December 4, 2022

A family in Tublay, Benguet is transforming an idle land into a farm that aims to preserve an underused native plant – wild berries.
Grail Polig-Labutan, who manages the Polig’s Berries Farm at Barangay Ambassador, is leading the transformation of the family property into a plantation of wild berries, which she said are not getting much attention despite the fruits’ health and economic benefits.
She said development of the 13-hectare property started in 2013, but it was in 2019 that his father, Ben, broached the idea of transforming it into a berry farm.
“We want to develop it into a farm that will preserve the wild berries growing abundantly here,” she said.
The Polig patriarch is a former vice mayor of Tublay. Of the 13-hectare hilly family estate, seven hectares have been developed into a farm, a part of which has also been transformed into a children’s park.
Benguet is host to a variety of wild edible berries, but these native plants are underused.
Among the wild fruits being propagated at the Polig’s Berries Farm are ayusip, lusong (blueberry), daluyot (wild white mulberry), agubangbang (medinilla pendula), creeping raspberry, gooseberry, and pinit (raspberry).
Labutan said wild berries are organic because they do not require the application of fertilizers and pesticides to survive.
“The fruits are also rich in anti-oxidants, which is good for the health. This is one of the reasons my father wanted to develop the property into a berry farm,” she said.
Aside from the wild edible fruits, Labutan has started integrating imported berries in the farm. Among the imported berries she started integrating into the farm are Thailand cape (gooseberries), Europian blackberry, Jaboticaba Brazilian grapes, California locquat, strawberry guava, Lemon Cherry guava, California Pomegranate, and American passion fruit.
These berries, she said, have adapted to Benguet’s temperate climate.
Labutan said her family is so far the first to establish a farm that focuses on the propagation of the edible wild berries in Benguet.
She has also started processing some of the wild berries into a jam that she started selling along with the strawberry jams her family sells in their stall in Baguio City.
If not consumed as a table food or processed into jams and jellies, wild berries are also processed into wines. Some are also used for medicinal purposes.
There are 36 edible wild fruits in Benguet, according to a 2014 study by Racquel Tan Chua-Barcelo that was published by the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. – Jane B. Cadalig