A farm-to-table experience – Manila Standard

JBT Agri-Farm is proud to be a pioneering enterprise. It is a resting place, a hobby destination, a weekend go-to place for families who prefer nature and open spaces.

The enterprise is an 800,000-square meter development in a 2-hectare 70’s farm situated in Sitio Pulunan, Dagatan, Amadeo, Cavite. The facade has huge sloping patch of vegetable garden which is said to have nurtured many frontliners during the pandemic and a restaurant that offers livelihood to the handicapped.

Solar-powered irrigation
at Taniman ni Jesus

The farm is a popular destination to local tourists. It pays homage to family tradition of farming, dining together as a family and providing shelter, says Julius Tibayan, proprietor and one of the owners and founders of the enterprise.

“While JBT is the initial of my brothers, including myself, it actually stands for Jesus B. Tibayan which is my father’s name, the original founder and owner of the farm. Sadly my father passed last year and the upkeep of the agro-business is left to me and my brothers,” he said.

He noted that the years spent by his father as a local public servant and later on, as a political consultant, shaped the broad stroke plans for the enterprise.

“It was his desire to educate and provide our kababayans the means to support their family, that we decided to transform a big part of the landholding to a model farm. It is actually the first actual farm-to-table enterprise in this side of town. It supports the fresh food needs of our dining space, which we also considered another first. I believe we are the first to offer food fusion of Spanish-Italian cuisine in our town,” he explained.

Taniman ni Jesus, the farming unit of the enterprise, cultivates high value crops sold to roadside vegetable kiosks, wet markets and supermarkets using organic technology. Salad greens like Romaine lettuce and Kale, and special crops such as sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes were only a few of the crops produced at the farm.

The farm’s output also sustains the fresh food needs of enterprise’s dining segment, Cocina Con El Corazon, which is named after Tibayan’s mother Ina Siony. Renditions of the favorite traditional Spanish and Italian food are served daily using produce offered by the farm.

Adding to the farm and restaurant, is a modern “bahay-kubo” for families who would rather stay the night and enjoy the cool climate. Equipped with the amenities of modern living, the hut offers solitude and quietude except for nocturnal sounds of the cicadas and small night prowlers like monitor lizards. The inspiration for the modern bahay-kubo was the clans’ very first structure, the home of the family’s abuela, Lola Naty. Bahay Kubo ni Lola Naty is the first and only accommodation for now, but there are plans to to add 2 or 3 more huts in the next 2 years. Not far from the Bahay Kubo is a refreshing , flowing pool open to day visitors and night settlers and an events place for intimate occasions.

Like many businesses that cowered during the pandemic, JBT Agri-Farm was not spared the struggles. But that did not deter the farm from continuing its mission to feed people. During the pandemic lockdowns, Taniman ni Jesus soldiered on to support medical frontliners and volunteers by cooking batch after batch of fresh vegetables delivered to municipal frontliners.

It also supported medical workers of a big hospital in a nearby city by bringing in freshly-picked vegetables and green salads, everyday for free throughout the crisis.

Tibayan said it been a part of the company’s effort to reach out and give back to the community. JBT Agri-Farm is a tax-exempt enterprise registered an an agro-enterprise at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA).

“We are simply returning the favor by continuously providing assistance to the community,” he said.

The Tibayan family, JBT Agri-Farm owners and founders

Tibayan, the third among a brood of 4 sons, also works as a full-time professor at the Dela Salle University Dasmariñas (DLSUD). He has worked at the university for over 20 years, after finishing his degree in Agribusiness. He used to head the scholarship foundation and now heads marketing and research.

“Being an Agribusiness graduate, I am the voice of the business and my family. We plan and operate as one family, the way we are taught by our parents. Since we are not yet a corporation, we do business the family way, our ownn way. Whoever wants to put in investments for a project is welcome. For us, brothers, working in the enterprise is not forced. We have our own professional careers and we contribute whatever we can to keep the business running,” he said.

He also started a fundraising campaign that allots a percentage of the enterprise’s sales to contribute to the endowment fund for the scholarship program at DLSUD. It may seem early for the enterprise to practice corporate social responsibility since the business is yet to recover its investment, but the inclination to provide for penniless students is a far greater cause, he said.

In the first 3 years of operating the business, Tibayan noted that while the business is struggling to return to normal operations due to the global challenges, the enterprise is still on track of its 5-year development plan.

In the next 3 years until 2025, the agri-farm aims to establish food security and stability, starting at farm and municipal level; support sustainable agriculture; transform the enterprise into an eco-tourism destination; create space for health and wellness; and ultimately, put up an agricultural training school for smallholder farmers.

It is one of the ambitions of the enterprise to leverage its output with the sustainable development goals (SDG). The SDGs, introduced in 2015 through the United Nations General Assembly, aims to connect environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable development by giving a premium to sustainability.

Consistent with the plan to transform the enterprise into an eco-tourism destination, the farm unit introduced pocket events designed to educate kids while enjoying the simplicity of farm life. With the assistance of resident farmers and a mainstay chef, the activity allows children to plant and harvest crops which they cook and eat afterwards. The culminating part of the activity is an art representation of their experience through paint and canvas.

“Children learn the value of food as they themselves experience how food is produced and processed. They learn about plants, their nutritional values and how they are an important part of the ecosystem and the food chain,” Tibayan said.

He recalled that in the town of Amadeo, there is not a child who does not learn a thing or two about farming. Tibayan and his siblings are among the lucky children who know the value of hard work as they are required to help in the farm after school and during weekends.

It is the same experience that the enterprise wants to capture for the children, he added.

Attentive crew of deaf servers

Another fun activity that the agri-farm is contemplating to offer on a regular basis is the overnight camping for families which is a really good way to commune with nature and spend quality time with family. Families may either bring their owns tents and camping gears or they may also rent from the farm.

Tibayan noted that many visitors from Manila and other nearby cities have been flocking to their place for some therapeutic relaxation.

“People who are sick find solace in this place. It has been found in many researches that one of the factors that help sick people cope with their ailment is the environment. JBT Agri-Farm is the perfect place for palliative care. Despite its proximity to major cities and greater metropolis in Manila, the farm is an unadulterated destination where the air is pure, the food is fresh and we have activities the relaxes the body and mind,” he said.

Being the “agripreneur” that he is and as a devoted academician, his ultimate dream is to establish a farming school that will equip farmers with the technological knowhow to manage their smallholdings.

The dream is to offer farmers short programs and certificate courses that will give them the knowledge to improve their farm lots and make farming a profitable career and for the farmhands to explore the bigger world with their newfound knowledge.

In coordination with the DA and the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), JBT Agri-Farm has received its field validation an as ideal location for a training center. It may take a few more years to realize the dream, but it is already as source of hope to the farming community.

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