First DOT Accredited Agricultural Park in Liliw, Laguna Elevates Local Community with Employment, Tourism and Food Production – Manila Bulletin

Farmers often take a break under the shade of a tree near the end of Silent Integrated Farm. From left to right: James Patrick Matic (head of operations), Joseph Borgonia (head farmer), Wiljohn Comendador (farmer). (Jerome Sagcal)

At the entrance to Silent Integrated Farm, an agricultural tourism destination in Liliw, Laguna, visitors are greeted by a person seated inside a hut. It’s not always the same person, but whoever it is, that person is actually not an agricultural employee. Nevertheless, they diligently monitor the entrance to monitor entries and donations. This person is actually a local barangay official. Depending on their schedule, it is either a barangay policeman or a member of the local women’s squad who greets new visitors.

This is just a glimpse of the inner workings of Silent Integrated Farm, an agricultural tourism destination in Barangay Dagatan. The farm is rooted in its advocacy to uplift its direct community. As Richales “Charles” Espinosa, the farm’s administrative manager, says, “Farming is not just about growing crops, it’s about cultivating happy farming communities.”

Charles would go on to tell Agriculture Online exactly what that meant and how a series of spontaneous decisions rooted in helping the local community led to Liliw’s first agritourism farm site which was accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) .

Colorful umbrellas hang above the Silent Integrated Farm walkway. (Jerome Sagcal)

There were in fact no initial plans to open a farm park as the farm was just set up to help sustain the farmers’ livelihood under the employment of its 23-year-old farm owner, who chose not to include his name in this story.

The farm owner had a farm in Barangay Daniw located in the same town. The farm was developed so that the owner could gain hands-on farming experience as she aimed to obtain methodological certification for her trainers from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

After harvesting their crops, there was not much to do on the farm, so the owner feared that her farmers would lose their source of income. During their time working together, she got to know the farmers personally and learned what they had to go through during the Covid-19 pandemic. Inspired by their life stories, she decided to expand her farm in Barangay Dagatan to support them and increase production on their farm.

Development of what would be the Silent Integrated Farm began in November 2021. They had to clear what was just overgrown land. They started small but they had a Facebook page to market their products. They then opened a small restaurant on the farm after people kept asking if they could have one.

The gradual expansion of the farm attracted more people to come and visit Silent Integrated Farm. People from Pila, Laguna regularly visit Silent Integrated Farm, including teenagers looking for a place to meet.

When the farm owner and her team saw the number of people arriving, that’s when they realized they had to register for a business permit. Part of that was coming up with a name that they really had to think about.

The farm owner decided to use Silent Integrated Farm, which alludes to one of his farmers, Michael Suerte, who is deaf. Michael was an employee of their farm in Barangay Daniw. Although other colleagues expressed concern about working with him, the Silent Integrated Farm owner saw beyond Michael’s disability and chose to focus on the fact that Michael needed support. ‘a job.

Michael Suerte is a deaf farmer who inspired the owner to name the farm Silent Integrated Farm. (Silent Integrated Farm)

His colleagues said that while others worked the farm chatting, Michael worked in silence to be a productive member of the community. Charles said Michael was working efficiently to complete the job which normally requires five people. By naming the farm Silent Integrated Farm, they hope to echo Michael’s values ​​and diligence.

Since their soft opening in February 2022, Silent Integrated Farm continues to benefit the Barangay Dagatan community. They helped local residents find jobs at a time when people were struggling to find jobs. Many of them had no agricultural training, but Silent Integrated Farm hired certified farmers to train them.

The farm now operates with its tight-knit workforce of 78 diversely-talented employees, most of whom are farmers from the town of Liliw. They even have six older farmers and seven young farmers who receive weekly stipends to help them get into college.

The farm also had another deaf farmer who no longer works on the farm but is studying sign language in Metro Manila with the support of the farm residents.

Lettuce is the main crop grown in Silent Integrated Farm. (Jerome Sagcal)

Wilson Broses, captain of Dagatan barangay, said Silent Integrated Farm also helps provide jobs for people off the farm as they hire construction workers from the local community. Silent Integrated Farm also sources produce from Barangay Danagat and neighboring communities to resell at their farm shop. Broses also noticed that more and more people were buying more land in their barangay after the success of Silent Integrated Farm.

On the way to Silent Integrated Farm, visitors may get lost as not all nearby towns or even Liliw locals know about Barangay Dagatan. Wilson is happy that the farm not only provides livelihoods, tourism and food production, but also helps put Barangay Danagat on the map.

“It had been a long time since Barangay Dagatan was not known in the whole town of Liliw or even in the town of Pila (A lot of people from Liliw and Pila had not known about Barangay Dagatan for a very long time),” Wilson said. .

“We only knew this barangay because of [Silent Integrated Farm ] because it has become a tourist destination. So now the improvement increases a bit. Many buy land here, they invest. (People are learning about Barangay Dagatan through Silent Integrated Farm. Now there are a lot of things improving and people are even buying land and investing here.)”

Things to do in Silent Integrated Farm

Visitors can spend hours exploring every inch of the farm. There is a section for nurseries, medicinal plants, native chickens, native pigs, ruminants, stingless bees and vermicomposting. Visitors curious about agriculture can strike up a conversation with one of the farmers to learn more about the specific type of agriculture they practice.

After the tour, visitors can dine at an open-air restaurant. They offer native manok cooked in multiple ways: roast, adobo, and tinola. Freshly harvested lettuce, the farm’s main product, is used for salads and combined with cucumber to make a smoothie.

A candidate who wants to become a farm tour guide experiences lettuce picking for herself. (Jerome Sagcal)

During the weekends, diners can enjoy their food while farmers display their musical talents.

There is also a farm shop where visitors can buy farm produce and other products processed either on the farm or by the local community. If visitors are feeling more adventurous, they can harvest the crops themselves and pay by weight. They can harvest lettuce, siling haba (Potato), okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), cabbage (Brassica rapa) and bean (Vineyard without guiculée).

Visitors can harvest lettuce from the farm and pay by weight. (Jerome Sagcal)

The farm also has a section where they sell ornamental plants like celosia, vinca, marigold and diantus. There is specifically a station for love waves (Anthurium charruemanii) that sells for a thousand pesos or more per plant.

All of this can be visited for free, but visitors can leave a donation when they leave.

Traveling visitors are advised to take a tricycle from Pila, Laguna, as the farm is much closer there than to the main town of Liliw, Laguna.

Photos by Jérôme Sagcal and courtesy of Silent Integrated Farm.

For any inquiries, contact Silent Integrated Farm via their Facebook page.

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