By Julio P. Yap Jr.

More people are now trooping to different farm tourism destinations across the country, and one of the emerging and exciting places to visit is the Milea Bee Farm, located along Kurba Road in Barangay Balagtasin, San Jose, Batangas.

A foraging Apis mellifera honeybee at the Milea Bee Farm extracts nectar from a red Portulaca oleracea flower.

From a simple bee farm which the husband-and-wife team of Rico and Edilee Omoyon established several years ago, the 2,000 square-meter Milea Bee Farm is now a government accredited farm tourism destination where one can find organically-grown vegetables, fruits, and even colorful and edible flowers. These include cucumber, lettuce, kale, scallion, highland kangkong, parsley, coriander, basil, mint, papaya, snake gourd, okra, ampalaya, oregano banana, and exotic fruits.

Of course, Rico Omoyon says that they always have natural honey which their bees produce from the different flower varieties at the farm and even from wild sunflowers. He adds that a farm visit offers a unique experience, a chance to be up close and personal with the bees, and a learning experience not only for students, but also for farmers who want to learn more about growing different crops organically.

A typical farm tour at the Milea Bee Farm starts with a “Bee Talk” during which a visitor learns about the importance of bees to the environment as well as their significance to agriculture. Then they are taken on a guided tour around the farm, after which they are treated to freshly-prepared honey drinks using the different fruits, herbs, and vegetables that can be found at the farm. Farmers and would-be farmers will have the opportunity to learn more about producing safe and healthy food, while garden enthusiasts can learn more about companion planting and concocting natural fertilizers and pesticides that will boost plant growth.

Call to Duty

Omoyon says they decided to convert their bee farm into a farm tourism destination in response to the government’s call to promote environment-friendly, efficient, and sustainable farm practices; provide alternative recreation facilities and farm tourism activities for families, students, and other clientele; and promote health and wellness through high-quality farm-produced food.

After all, farm tourism involves agricultural-based activities which can provide training for visitors and farmers who practice natural farming, and a venue for outdoor recreation and family outings.

Under Republic Act 10816 or the “Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016,” farm tourism recognizes the importance of agriculture in making available food and other products necessary to sustain and enhance human life, and in providing livelihood to a major portion of the population. Author Senator Cynthia A. Villar has been advocating farm tourism because “it is becoming widely popular now and is considered as a ‘sunshine industry’.”

Agri Services and Education

Aside from the farm tour being offered by Milea Bee Farm, tourism coupled with agriculture services can demonstrate the value of agriculture in the economic and cultural development of the country.

Rico shows a frame of honeycomb with honey in the right portion and pollen in most of the rest of the cells.

It can also serve as a stimulus for the development of agricultural communities, and provide additional income for farmers, farm workers, and local residents living near or around Milea Bee Farm.

Omoyon says that with a simple visit to their farm, one can learn about environment-friendly, efficient, and sustainable farm practices. One’s visit can also be an alternative form of outdoor recreation for families, students, and other clientele, with its health and wellness advocacy through the provision of high-quality farm-produced food.

Visitors will likewise have the chance to know more about the importance of bees, which are often misunderstood or associated with misconceptions by urban dwellers. “Bees are our partners for pollination, and for production of honey, propolis, and pollen production,” Omoyon pointed out.

Omoyon says that the Philippines, which is located in the tropical region, is lucky enough to be blessed with various feral honey producing bee species. Among the bee species which can be found at the Milea Bee Farm are:
• Apis mellifera – the most common species in the world, which is propagated for pollination and honey production
• Apis dorsata – the most commonly harvested feral species for honey, which is locally known as ‘pukyutan’ or ‘putyukan’
• Apis cerana – a feral or wild species which is locally known as ‘laywan’ or ‘ligwan’
• Tetragonula spp. – a honey producing pollinator which is locally known as ‘lukot’, ‘lukotan’, ‘kalulut’, ‘kiwot’, ‘kiyot’, or ‘lib-ug’, it can be easily mistaken for a fly because it is black and it flies.

It was learned that Milea Bee Farm also has a program to assist beekeepers in marketing their produce while at the same time, encouraging them to continue their current sustainable beekeeping practices.

Milea Bee Farm is open to visitors from Tuesdays to Sundays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., while the guided tour is from 9 a.m. up to 10:30 a.m., and 2:30 p.m. up to 4 p.m.
BEEyahe na!

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s March 2018 issue.