Agriculture

Farm resort encourages value-added farming by turning bananas into banana chips

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VILLA SOCORRO Agri Eco-Village is a farm resort located in Pagsanjan, Laguna. The 11-hectare property sits at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountain range and is bounded by the Balanac river.

The property was originally intended to be a private farm, but in 2008, the owners decided to open it to the public. Now, it is a popular farm resort whose most popular product, banana chips, is exported to 15 countries including the US, Canada, the Middle East, and Korea.

BAHAY KUBO, KAHIT MUNTI

The farm has rooms–some air conditione­d, some fancooled, some of them themed–that are good for around 50 people. Most of the wood used to build the huts and furniture (fondly called ‘farmiture’) come from trees that fell during typhoon Milenyo in 2006. Guests can stay in quonset huts that were built as part of the set of the Kevin Costner film Thirteen Days. Film buffs will delight in the fact that the farm was used as a set for Vietnam War battlefiel­ds in the movie Platoon and in a Korean TV movie series. Bahay kubos are surrounded by fruit trees and vegetable gardens where produce is harvested for the farm restaurant and where guests can try their hand at farming if they choose.

Villa Socorro doesn’t have a pool, but guests are welcome to swim in the river. A small forest surrounds the path to the cool waters, with signs that encourage guests to forest bathe and enjoy the greenery that surrounds them. The food is excellent, too. The resort is famous for its boodle fight, where different dishes are laid out on a long table covered with banana leaves, and everyone digs in at the same time. They best way to enjoy a boodle fight is to eat with one’s hands, though utensils are on hand just in case.

BANANA CHIPS FOR YOU, BANANA CHIPS FOR ME

The other thing that Villa Socorro is known for is Villa Socorro Farm

Sabanana Banana Chips. “It started when we planted a lot of bananas. Biyaheros or middle-men would buy it from us at around 30, 40, 50 cents per piece. And as an entreprene­urial farmer–a farmer who would really want to have a business, that’s really not gonna work,” says second generation farmer Raymund Aaron, 32, Villa Socorro’s Banana Chief. “We wanted to add value to the banana so that we can really have a business for it. We [built] own banana chips manufactur­ing facility. It picked up and we started selling banana chips.”

Aaron credits his parents for igniting his interest in agricultur­e. “I really wanted to get into a career in social entreprene­urship, and being in a farm I would say, “nakatapak sa lupa,” (set foot on land) literally and figurative­ly. You’d have the biggest chance to have an impact on your community and that’s the path I really wanted to take,” he says.

Nowadays, the bulk of the saba bananas ( Musa acuminata x balbisiana, particular­ly the Cardaba subgroup) come from the 100 partner farmers Villa Socorro works with. “We provide them the shoots that comes from the farm, they plant that, [then] after 18 months, when [it’s] ready to harvest, they harvest it themselves and they deliver it to our farm. We purchase it at prices higher than market value,” the Banana Chief says. “From then, we manufactur­e it in the farm. We start by peeling them and then slicing them in the process. After slicing, we fry, and then we let it settle a little bit. And then we pack, and then box it, and then out it goes into the world.”

 ??  ?? Villa Socorro Farm Sabanana Banana Chips are sold locally in restaurant­s, supermarke­ts, hotels, and cultural stores, as well as in 15 countries including the US, Canada, and the Middle East.
Villa Socorro Farm Sabanana Banana Chips are sold locally in restaurant­s, supermarke­ts, hotels, and cultural stores, as well as in 15 countries including the US, Canada, and the Middle East.
 ??  ?? A farmer readies a vegetable field for planting.
A farmer readies a vegetable field for planting.
 ??  ?? Forest bathing, which simply means basking in nature, has been scientific­ally proven to help lift one’s overall mood.
Forest bathing, which simply means basking in nature, has been scientific­ally proven to help lift one’s overall mood.
 ??  ?? Banana Chief Raymund Aaron is a second generation farmer who encourages farmers to find money making opportunit­ies by adding extra value to what they produce.
Banana Chief Raymund Aaron is a second generation farmer who encourages farmers to find money making opportunit­ies by adding extra value to what they produce.
 ??  ?? Villa Socorro grows their own banans, but they also buy the fruit from partner farmers.
Villa Socorro grows their own banans, but they also buy the fruit from partner farmers.

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