Friday, February 19, 2010

Negros agri-tourism booms in 2009

By Vishia Mae Tolcidas
Regional Applied Communications

2009 has witnessed a big boost in agri-tourism with the highest number of agri-tourists to Negros Occidental recorded so far, Provincial Agriculturist Igmedio Tabianan said.

A total of 78 agri-tours to various organic farms were coordinated by the Farmers Information and Technology Services (FITS) Center of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) Negros Occidental, accounting for 1,027 visitors including farmers, students, academicians, local officials, and entrepreneurs listed in the OPA FITS logbook.
The influx of agritourists grows year by year and it is apparent that they cut a significant slice in the tourism pie. Agri-tourism is one industry that could rake in big revenues to the province, Tabianan added.

The figure, however, does not reflect the total number of tourists coming into the province, as some tourists go straight to the farms without seeking the assistance of OPA FITS, said Edna Garde, OPA FITS Manager. Garde, who is also OPA's public information officer and official tour guide, said that of the 1,027 agri-tourists recorded last year, more than half or 521 came from Panay Island in Region 6.

Organic farming initiatives in Negros have become popular since a memorandum of agreement was signed between governors Joseph Marañon of Negros Occidental and George Arnaiz of Negros Oriental in 2005. The partnership has been geared toward sustainable agriculture and rural development while seeking to make Negros Island the“Organic Food Basket of Asia.
(Clockwise from top left) MS Ramon Peñalosa (extreme left) shares his integrated natural farming to PCARRD officials; an agri-tourist from Antique tests the water pump set up by the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Incorporated (AIDFI) in Bacolod City; OPA Negro Occidental Planning Chief Samson Garzon, Jr. orients Baguio City visitors on OPA’s programs and services; agri-tourists from Panay Island visit the Buro-buro Springs Vermi Farm in Talisay City; and OPA Official Tour Guide Edna Garde (right) hosts her counterpart from FITS Cordillera Administrative Region in Mon Peñalosa’s Manapla greenhouse.

Of the sites frequently visited, the farms of OPA FITS Farmer Scientist Ramon Peñalosa in Victorias City and Manapla emerged as the top agri-tourism destinations in the province, Garde said.

Appointed Magsasaka Siyentista by the Western Visayas Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (WESVARRDEC) in 2007, Peñalosa has been conducting package tours since the province started promoting organic farming through the 1st Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival in 2006.
It was in 2000 when the network of organic agriculture advocates was organized, the same year when Peñalosa began ‘integrated organic farming business’, Garde said.

As of 2009, OPA has listed 12 agri-tourism spots in the province, most of them advocating and practicing organic and probiotic agriculture and aquaculture while a number are into the manufacture of farming equipment and machinery.

Other agri-tourism sites are Buro-buro Springs Vermi Farm in Talisay City; Fresh Start Organics in Silay and Sagay City; Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Incorporated (AIDFI); Cruz Aqua Corporation, RU Foundry, and Shenandoah Eco Farm in Bacolod City; ECJ Farms and La Granja Agricultural Research and Development Center in La Carlota City.


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