Sunday, July 24, 2016

Binahon Agroforestry Farm and Resource Center

Nestled on the foothills of Mount Dulang-dulang of the Kitanglad mountain ranges in Lantapan, Bukidnon, the Binahon Agroforestry Farm and Resource Center is an eight hectare organic farm that was toiled from a barren grassland where only cogon grass and weeds used to thrive. Mr. Henry and Mrs. Perla Binahon, natives of the province decided to leave their careers in the government as a forester and as animal Science expert at the DENR, and pursued the call to go back home to their native land to re-start their careers -- this time, as husband and wife farmers. 

Located at Sito Bol-ogon, Brgy. Sonco, Lantapan City, Bukidnon
The Binahons started their adventures in organic agriculture in 1992, from a two-hectare land that was acquired for only 15 thousand pesos paid in three staggered payments. In the early months, results of their labor were far from ideal and revenue was not even enough to replace the small nipa hut they built on the mountain. However, these setbacks did not deter them from their goals and persistently beat their backs to pursue what they came there to do. Luck suddenly turned on their favor when they were able to grow and harvest 50 kilos of cabbages from the farm. And from then on, better things and new opportunities came which made the two hectare grew to become an eight hectare agro-forestry farm. 

With Mr. Henry Binahon, Sayentistang Magsasaka
Trained as foresters and agriculturists from the University of the Philippines Los Banos, the couple were determined to pursue their passions using the principle that the only way vegetation can thrive is through diversity of plants and other living creatures by naturally applying ecological balance to the land.

Sir Henry demonstrates the strength of Abaca plant...
Last June 2016, I was part of a group of bloggers and social media influencers who were invited to visit the Binahon Agroforestry Farm. This was an initiative of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) of the Department of Agriculture (DA). The task is to immerse ourselves in organic farming, learn its benefits, and create public awareness via social media campaign through blog posts and other social media tools. 


The place is a five-hour drive from Cagayan de Oro City, passing through Malaybalay, Bukidnon and is situated at Sito Bol-Ogon, Barangay Sonco. The area is at an altitude of 1,300 meters (4,300 ft) above sea level and it serves also as a base camp or a jumping point towards the trail head for those who wish to scale the peaks of Mount Dulang-Dulang. Sir Henry belongs to the Tigibanam Indigenous People (IP) which are natives of the mountain and is confident to claim that Mount Dulang-dulang (2,941 meters) is the Philippines’ second highest peak and not Mount Pulag, Benguet (2,922 meters). 

Mt. Dulang-dulang or D2, Philippines 2nd highest peak...
As an IP, Sir Henry lives through the Indigenous principle that diversity is natures’ natural occurrence. He further expounded that “monoculture” is not natural and it is one of the reasons why pestilence occurs. It is nature’s way to deconstruct monoculture of plants being overly populated in one area. This phenomenon also holds true in humans which explains the presence of dengue, because there is an over population of human species concentrated on one particular area. 

 A diversified vegetation that allows various vegetables and fruit trees thrive together...
Contrary to the old-school belief that trees consume the nutrients for small plants if they’re planted near to each other, Sir Henry debunked that thought by explaining how diversity of plants and trees are beneficial to each other. He presented a simple ecological cycle where pests of vegetables are controlled because insects of a nearby tree or other types of plants eat the pests. Fruits and leaves of trees that fall to ground are eaten by earth-worms and the waste of the worms serve as the best form of natural fertilizers to vegetables that grow nearby. 

Different types of trees filled the agroforestry farm...
Our group of bloggers spent one whole morning with Sir Henry touring the eight-hectare farm, scaling rolling hills and crossing a river. Most of the full grown trees were planted by Sir Henry himself many years ago. These trees have already self-propagated themselves naturally thereby populating the area to become a natural forest. The farm have also become a bird sanctuary bringing with them other seeds not original to Sir Henry’s list, which contributes to the flora and fauna of the farm.

Rattan vines clings to the trees and serve as natural guy-line support during typhoons
Further on at the higher part of the Binahon Farm is the majestic view of Mount Dulang-dulang. On the rolling hills, one can appreciate the variety of livestock roaming around freely such as chickens, ducks, and peacocks. These animals are also grown organically and are fed with vegetables and natural feeds. On this part is also the greenhouse nursery of lettuces ready to be planted on farm plots. The farm specializes in carrot growing where they also produce other carrot-based products like carrot-cake, carrot-muffin, carrot-juice, carrot-cookies and carrot concentrates where all of us had a sample taste of these products. Apparently, the only carrot product the farm doesn’t have at that time is the carrot itself, because it was freshly harvested and sent to other parts of Mindanao and Cebu

Freshly baked Carrot Muffins...
The Binahon Agroforestry Farm is one of ATI’s learning sites, which employs agricultural students from different colleges and universities in Northern Mindanao. These students are spending time to be trained, not just on farming but also on the production of naturally-concocted pesticides. Mr. Binahon emphasized that in order for farmers to escape poverty, they should practice diversity of produce and learn to be entrepreneurs. He believes it is not enough for farmers to become good producers because they should be good businessmen as well. 

This is where they processed carrot-based products
The morning tour was certainly wasn’t enough to cover the whole place and there is so much more to see. The Binahon farm is open to anyone who wish to learn and experience organic farming. They offer accommodations good for one hundred people. Visitors and guests can avail of their organic farming tour complete with board and lodging. 

Binahon Agroforestry Farm can accommodate 100 guests...
For more information, you may reach Binahon Agroforestry Farm and Resource Center at mobile: 09178796890, email: hbinahon@yahoo.com. You may also get in touch with Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) at (63-2) 929-8541 to 49 or you log on to www.ati.da.gov.ph

 
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