Thinking of Getting out of My Comfort Zone

Urban vegetable gardening at Penalosa farm

 If there is one person who can inspire me to get out of my comfort zone and shift careers, it is Mr. Mon Peñalosa of Victorias City, Negros Occidental. I visited his farm recently together with a group of bloggers. As always, Sir Mon doesn’t cease to amaze me. From the first moment that he talked about his farm, he had the group at the palm of his hand. I’m willing to bet (though I’m not a betting person), that after his talk, majority of the group (composed of young urbanites from Metro Manila) are convinced that farming is the key to riches.

The Peñalosa farm in Victorias City is a micromodel farm according to Sir Mon. It is only 4,000 sq.m. but the income from his agricultural projects in the area would encourage even the most urban-bred young professional to pack his bags and try farming in the countryside.
Peñalosa farm is a swine-based integrated organic farm found in the heart of the City. Probiotic pigs sold in various growth stages, butchered or processed are the main products of the farm. However, other products include organic fertilizer from pig waste used in his plants-  culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, organic vegetables, and ornamentals. He also has a fishpond, free-ranged chickens and many more.

In arriving at the farm, a refreshing 5-leaf welcome (tea) drink made from taheebo, ashitaba, gotokula, peppermint and lemon is served. Then we were brought to the farmhouse, a wonderful structure made of bricks (produced by the farm), wood, nipa and decorated with indigenous materials and wastes such as capiz shells, bottles, fans, etc.. The house which has only 41 sq.m. groundfloor area was intended to be a showcase for a low-cost farmhouse. However, Sir Mon’s architect-son decided to make it a four-story structure to serve as dormitory for training participants. After the house tour, we were brought to their training hall and were briefed by Sir Mon on the operations of the farm, sharing how they started from  just planting kangkong for food to acquiring a few heads of pig (to eat the extra kangkong) to what it is now – a highly profitable agri-enterprise. We were made to join an activity that will widen our knowledge and increase our appreciation of farming. One group was made to identify the various kinds of herbs in the farm, another group on the Income Generating Projects of the farm, another on the identification of power plants which are high in protein and another group concentrated on the whole swine raising industry.

(clockwise: Sir Mon Peñalosa; Ms. Hazel of ATI-VIII near the herb garden; the farm from a window in his farmhouse; Cucumber planted in one of the structures dividing the farm) 
We were then treated to lunch which all came from the organic produce of the farm such as the rice, the vegetable salad with a choice of either red onion or  honey-mustard dressing, pechay made into patties, squash soup and free-range chicken cooked with buko. Such a healthy gastronomic delight.
The visit ended with an illustration of the diversified nature of the farm by letting each visitor assume a role to better explain the potentials of a diversified farming system. One was assigned to be a piglet, another as a sow, another as a boar, another as the vermi worm, another as the market, and myself as a duckweed. All 25 of  us were assigned roles and nobody was left in the audience to even get a picture.
These simple illustration was so convincing that I heard some of our participants intending to venture into farming, at least into urban gardening.
The beauty of visiting the Peñalosa farm is not only on the way Sir Mon has imparted knowledge to us. Another must see is the way the farm is being laid out. Peñalosa farm is a premier agritecture farm, a farm that incorporates architecture concepts in its premises, Certainly, a MUST-VISIT Farm in Negros Occidental.