. But I am glad that the government is now advocating farm tourism. This will inspire farmers to stay on farming,” he said.

According to Campos, some farmers have opted to find other jobs outside of the farm, and that 70% of local farmers are now senior citizens. “That’s why we constantly encourage and invite children to Huni Farm to do actual farming. We want them to appreciate farming while they are young,” he said.

Huni Farm often works with pre-schools for Campos’ Latagaw program, where they reconnect children with nature. With the program, they hold farmer-for-a-day activities where kids get to learn not just how to plant, but also how to feed chickens and clean pig pens.

At the end of our farm tour, Campos introduced our group to Huni Farm owner Louella Garcia, who was then busy preparing their weekend buffet.

She was inspired and taught by her grandmother to prepare food the traditional way.

“At a very young age, I already cook during fiestas. My lola would smack my hand whenever I make a mistake in the preparation. Those days, we don’t have blenders, so everything is manual and we make everything, from dishes to sauces, from scratch,” she recalled.

Garcia started her organic farming back in 2012. From the farming, she became a restaurateur and was part of Balik Bukid and Balay Verde, two local restaurants also known to serve healthy fares.

“Everywhere I go, my clients still follow me and ask me to cook their favorite organic food. That is one of the reasons why I decided to set up Huni Farm,” she said.

Huni Farm’s weekend buffet, priced at PhP450 per person (PhP600, if with farm tour), consists of 12 fares, 5 desserts and a variety of refreshing drinks from fresh fruits and plants loaded with botanical and fruity notes.

“We don’t have a regular menu. What we do here is we go to the farm, see what’s available, and we take it from there,” Garcia said.

And if she finds something lacking in taste, she just goes out of the kitchen and head to the garden nearby. “Our garden has an edible landscape. We just pick an herb or spice straight and fresh from there. Through this practice, we desire to inspire Dabawenyos that they can do the same. There’s no more need for artificial seasoning,” shared Garcia.

But since their produce are harvested at peak freshness, bursting with flavors and nutrients, they don’t dress their buffet food up with complex sauces and overpowering flavors. They just let the freshness and the flavors speak for themselves.

Farm-to-table concept, like Huni Farm, is an interesting way to make local and organic food more available and accessible to the communities. It is also beneficial to the environment as the produce doesn’t have to be shipped long distances, meaning, less transport, fewer greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere.

“Huni Farm is more than just about serving organic food. We are about knowing where your food comes from, supporting local farms and being responsible with what we take in our bodies,” she said.

Huni Farm also has a bakeshop where visitors can buy bromate-free baked goodies for pasalubong.

Posted in Lifestyle