The Art Behind Balay sa Hardin
Balay is the Visayan word for ‘home’ while Hardin is for a garden. However, for the Fernando family, Balay sa Hardin is more than its literal Visayan meaning.
“The inspiration behind Balay sa Hardin is love and nurturing good health for our family,” a proud statement of Ms. Gloria “Glo” Fernando, the wife of Mr. Arthur “Art” Fernando, owners of Balay sa Hardin. “A place that offers healthy appetizing food in a relaxing homey ambiance,” she added. “We both dreamt of having this kind of farm,” Art seconded.
Balay sa Hardin is a small-scale organic integrated farm nestled on a 3,000 square meter lot at Purok 3A, Barangay Luinab, Iligan City. It has herbs, ornamentals, vegetable crops, and fruit trees of many kinds gorgeously harmonized around a humble kubo (nipa hut). This is, where Art and Glo receive visitors and clients. The kubo gives you a perfect picture of Balay sa Hardin, one that you will surely fall in love with because of its country and cozy ambiance. “We have families who dine in this kubo after having a tour around the farm,” said Art.
Across the kubo is a nook under a passion fruit trellis, surrounded by diversely grown herbs and ornamentals. It is a spot where you can engage in small talks with family and friends. “After dining here, visitors can choose which activity to do next. They can either play with our board games or just chill out. We make them feel at home,” explained Glo.
The artistic touch on their farm can be attributed to Art and Glo’s engagement in landscaping projects as an added source of income. Also, their varied experiences in ornamental plants growing and trading and their attendance of training and conventions in horticulture provided part of the foundation in the making of Balay.
The farm also comprises a store, training hall, lodging facility, kitchen, crop production area, and a small fish pond where kids can go fishing. Considering the limited area for development, Balay is now in the process of developing 1.4 hectares in Brgy Abuno, a 15 minutes ride from Balay’s location.
The farm’s integrated approach boasts of the complementation of crops and animals. Their livestock and free-range chicken, rabbits, and goats are unnoticeably incorporated at the peripheral spaces of the farm. “We develop our feeds using some of the resources in our farm and other ingredients bought from other sources,” Art shared. He is an experienced livestock farm manager of several farms in his early employment period. He was also a graduate of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City with a Diploma in Agriculture Technology specializing in animal husbandry.
It was not an easy venture for Art. “I started small, but I think my passion made it grow this far,” he explained. “I started by putting up a nursery of fruit trees, bamboo, and ornamentals in a small lot in Barangay Mahayahay, Iligan City. We displayed our ornamentals in various trade fairs in Iligan, Cagayan de Oro City, Tubod, Lanao del Norte and Ozamis City, back then. We do not let income-generating opportunities pass since we have four children to raise,” he added.
With his bamboo enterprise, Art was appointed as a Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) of the Farmer’s Information Center Iligan City in 2010. In 2013, Art together with a group of MS in Region 10 attended training on organic agriculture at the Costales Nature Farm in Majayjay, Laguna organized by ATI Training Center in the region. “ It was my turning point,” he expressed. “From that time on, I started my transition into organic farming, applying the technologies I learned,” Art added.
Art started producing his own natural concoctions such as Indigenous Micro Organism (IMO) , Oriental Herbal Nutrient (OHN), Fermented Fruit Juice (FFJ), Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ), Fish Amino Acid (FAA), as well as some soil conditioners and fertilizers such as vermicast, vermi-tea, vermi-worms, carbonized rice hull (CRH), compost, and bokashi. “From ornamentals and some herbs that we have on the farm, we made it more diversified and integrated at the same time,” he continued.
“Our bestsellers are our eggs, chicken, lettuce, herbs, potting media, fertilizers and soil conditioners,” Glo stated. “But one of the best we could offer is our healthy food,” Art continued. Their food service is by appointment-basis only. Moreover, they offer tours and orientations at Php 25.00 to 50.00. Healthy fresh and processed products of their farm as well as products from other Learning Sites (LS) in the region are displayed in a store near the farm entrance. Balay sa Hardin became an LS of ATI in the region 2015, while it became GAP certified in 2016.
Balay sa Hardin also hosted some training with its partners in the private and public sector including Department of Agriculture (DA), ATI, LGU- Iligan City, MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology, MSU-IIT National Multi-purpose Cooperative, the Philippine Science High School and many others.
“More than the monetary successes of the farm is the involvement of the whole family in various farm enterprises,” said Art. Ardjani, their youngest is managing their farm’s food services and display center while Eldani, their eldest, acts as the in house veterinarian and for their poultry and livestock enterprise. Arnizza, their only daughter who is a landscape architect, was responsible for acquiring the farm lot and provides advises on land utilization. The herbs and crops are tended by the couple while Art focuses his attention on the rearing of all animals.
Presently, Balay sa Hardin is a model enterprise for a small and compact farm. Increasingly, the farm is now visited by tourists who want to relax and enjoy good food in a rural setting epitomized by the “payag”. Unexpectedly, the farm attracts varied clienteles such as students, professionals, business owners, farmers, senior citizens, NGO workers, and many others. Their visit is either for dining, leisure and learning purposes.
Glo stated “We envision this place to become an effective learning site for farmers and gardeners who wants to learn about organic farming. We also see this place as the center of our family’s gathering as well as for families who wants to spend healthy and quality time together.”
“The innermost foundation of Balay sa Hardin is our passion for farming and a sense of purpose. Discovering and fulfilling that sense of purpose while undertaking the things that you like to do is a meaningful life for us. Patiently learn how you can achieve that purpose by starting small,” Glo boldly explained.
The farm that was borne out of the love for their family now serves as a home of healthy inspiration and a garden of learning to those who come and experience Balay sa Hardin.