FAMILY FARM IS ALSO A TREE SANCTUARY AND A HOME FOR RESCUED TAAL HORSES
Agriculture|November - December 2020
SOMETIMES, a farm isn’t just a place where crops grow. Sometimes, it can be a place of conservation and rejuvenation.
YVETTE TAN

Artana Farm & Eco-Sanctuary is one such place. Located in Iba, Zambales, Artana is a family-owned, non-commercial agricultural estate that includes various planted crops, farm animals, a guesthouse for rent, an area dedicated to the preservation of native trees, and various farm tourism activities.

“Artana is a portmanteau of our parents’ names, Arturo and Ana Achacoso,” says Beng Achacoso-Pascua, freelance voice talent and retired network executive who owns the farm together with her mom and seven siblings.

“All our lives, we had always referred to our farm as ‘Zambales,’” she says. In 2014, after our father passed on, my seven siblings and I came together to vote on an appropriate name for our farm-which we all acknowledged as the retreat we all loved, and our parents’ legacy.”

At that time, the farm had been in a state of neglect as the Achacoso patriarch had been in and out of the hospital since 2008. The siblings decided that reviving the farm would stand as a “collective tribute to our parents, who both instilled in us a profound love for nature, conservation, stewardship and sustainability.”

The farm, which is situated right by the Calauangan river, a tributary that opens out to the West Philippine Sea, has been in the Achacoso family since the early 1900s.

“It started as a small but prolific riverside farm lot developed by my great-grandparents, Pelagio Achacoso and Jesusa Morales,” Achacoso-Pascua says. “The river was well known to the locals as very fertile fishing grounds. In fact, barangay folks, up until the early 2000s, had no reservations about [unlawfully] entering the property to access the river. This property was bequeathed to my grandfather Exequiel, passed on to an uncle, and sold from brother to brother until my father Arturo bought it, along with two adjacent properties that included fish ponds.”

The current combined farm area is about seven hectares. “The farm has been in our family for almost 40 years, but was only in the last eight years that our generation started hands-on agricultural experiments with various crops to determine feasibilities and best fits for our respective spaces’ natural features,” Achacoso-Pascua says.

ZAMBALES MANGOES

Zambales is known as one of the best mango producing provinces in the country. Artana is known for its mangoes, which have been harvested annually for the past 20 years.

“There are about 200 mango trees, but only about 60% are fruit-bearing so far. These are sprayed alternately, yielding about 150250 crates of Damulag and Pico mangoes once or twice yearly,” Achacoso-Pascua says. “At 24 kilos per crate, that’s 4000-6000 kilos [per harvest].”

Since all the Achacoso siblings are Manila-based, they rely on a third party to handle the mango trees from start to finish—” that is, from the first nutrient spraying, and all the way to the post-harvest cleanup.”

“Because we are Manila-based, having a third party handle our precious harvest has been the most convenient for us, though certainly far from ideal. All expenses for fertilizers and pesticides are shouldered by the chosen partner team, and they receive 70% of the yield. We only receive 30% of our harvest, which is easily distributed to our friends and family who anticipate the Artana mangoes year after year, many of whom have standing reservations and commitments to purchase,” she explains.

“In the near future, when one of us is ready to stay at the farm permanently, then we can consider taking on the mango venture entirely upon us. For now, we are glad to have finally found a trustworthy local team to partner with.”

The family’s share is brought to Manila, where they are segregated according to size and sold for between P160-200 a kilo. “The Zambales mango season, mid-March to mid-May, coincides with all other provinces’ mango harvests and there is always an abundance of mangoes to choose from, with prices ranging from Php66 to P250/kilo,” Achacoso-Pascua says.

“Luckily, the reputation of Zambales mangoes precedes us, and we are usually able to fetch a premium price for our mango harvest from Artana. The sweetest mangoes in the world, after all, according to the 1995 edition of the Guinness book of world records, are the Carabao mangoes grown in Zambales, beating Guimaras and Ilocos Region mangoes.

“Further, in 2003, a comparative study conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Research of the Department of Agriculture found that the Sweet Elena variety of Zambales is the sweetest Carabao mango strain. This is one of the varieties of carabao mangoes we have at Artana Farm,” she adds.

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