Of flights and farms

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Felicidad Orchard and Garden Organics owner James Fos Reamon with ATI's partner bloggers.

ATI's partner bloggers pause to take a photo of the featured plants at Felicidad Orchard and Garden Organics as owner James Fos Reamon gives them a tour.

In his yellow polo shirt and khaki pants, James Fos Reamon welcomed us to Felicidad Orchard and Garden Organics with a look that was both expectant and apologetic, excited yet harried. He was just about to put the finishing touches in the newly built rooms, he said, which would later become our home for two nights when we visited in June 2019.

As we gathered around him to shake his hands and introduce ourselves, he took a minute to pause and find his composure. It was getting dark and it looked like there was still work to do, but Sir James did not pass on the chance to talk about his exploits in the world of agriculture.

A balanced ecosystem

With over 10 years of experience in farming, Sir James has maximized the potential of sunlight, air, water, and soil to grow food. With the help of his wife, Gilda, and his farm aides, he has managed to make all these elements work in harmony to transform his three-hectare farm land into the haven that it is now.

Right by the gate, a garden of herbs, spices, and vegetables is ready to greet visitors, along with an aquaponics structure situated like a piece of art that’s meant to start conversation. Sitting at the center is a towering “Gizelle Windmill” which he built to support the water distribution system in the farm.

Within the modest confines of ‘Felicidad’ are also cultivation areas for azolla, salvinia, and duckweed which are mixed into fertilizers and animal feeds. The organic black rice field, furthermore, benefits from a well-designed irrigation system and surrounded by ducks, pigs, cattle, and chickens that all take shade from rows of fruit trees, ornamentals, and exotic plants that are too many to count or name.

It is one balanced ecosystem, indeed. “Our parents had owned this 12-hectare land and then my siblings and I eventually decided to divide it among ourselves. I cultivated my share of the plot using organic methods,” Sir James shared.

One can only ponder on where all the plants in the farm had come from—something that truly speaks of the resourcefulness of Sir James and Gilda. There are these interesting stories about the Vietnamese “upo”, the African tulip, and that lavender plant from France.

Sir James has embraced all these resources like divine gifts. Add the constant support from various government institutions and he could not be any more grateful. At present, Felicidad Orchard and Garden Organics in General Santos City serves as a School for Practical Agriculture of the Agricultural Training Institute and a Farm Tourism Site of the Department of Tourism—the first ever in Region XII. It was also set to become a Farm School at the time of our visit, something that Sir James was excited about.

“I started farming with the sole purpose of collecting plants and opening this place to children so I can teach them about organic agriculture,” he said.

A pilot’s journey

As an engineer, former commercial pilot, teacher, and farmer, Sir James’ brain is always on high gear. Because of his creativity and imagination, he has earned many awards locally and internationally, such as the national Invention of the Year and the World Intellectual Property Organization Gold Medal Award.

Sir James is also renowned for his vermiculture technology which he so generously showed us. Together with his farmhands, he taught us the importance of introducing nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium through the soil to help plants thrive.

As a pilot for over 20 years, he has seen many parts of the world and has travelled thousands of miles across seas. In his heart, however, he knew that farming is what was going to land him the happiest times of his life—something the farm aptly embodies through its name. Sir James, now in his early sixties, has truly blazed the trail both up above and down here.

As we walked around the farm for an hour or two, the simple yet charming fortress of colors literally breathed life into the rich, expansive haven in our midst. We navigated our way through ‘Felicidad’, over its paved and grassy pathways—left, right, straight ahead. There was so much space to move around, yet it was packed with wonders that excited our senses at every turn. It is home away from home and, as I relaxed and let my mind rest, it felt like I, too, had found the perfect place to have that one peaceful day to breathe freely and commune with nature.

ATI Today

Extension services continue to evolve. With the challenges that extension workers and farmers face, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) continues to explore various strategies to improve its efforts as the extension and training arm of the Department of Agriculture. In over 30 years, the ATI has celebrated various successes and learned from the lessons during hard times. Nonetheless, we are proud to be standing the test of time through the support of our partners and the clientele themselves. This is the ATI Today, more committed to bring you extension services beyond boundaries.