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INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

An animal farm with a difference–no foul smell

/ 11:16 PM September 07, 2011

VICTORIA, Laguna—Neighbors of Herbert “Obet” Pantua often wonder why his poultry and swine farm doesn’t stink.

On a 1.6-hectare piece of land in Victoria town in Laguna, Pantua raises some 3,000 chickens and 200 hogs. Yet, visitors say they can only pick up the scent of fresh basil, oregano, lavender and many other herb varieties.

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An agriculture graduate, Pantua, 43, practices strict organic farming, filling his land with all kinds of vegetables and herbs, and feeding his livestock only with fermented crops, never commercially produced synthetic feeds.

Vegetarian hogs? “We can put it that way,” he says.

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Passion

Pantua started his advocacy for sustainable agriculture and nutrition farming in 1987, which, he says, has evolved into a passion.

“Farming is a very noble profession. It should not just be about profit,” he says.

In 2009, Pantua and his brothers, along with agriculture experts, established Herb Republic Agro Ventures Inc. (HRAVI) which opened a farm in Barangay Masapang in Victoria.

At the same time, the group put up Herb Republic Restaurant, serving organically grown crops and livestock from the farm and the neighboring town of Los Baños.

Probiotics

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HRAVI also develops and nourishes the animals with its own “all-natural” probiotics, but details of their production were not disclosed. A farmer cites probiotics and the natural (nonchemical) farming system in explaining why the farm does not emit a foul smell.

In its website, the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine defines probiotics as “live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut.”

“They are also called friendly bacteria or good bacteria,” it said.

“Probiotics are available to consumers mainly in the form of dietary supplements and foods. They can be used as complementary and alternative medicine,” it added.

Pantua stresses that the essence of sustainability in agriculture is not to compromise the capability of future generations to provide for themselves.

“How can you sustain something in a depleted environment? If you dispose wastes in rivers, you are polluting the waterways. It’s not anymore about keeping your own yard clean and throwing the trash outside. We should now develop a global perspective,” he says.

Very little antibiotics

But Pantua uses “only very little” antibiotics and “only when needed” by his farm animals. Antibiotics, he says, eliminate the “beneficial organisms” that naturally protect the animals from diseases.

“(The idea of) conventional farming is eradication of biological security while sustainable agriculture is enhancement. Here, we try to boost the immune system (of the animals),” he says.

To achieve this, Pantua feeds the animals with fermented vegetables, such as organically grown lettuce and “malunggay,” and avoids giving them leftovers.

Animal manure is used as crop fertilizer. The manure is refined and clean, Pantua says as he scoops a handful for this writer to smell to prove this.

Pantua never bathes the hogs, thus conserving on water. The animals don’t smell, to the surprise of guests.

According to him, sustainable agriculture is a cycle of taking and giving back to the environment what was taken. But for many years, he says, agriculture has taken a lot, almost depleting the soil of its nutrients and contaminating it through the excessive use of chemical fertilizers.

“Man does not eat only to satisfy his hunger, but to nourish his body. If the crops no longer absorb the right nutrients and minerals from the soil (because they are already depleted), we might just be eating mere leaves,” he says.

Small-scale production

Pantua says with the reduced consumption of fertilizers and antibiotics, sustainable farming requires less input than conventional farming.

He explains, though, that organic products are priced higher than those commercially grown because production of organic food remains small-scale and market competition,

For instance, an organically raised chicken costs about P180 per kilo while a regular chicken costs P140.

“Our objective is to lower our price (and) increase our productivity. If given the chance by the consumers, we are willing to do so,” Pantua says.

For the past 10 years, he says, the number of farmers engaged in sustainable agriculture has swelled as consumers have become more aware of the benefits of organic food.

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TAGS: Animals, Chicken, Farm, hogs, Regions
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