Sunday, February 24, 2019

Southern berries

HUNGRY for “berry pretty” strawberries but too broke to go on a trip to Baguio City?

Head down to southern Cebu for a promise of strawberry goodness in the mountains of Barangay Maloray, a 21.8-kilometer drive from the Municipal Hall of Dalaguete.

Since its development almost six years ago, Sergio’s Farm has been home to a variety of produce used to prepare foreign dishes, but never strawberries.

Teodorico Alcancia, caretaker of the two-hectare property, said cultivating the fruits was never planned.

“To be honest, we were quite doubtful at first. Yes, our place is quite cooler than the lower lands, but the temperature in Baguio is on a different level,” he told SunStar Cebu in Cebuano.

The farm’s owner, Engr. Paul Revalde first bought only five pots of strawberries during an exhibit on Echavez St. in Cebu City, curious if the fruit would survive out of Baguio.

But before he and the 10 farm personnel knew it, the five pots had expanded to five greenhouses and 15 plant tunnels.

Soon after, Sergio’s Farm began selling the berries at P800 a kilo and producing homemade jams at P150 per jar, which they sell during the weekends behind the Provincial Capitol Building in Cebu City.

Word of the fruits, a rare sight in warm Cebu, began to spread among the locals who started to visit the farm to view and taste the berries since growing in January last year.

For an entrance fee of P50 per person, local visitors, most them teachers working in neighboring barangays, have started to spend their weekends at Sergio’s to enjoy both the cool breeze in Maloray and tasty strawberries.

While he is grateful for the positive responses, Revalde admitted growing concern of the damage his plants may face if more people start to visit the farm.

Alcancia, who has been tasked to oversee the farm for almost six years now, shared the same worries, but remained hopeful that the visitors will “respect the plants.”

“The strawberries are a joy to watch, so let’s not stop other people from feeling the same delight upon seeing the fruits just because we can’t contain our emotions,” he said.

He asked the general public, who might be interested in seeing the berries, to help protect the fruits.

“We’d be happy if more people would know of our fruits, but we’d be happier if they’d come here with care. The strawberries are growing well here not only because of water, fertilizer and the sunlight, but most importantly because we love these fruits,” Alcancia said.

Aside from the berries, Sergio’s Farm boasts a variety of produce, all grown organically.

From a selection of lettuce, carrots, herbs, spices, and other vegetables, Alcancia explained they have been growing produce to create a win-win situation with the local farmers.

Dubbed as Cebu’s “vegetable basket”, Dalaguete hosts a large community of farmers.

“Sergio’s Farm is not here to compete, it’s here to help locals as well. Should visitors want to buy local vegetables, we can always recommend them to our farmer friends. With our berries gaining recognition, I hope we can also help more local farmers,” Alcancia said.

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