WHEN the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to close and people to stay home, architect Daryl Balmoria-Garcia found a way to be productive during the lockdown.
From scratch, her family with the help of their neighbors transformed their 1.8-hectare property in the highlands of Barangay Guba, Cebu into a sustainable organic farm named Azienda Gracia.
Garcia, who owns Dream Architects, said the property was bought in November 2019, months before the country closed its borders in March 2020. It was initially meant to become a camping ground and a breeding ground for rabbits, another business that Garcia and her family operate.
“When the lockdown was announced, we brought the family to Barangay Guba, away from the rising Covid-19 cases. We spent the lockdown, which we thought would be brief, growing plants and herbs. We also built a tree house for us to stay in,” she said.
Known for designing award-winning high-rise towers and house and lot projects, Garcia said designing Azienda Gracia came naturally as her family has a farm in their hometown in Leyte. Going organic, she added, was also done on purpose.
“When my mother got sick and was put in the intensive care unit, it was eating organic food, especially malunggay, that helped her recover. Now she’s in the pink of health. She now oversees the farm,” said Garcia, recalling one of the challenges her family went through.
A big portion of the farm is dedicated to vegetables, fruits, herbs, plants and flowers. They were maintained by the locals that the family employed in the farm.
“We serve organic food so people would know its taste and more importantly, its health benefits,” she said.
Garcia said the farm-to-table experience is something people should try because it will change their lifestyle. “This pandemic has taught us a lot of things. One of them is to take care of our health.”
Besides the organically grown vegetables, the farm also has free-range chickens, ducks and around 300 rabbits. The farm is also solar-powered, making it more sustainable.
Putting up the farm house, according to Garcia, was an inexpensive affair because the raw materials, like bamboo, can be found for free or at a low cost. With the help of the locals in the area, the two-level tree house was completed in four months.
The tree house has an open hall where guests could gather around whether to sleep, play or eat. The upper level has two rooms. Guests also have the option to bring their tents or sleep in the hammocks.
A year into the lockdown, Garcia said they now have a collection of native and rare species of trees such as mangkono or Phillippine ironwood and lapnisan or agawarood, among others.
Early this year, the family decided to open the farm to farm enthusiasts and tourists by reservation. They also listed the property on the AirBnb site.
“Opening our farm would allow us to educate people on how to live sustainably. We will expose them to how things are done in the farm and how they can replicate farming in their backyard, or in their properties,” she said.
Recently, the farm became a venue for educational workshops like beekeeping and farming, among others. The tree house can accommodate up to 30 persons.
The exclusive use of Azienda Gracia costs P3,500 per night good for two persons. This is inclusive of breakfast and waterfalls excursion. Extra person charge is P1,000.
Garcia said developing the farm has become a family affair as it glued them together during this time of uncertainty. She said farming is making them productive, healthy and carefree.
Looking forward, the architect boss said they plan to build cottages for honeymooners and eventually, a spring-fed pool. (KOC)