Cool weather, pine-filled mountains, and fresh vegetables. These are Benguet’s main attractions that invite everyone who wants to escape the city’s scorching heat and constant hustle. With its ambiance filled with nature’s collection of rich mountains, deep valleys and calm springs, Benguet is one of the frequently visited landlocked destinations in the Philippines especially when the summer season falls.
Popularly known as the “Salad Bowl of the Philippines”, the highland province of Benguet in the Cordillera Administrative Region is the leading supplier of the freshest vegetables consumed around the country. As the title implies, the types of vegetables grown in the province mainly serve the purpose of making salads but these greens can also be used in cooking highly nutritious entrees.
Aside from the fields of vegetables, Benguet is also a home to various fruits attuned to subtropical climate. Known for its bright red color, succulent texture, and sweet-and-sour tang, strawberry is one of the most important fruit crops commercially produced in the province. Because of high quality harvest of strawberries every year, Benguet received yet another deserved title as the “Strawberry Capital of the Philippines”.
La Trinidad, the capital municipality of Benguet, is where the strawberry plantations are centralized. In the 1960s, La Trinidad rose as one of the leading producers of quality vegetables in the Philippines. And today, based on the records of the local government unit, more than 70,000 hectares in La Trinidad and Baguio City (a chartered city located within Benguet province) are planted with strawberries.
The strawberry farm in La Trinidad is a famous spot in Benguet not only because of its vast fields full of red and sweet strawberries but also because tourists here are allowed to experience picking for themselves fresh strawberries straight from the shrubs – a truly worthwhile experience that can calm the mind and excite the taste buds.
As the province’s one-town one-product (OTOP), strawberry became one of the commodities highly valued by the LGU and the academe. One of which is Benguet State University (BSU) located at La Trinidad which owns 45,000 hectares of strawberry fields.
With the concerted efforts of the government, private sector, and the academe, the productivity of strawberries in Benguet has been steadily optimized. However, concerns arose when it comes to marketability and product competence.
“Like vegetables, this crop [strawberry] also faces problems on low price and price fluctuation,” said Dr. Jane Avila, professor at the College of Home Economics and Technology in BSU and proponent of the project titled “Commercialization of Enhanced Strawberry and Ubi Processed Products through Participation of Community-based Enterprises”.
This project was conducted with the collaboration of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) through its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP), a program that ensures the commercialization of emerging agri-fisheries technologies and highlights R&D innovations and mature technologies developed by R&D institutions.
To increase and sustain the profitability and productivity of strawberry food products through involving the participation of community entrepreneurs, the project aimed 1) to improve the packaging of strawberry products, 2) to transfer the enhanced technologies to community-based entrepreneurs for commercialization, 3) to assist partners in promoting and marketing of strawberry food products, and 4) to conduct process documentation of the project.
“The Benguet State University has developed processing technologies for strawberry and marketing is being done at the university level. The commercial potential of these products are locally recognized and has a promising potential in the domestic and foreign market. However, the present packaging of the products is not competitive with the industrial food sector,” explained Dr. Avila.
Three strawberry-based products were involved in this project. These are: 1) strawberry preserve, sun-ripened whole strawberries cooked in heavy syrup and packed in sterilized glass container, 2) strawberry spread, crushed fully-ripe strawberries cooked with sugar until thick, and 3) strawberry syrup, a by-product derived from the processing of strawberry preserve and spread.
Intended to promote and commercialize these products, the project proponents established linkage and partnership with community-based entrepreneurs and conducted consultations with them regarding their concerns on these technologies. After the implementation of product testing, the strawberry product technologies were transferred to the interested local entrepreneurs.
Today, these products are gaining more and more popularity in the local and foreign industry. The venture to optimize the commercialization of strawberry products not only improved local livelihood but also boosted Benguet’s Agritourism that continue to invite tourists not only to have a vacation but also to appreciate and invest in its industry of fresh and high-potential commodities like strawberry.
Indeed, a Benguet experience is never truly complete without having to experience the sight and taste of strawberries.
To go to Strawberry Farm in Benguet, ride jeepneys going to La Trinidad or Buyagan (in La Trinidad) or other jeepneys passing through KM 6 (Kilometer 6). Present terminal is located in the lot corner of Magsaysay and T. Alonzo Street. Fare is about P11.00. You can also ride cabs if you do not want to ride jeepney, but of course it will be more expensive.
You will be able to see signs going to Strawberry Farm. Tell the driver to drop you off to the intersection going to Strawberry Farm. Once you see it, go straight ahead until you reach the farm. There is no entrance fee in the farm but optional activity like strawberry picking is at a cost (P300-350).