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Farm in the city offers fun, valuable lessons.

THERE'S something curious going on at the newly built house along Jensen Street in Barangay Batasan Hills in Quezon City, usually during weekends.

Visitors come in droves, kids holler, and the voice of someone using a microphone blares for at least a good hour.

No, it's not a videoke-addicted resident-there's a backyard farm tour in progress.

The neighbors are probably still getting used to it because the Jensen Kinder Farm (JKF) started only in July. The owner actually needed some convincing to open it to the public.

I went into urban farming because we have available space and I thought it would help immensely in homeschooling our daughter, says Stacy Borromeo, referring to her now five-year-old only child.

I thought the farm experience is a good life lesson for her, seeing firsthand the lifecycle of animals and plants, Borromeo says.

The Borromeos moved to Jensen Street early last year and, a few months later, she had begun developing the garden. (According to her husband Tato, who is very supportive of Stacy's project, their backyard is about 80 to 90 square meters. The garden would eventually encircle the house.)

Growing up a probinsyana(country girl), my family's main income was from farming, says Borromeo, who hails from Daraga in Albay. It is mainly (to produce) palay and coconut, but not in what you may call a commercial scale.

Her father's passing away in November brought back the memories and led her to consider doing some gardening.

Before she knew it, she wanted not just a garden but a farm, complete with egg-laying chickens and fish. Fortunately, there was no lack of support.

My neighbor and farming mentor Liezl suggested for me to join a seminar at the Agriculture Training Institute in Quezon City, Borromeo says. She and other friends who are like-minded advocates of organic farming give me helpful advice as I went along.

Apart from that, I am a product of Gaya-the Google and YouTube academy, she jests, referring to how she enabled her farm to accommodate visitors in an engaging way.

The former call center worker said she had been reluctant to share her farm experience with others, initially with other homeschooling families. It did help that her daughter was among those who had urged her to do so.

Thus, JKF, organized initially into 12 stations, was born. Visitors are welcomed with a display of herbs (at the garage) and of a vertical garden (along the perimeter wall). From there, they walk through an exhibit of sub-irrigated planters (at the house's front steps).

The tour then goes through a container garden (around one corner of the house) and then past by an aquaculture setup, mainly of red tilapia in several aquariums (down along the sloping yard toward the back).

From there opens up the main sprawl of the backyard farm with the chicken coop on one side, a composting pit and vermicast station in a corner near the two hives of stingless, native bees and the half-buried rain-collecting drum.

The rest of the farm features raised plots mainly for vegetables but also for sweet corn, a trellis for sitao shaped into a tunnel, an above-ground fish pond (fashioned out of an industrial-size plastic container) and a vacant plot where visitors could practice tilling the soil.

Along the yard's back wall nestles the nursery with rows and rows of seedlings, which overflow where there is available space elsewhere in the farm.

The tour also features organic concoctions all made in the farm. One such compound is a probiotic that, when applied, helps address foul smell by going for the odor-causing bacteria. This helps, for example, in managing the chicken coop.

Following the show and tell, the children get to feed the fish, collect the day's egg from the coop, water the vegetables, maybe harvest some chili or sitao, and go hands-on with the different farm tolls.

The farm is not just for the kids. One mom said, I want to try the spade, too!

After that, the visitors go indoors for a teach-in on how to plant using containers. The kids first try with sand for soil and pebbles for seeds, plus some real water. Then, they get to actually try planting herbs with cuttings, using a container that they themselves made craft-style. All while the adults sample tea made from freshly picked leaves.

To wrap up the visit, the kids take away a farm starter kit with either sitao or monggo. Borromeo says this is meant to remind the parents and the children to apply the lessons from their farm visit.

They need to actually do farming, at least in that small way, she says. Otherwise, the farm experience is wasted.

Borromeo says the JKF is evolving rapidly with a range of concepts coming from friends and visitors alike.

We want the activities to be adaptable according to the times and occasions, the mother says. Right now, we are experimenting with a pizza-making activity, with some of the toppings coming from the farm.

She says she wants to learn more to improve her farm, which she hopes will have a successful rabbit hutch (they keep losing the bunnies, the last one due to Typhoon Lando), a greenhouse, and a setup for aquaponics. The latter is a system that integrates aquaculture with growing vegetables.

She also says that at the moment, the farm is an advocacy to teach people about organic farming, especially in urban settings. However, it is also showing opportunities for an enterprise by way of farm tourism-although that may need a different property.

I hear parents saying they wish for their children to be doctors, engineers, lawyers.I don't know of anybody wishing their kids to become farmers, but who's going to grow our food? Borromeo says.

Yes, children can take up professions who know farming, because they may also be owners of or have access to pieces of land where they can do farming, she adds.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Nov 25, 2015
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