She was only nine when she started helping around in their farm.
Jayasree Harsha or Jaya of Jaya Secret Garden in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon later wowed the crowd attending the 2015 National Agriculture & Fishery, Forestry, and Natural Resources Extension Symposium at the AIM Conference Center in Manila. She was lauded in every invitation and opportunity to discuss and share her farming knowledge in various organic agriculture congress mounted by both regional and national offices.
Jaya Secret Garden is a 5,000 square meter haven owned and managed by Junah Bayag and Hazel Bayag. It boasts of an awe-inspiring backyard which showcases different components of an integrated and diversified farm which include garden-variety vegetables and fruits, fish pond, free range chickens and ducks. Their daughter and first born Jaya is a common fixture on a guided farm tour for visiting patrons and drop-by visitors with which she recieves 60 pesos per tour as her share.
Now at age 16, she continues to give guided tours to walk-in clients and converses with them about urban gardening and sustainable agriculture.
Life as a student
As a third year in junior high, Jaya is preoccupied with school and her love for the arts. During weekends, she would help maintain the cleanliness of their mini-hall, check their garden and tend to her younger brother Chantoy. If there are walk-in visitors, she still entertains them and walk them around the farm.
When giving tour guide proper, Jaya introduces herself as the tour guide in and around the garden. She gathers the visitors in the mini-hall, informs the visitors what they can expect, about the different plants and crops in the garden, and also the services it offers. After the rounds and walk-through, she would solicit questions from them and openly discuss it with them.
“I am a shy person, but I was told and I always remember that the message I want to impart across the listening audience is important. And I love the feeling that they listen to me and that they can learn from my experience in my own little way. Whenever I am onstage and start to talk about farming and share the things I do here at home, I find it hard to stop”, Jaya shared with a smile.
In one of her proudest moments, she likes the idea that most people as well as her classmates choose their farm as their favorite hangout place because of its laidback and relaxing ambience.
She said that two of her classmates has also been helping their parents grow a garden and help around in the farm after sharing with them her farm chores and responsibilities.
Plans for the future
Aside from her talent in drawing and painting, she aspires to be a chef and come up with a restaurant serving organically-grown, nutritious and delicious food fare sourced straight from their farm.
She confided that she wants to take up and wanted a career in the culinary arts in the near future since it is what her passion is about, and that cooking is close to her heart.
“Since we are consuming our very own harvest, I like the idea that whatever we serve for our visitors to eat, we get the vegetables and fruits from the same source which is our farm. I want to make people healthy and be happy with the food we serve”, Jaya affirmed.
It makes sense that Jaya plans to work and still contribute in the agriculture sector through an organic restaurant in their farm, at the same time focus a career in coming up with tasty pastry products. Her mother Hazel, explained to her that to develop her cooking skills at an early age, she needs to stick around in the kitchen and be inquisitive about food and cooking in their household.
Upon visiting, the food served is freshly-grown, picked, and cooked in their farm. We were treated to a mouth-watering pasta with homemade pesto---all ingredients derived from Jaya Secret Garden.
As of this interview, one thing is clear, this young farmer aspires to work with the agri sector, be a chef, and own an organic restaurant.
Bright prospects in agriculture
Coupled with her desire to learn more farming tips and gain more knowledge in agriculture, Jaya is optimistic and looks forward to a bright future where her skill set in farming and cooking is showcased and continue to inspire others to venture in farming.
“We all eat, and farming and agriculture is important more than ever since every year our population grows. Feeding the people in the future would be a problem if we do not plant and engage in farming”, Jaya concluded.
What Jaya Secret Garden lacked in space and breadth or width, it makes up for whatever space it has by harnessing Junah’s Urban Edible Landscaping skills. With Jaya in the scene, it makes their farming advocacy even more engaging to the youth.
At the moment, Jaya adopts the ideology of his father Junah who deliberately shares his approaches in farming through art integration such as "agritecture", farm tourism, permaculture, having a sustainable farm business development plan and the farm as a "farmacy". Also, Hazel dabbles with food processing from time to time like coming up with homemade treats with ingredients directly sourced from their farm.
The blend of agriculture and architecture attests that there is an advantage when husband and wife and children are into farming. If space is a problem, a modern farmer of today should be innovative and must think of ways to reinvent, be creative, and decisive to grow healthy food for the family.