There’s a lot more a farm can be than being a land to plant crops. We all know how farms can be developed to become resorts, restaurants, tourism sites, and learning centers.
A special farm in Beckel, Benguet made sure to get in all that. Cosmic Farm is an organic farm founded in 1989 by Rogel Marsan. The farm is a Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certified organic farm and has grown to become a restaurant, a tourism site, and a learning center for organic agriculture.
“My father started organic farming because we’re vegetarian,” Jaya Marsan, Rogel’s daughter, said in Tagalog. “And during the 1990s, there was something called the ‘Green Tide.’ People used cyanide to spray on crops. [People] shifted to a healthy diet to be healthy, but what they ate had pesticides that they were, in a way, eating too. That’s when [my father] started to plant our own plants for food.”
A simple desire to grow his family’s food progressed to producing a large enough amount to enter the market, and soon enter processing.
Roel gave his farm a grand name ‘Cosmic Farm’ as a way to pique curiosity among customers. “It’s a market strategy,” Rogel said. “When they see the name cosmic, they would think that it’s related to [our farm]. When people see ‘cosmic’, they’d think it’s related to their religion or their practices.” He added that the name cosmic gets people to come to the farm to confirm their assumptions on what kind of farm it is.
Rogel ‘s creative thinking goes way beyond his farm’s name. In fact, his decades of experience as a farmer has helped him to develop what he believes to be the perfect formula for successful agro-entrepreneurship.
Cosmic Farm is a half-hectare organic farm that is filled with a wide variety of vegetable crops. And despite the Marsans being a vegetarian family, they also raise and breed livestock naturally.
Cosmic Farm grows broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, and other high value crops. The produce they grow is mostly sent to Metro Manila, where majority of their clients come from.
Before Rogel established Cosmic Farm, he had absolutely no idea how to farm. However, Rogel was determined, so he enrolled in a school that could teach him farming. The kicker is he had to learn through exchanging letters.
“I studied at an international [school],” Rogel said. “Nowadays, it’s a good thing there’s Zoom, but back then we had to write [each other].”
As we all know, the exchange of letters was arduous and usually took weeks before receiving a reply. Rogel received lessons and submitted activities by mail and his farming lessons in that school took over a year.
But it was not for naught. Afterwards, he used and applied the organic farming methods he learned on his farm. Over the years, Rogel learned more organic farming methods such as biodynamic, bio-intensive, and Korean national methods, and slowly developed his own.
Definitely more than a farm
Years of organic farming had allowed Cosmic Farm to grow into bigger things. By 2017, the Cosmic Farm became accredited to be a training center for Technical Education And Skills Development Authority’s (TESDA) course for Organic Agriculture NC II. As of 2023, the farm has taught around 20 batches of trainees.
Jaya is Cosmic Farm’s school registrar. According to her, about 10-15 people reach out to the farm monthly to inquire or enroll in the training course they have to offer. Trainees at the Cosmic Farm’s learning site learn everything there is to know about organic farming and then getting hands-on training.
Not only do they learn organic farming and livestock raising, Cosmic Farm teaches them about processing and concoctions as well. “Here, when they Do-It-Yourself we teach them processing. We teach them coffee roasting, sauce making, and salad making. We teach everything that you would want to learn,” Rogel said. “The best thing here is making compost.”
“Lahat kasi ng pumupunta dito sa Cosmic Farm kapag may gusto matutunan, lahat sila ay pinapagpala. Kaya lahat sila ay pinapagpala kasi gagawa ka ng compost, gagamit ka ng pala (“Everyone who comes here wanting to learn something at Cosmic Farm becomes ‘blessed’. They are blessed because to make compost, you have to use a ‘shovel.’”),” Rogel explains with a laugh.
Many of the trainees emulate the farm model and methods taught by Cosmic Farm. According to Jaya, some of the winners from the Department of Agriculture’s Young Farmers Challenge are trainees from Cosmic Farm.
By 2022, the Marsan family shared their vegetarian lifestyle by founding Cosmic Kitchen, an extension of Cosmic Farm. Cosmic Kitchen is a restaurant on Session Road that serves a variety of vegetarian dishes. Although the majority of the farm’s produce goes to Manila, the kitchen also serves as a stall to sell some of the farm’s vegetables and other products.
“No matter how much you explain to people about organic farming, they just have to taste it,” Rogel said.
Cosmic Farm’s magic formula
The farm, the kitchen, and the training center aren’t just ventures for fun. These three factors and more make up the formula or business model developed by the farm’s decades of experience.
“One times two times three is equal to six, plus one is equal to seven,” Rogel said.
Once more, in numbers, 1x2x3=6+1=7.
Before getting startled by the surprise math equation, Cosmic Farm explains in detail just what exactly this formula means.
The number one through seven symbolizes factors, or steps, that a farm business must have to set itself for success.
One is the farm itself. The source of crops that the farm will market to clients and visitors.
Two is tourism. Cosmic Farm is an accredited farm tourism site, where people can visit to take a tour of the half-hectare farm and learn its history and farm methods.
Three is the learning site for agriculture. It’s important to develop the farm to become a school for others to be trained on different farm methods and processing.
Four are accommodations for visitors. Cosmic Farm has a place for tourists to stay if their tour lasts longer than a day. The accommodation they set up on the farm serves vegetarian food made from their organically grown produce.
Five is the kitchen, or a farm restaurant. Establishing a kitchen that makes use of the farm’s products and creating a brand to be known by others is helpful to the farm business.
Six are souvenirs. Visitors to the farm happily receive locally made souvenirs from the farm, which are usually seeds, vegetables, or the farm’s processed products.
And seven is the vehicle that would bring visitors to and from where they need to be.
The combination of all these factors are made to give farm clients or visitors a unique and complete Cosmic Farm experience.
Rogel learned this from his visits to Taiwan where he had seen them using similar models. He combined that with his own know-how and experience, and his Cosmic Farm’s unique formula was born. When asked just how effective this formula is, Rogel says happily, “A 100 percent.”
Trainees of the Cosmic Farm don’t just learn organic agriculture, but they also get to learn how to emulate this business model for their own farms. The farm is dedicated to truly bettering the lives and farms of their trainees by sharing everything methods they have benefitted from.
Leaving a legacy
The final task of trainees of the Cosmic Farm was to leave behind a legacy. The 18th batch of the farm’s trainees decided to establish an association that would be a place for Cosmic Farm alumni to belong to.
Eva Kelly, a graduate of the 18th batch of trainees, established and is the president of the Association of Organic Agriculture NCII Holders Inc., or AsOrAH Inc. The association is a non-profit organization established in November of 2022 and is now registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“The main benefit of the association is being in a community where we have the same desires and aspirations,” Eva said. She explains that even though many trainees had backgrounds in agriculture, organic farming is different. The association serves as a community for organic farmers to convene and relate to each other. Eva also explains that being in an association helps members to benefit from government loans, which sometimes require loan-seekers to be in one.
AsOrAH Inc. currently has 35 members, and is still tapping previous graduates to join the newly-established association.
Aiming for cosmic heights
There’s a lot more in store for Cosmic Farm. One of their plans is to develop their concoctions to be able to be sold to a wider clientele, and they are also venturing into using online shopping apps as a medium for their business.
People of Cosmic Farm are strong advocates of organic farming. “Organic farming is a way of life,” Jaya said. “What you eat is what you absorb. So if your soil is healthy, your plants are healthy, then what you are eating is also healthy.”
“I’m happy that I am able to feed people with healthy [food],” Rogel said. “I am asking forgiveness from the Lord. I hope he forgives me because I am extending the lives of His people,” he said humorously.
Photos courtesy of Cosmic Farm PH