FROM being a mere agricultural community, Barangay Lipit Tomeeng in San Fabian town, Pangasinan is now becoming an agri-tourism destination because of the Hobbit Farmville, which was inspired by the “Lord of the Rings” movies.
Hobbit Farmville sits on a nine-hectare land owned by Marcel Jon Mendoza and his wife Genelyn, who are successful entrepreneurs.
It features the infamous “Shire” or the village of the hobbits, which was based on the movie Lord of the Rings, that draws visitors following a post of a netizen on Facebook that went viral six weeks ago.
“We had no intention of opening it yet to the public because we are still at 10 percent completion of the project. It began with a Facebook post that went viral in social media about six weeks ago we were overwhelmed with visitors from different provinces,” said Mendoza in an interview via messenger on Thursday.
He admitted that their frustration with the yield of their farm and fewer opportunities for the farmers prompted them to look for an alternative business plan.
“When my wife and I started with farming in 2017, we had no experience and background. When we were starting out, we had high expectations and enthusiasm in the crops that we tried to cultivate. We brought in the best practices and technology available to us at that time, but when our first harvest came, like most farmers, we either sold our crops at breakeven or even at a loss. Hence, we turned to the idea of agri-tourism with the intention to boost revenues through higher margins, improving lasting ties with customers, and promoting a deeper appreciation of farming to consumers. We were convinced that this was the way to boost opportunity at the farm and our local community,” Mendoza said.
Since the Lord of the Rings is one of their family’s favorites and the idea that hobbits in that movie are great farmers, they thought of building the Shire, a place of serenity, beauty, and relaxation, he said they were convinced that this was what they needed to offer a unique farming experience to the visitors.
In line with their goal, their Farmville is now starting to boost agri-tourism in the area as well as offer additional income to the farmers and the community as a whole.
“The whole community is involved in the project. From the tricycle drivers who enjoy the increased number of passengers to and from the farm; the families in our community where employment opportunities are now available; the farmers who find additional jobs and other means of income in the months of waiting for the harvest to come now, have stable and competitive employment opportunities,” Mendoza said.
In the Hobbit Farmville, guests may participate in the whole cycle of planting, cultivating and harvesting of crops (depending on the season and the crop). During the last weeks of August to the first of September, guests can participate in the traditional way of eliminating snails at the rice paddy, wherein guests can pick them off one by one, he said.
“We have a milk tea shop where we offer the ‘biggest milk tea in the whole of Pangasinan’, (2.7 liters). We serve snacks and drinks to our guests. They can bring in their food and use the picnic area but guests are not allowed to leave any garbage behind (no garbage policy). Kids love to feed and play with our pigeons at the small hobbit holes,” Mendoza said.
Meanwhile, the Hobbit Farmville will soon offer accommodations, with hobbit holes complete with modern amenities and services
“Right at the center of a rural farm, hobbit holes equipped with air conditioner, with cable television, hot and cold shower, kitchenette, two single beds/double bed, a private patio on top of the Hobbit hole, a personalized hot large kawa bath at the center of a flower garden, free Wi-Fi. Fresh air and views of vast hectares of farmland. As a treat to our guests, they’ll be served with the local produce and delicacies cooked with the Pangasinense style. Our ultimate goal is to attract not only local tourists but also cater to a global market,” Mendoza said.
Along with the future developments of the farm are more income-generating opportunities for the farmers and the community.
“When harvest season comes, our guests can join our local farmers in harvesting and everything that comes along with it. Currently, flowers and plants of all sorts and kinds are being grown and when it fully matures, guests can purchase and bring them home,” he said.
Jay Salvador, 26, farmer, in an interview Thursday, said the Farmville is a big help to them as it offers additional income and makes them busy while waiting for harvest season.
“Nakakatulong sa gastusin sa pang-tuition ng apo ko at malapit lang ito sa bahay naming kaya di na ako namamasahe (This helps a lot in paying off the tuition of my grandchild and it is near our house so I don’t spend for my fare going to work),” said Marilou, 64, wife of a farmer here.
At present, the farm caters to small birthday celebrations and gatherings and has also become a favorite venue of local photographers - where they hold weddings, pre nuptials, debut photo shoots.
Hobbit Farmville is open from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
It has an entrance fee of P100 entrance fee for adults and P60 for kids aged four years old and above. Meanwhile, infants and kids up to three years old are free of charge. (Hilda Austria/PNA)