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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Cervantes Farm advocates Square Foot and Vertical Gardening method

For someone who’s spent half her life working at a hospital and seeing just about every kind of disease and its horrible effects on the human body, I consider myself quite conscious about my health.

Especially since my state of health hasn’t been optimal for the past few months, I’ve been very particular about the food I eat. I avoid eating pork, worry about serving sizes, and eat as much green veggies and fruits as I can. I’ve also been reading the labels of the products I buy, staying away from those snacks with heavy doses of MSG and going for those with the ORGANIC tag.

Going Organic has been the trend for the past few years, and though it doesn’t come cheap, I felt it was worth spending the extra pesos.

But I have to admit my knowledge of organic has been quite limited, all I know is that organic food is fresher, free from GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms, and pesticide-free.

So when I got the invitation to join a group of bloggers on an “OA” (Organic Agriculture) adventure down south, I quickly cleared my schedule and said YES! After all, I’ve always wondered where those bok choys, romaine lettuce, and all those ingredients from those “fresh” salad bars actually came from.

Under the auspices of the Agriculture Training Institute, our 4D3N CDO-Bukidnon adventure would take us to five “farmventures” and even through forests to learn about new agricultural practices. It was my first OA trip, but as it turns out they have done it four times already in the past couple of years.

To say I was excited would be an understatement and even my body clock would betray me. I set the alarm for 4 am but I was already up at 3 eager to get to the airport way ahead of our scheduled 9 am flight. The flight took about an hour and a half and as soon as I saw those lush green mountains I was eager to get off the plane to start our adventures.

It was going to be my first time to visit a farm—a real organic one.  When you say organic farm, the produce relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost, manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation, companion planting, and water conservation. From this organic farm comes organic produce such as vegetables, fruits, dairy products and meat. It is designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution.

Our first stop for the day was the Cervantes Farm. It was a two-hour drive from Laguindingan Airport, Misamis Oriental.

Ret.Col Honorio Cervantes

Now whenever I heard the word farm, I would immediately think of large acres of land that would stretch as far as my eyes would see. So when we were told by our ATI official Ms. Niet Jarceo that the Cervantes farm espoused square foot gardening, it was as if someone popped my thought bubbles and replaced it with images of my sad little virtual farm when I used to play Farmville.

What can you plant with a squarefoot when I could barely plant my feet inside that small space.
We were greeted by Retired Colonel Honorio Cervantes who owned the Cervantes Farm located in Brgy. Pagatpat, Cagayan de Oro. His farm was recognized by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) Learning Site for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and is open to farmers, students and the public.

He said he advocates square foot gardening and wants to teach everyone how they could start planting with just a small space. He said square foot gardening is the most practical, foolproof way to grow a home garden and even make a living out of this. You can start planting your own pechay, basil, tomato, melon, kangkong and or eggplant.  Mr. Cervantes told us that anyone with a backyard and some sun can grow an abundance of food for their family, regardless of where they live so no one will go hungry.

To start your own square foot farm, you just need to start by building a raise bed frame. This bed would measure 4 x 4 and at 6 inches deep or any size you want, just make sure you don’t make your bed too wide.  Then, you just need to make it into a 3x3 (3 squares by 3 squares) grid, 2x2, 4x4 or more if you want more produce.  Place a weed barrier such as cloth in the bottom before you fill in with the soil mix. Measure out the squares, and fill the bed with soil.

Growing in square foot gardening style saves 20% more space than growing plants in rows, he told us.

This police turned organic farmer practitioner advocates urban gardening and has proven that we can really grow our own food no matter how little land we have. His farm which only measures 300sqm has been utilized perfectly that they are able to grow a lot of vegetables using his square foot and vertical gardening methods.

Mr. Cervantes said he learned about the method through a book by Mel Bartholomew, a retired businessman and engineer from Utah, USA.

According to the Wikipedia entry: “Bartholomew used a 12’ x 12’ square with a grid that divided it into 9 squares with equal lengths of 4 feet on each side. Each of these 4’ by 4’ squares was then invisibly divided into sixteen one foot squares that were each planted with a different species. In smaller square gardens the grids may simply serve as a way to divide the garden but in larger gardens the grids can be made wide enough to be used as narrow walkways. 

After his lecture we got the chance to try out and harvest “kangkong”. Unlike the usual kangkong, his vegetables are grown on plots of land, not on water. Following his square foot gardening method, his kangkong and the other vegetables are planted systematically every few days so there will always be a new batch ready for harvesting.

He also shared the secret of his soil—the Cervantes mix, which is made up of composted cow manure, chicken dung, bamboo charcoal, and other natural ingredients.

Before we checked out on Sir Cervantes backyard farm. We had our sumptuous lunch “boodle fight style” first at his simple nipa house. The table was set where a big pile of food are served on top of banana leaves loaded with steamed rice, topped with fish, pork, vegetables, mangoes, bananas and vinegar/ soy sauce dips, he proudly told us that our lunch are crops from his backyard farm. They tasted delicious, healthy and fresh.

We were served mangoes, bananas,  and fresh buco juice with milk for dessert.

His parting advice to us: "Go organic. You can provide food for your family without the harmful chemicals.” 

It was a very “fulfilling” first stop both for our minds and our  tummies and I couldn’t wait for the next stop. 

Contact Cervantes Farm at 0927-4699994 to schedule a learning visit / farm tour.


  1. Really glad to know you also enjoyed our tour! See you in future OA Bloggers' trips! :)

  2. Really glad to know you also enjoyed our tour! See you in future OA Bloggers' trips! :)

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