Much to her chagrin, many people think that it was Ching Camara’s husband who began the farm. “My husband is an agribusiness graduate,” Ching shares. “It’s funny because people think he started the farm as that is really his line of work.” But the truth is, Sambali Beach Farm is all Ching. Well, most of it.
Although she comes from a family of farmers, Ching began the farm with no experience. It began with good old research, with Ching taking up courses such as Biodynamic Farming with Greg Kitma. Following that, she dove into it using vermicompost from a friend’s horse farm in Batangas. It grew from there, starting out as a small garden of herbs and other edible plants, eventually expanding as demand for its produce went up.
Before taking on farming, Ching was in community enterprise development. A graduate of Sociology, she started out as a program officer for an urban livelihood program under TESDA’s Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC). After that, Ching joined the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for a few years, again as a program officer. When she moved on from being a program officer, Ching started a community enterprise development project in Zambales with her husband, which covered seven towns and 7,000 households. The project went on for 10 years, and when the project closed, Ching began the farm a couple of years after.
For Ching, the farm is more than just a farm; it also serves as a place of respite and healing. Since she was 16, Ching has suffered through major illnesses such as myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune illness), lymphoma, and diverticulitis. “I have almost died so many times,” Ching says. Despite this, Ching has remained strong thanks in part to her work on the farm. “This farm has been a major player in my healing, together with my practice of qigong,” she shares.
Ching has also been able to help people with their wellness by inviting them to the farm and have them do therapeutic tasks. “I have friends who have had illnesses like chronic fatigue or depression. I would make them come and do simple tasks in the beds like weeding or planting seedlings.” Apart from these activities, the place itself can serve as a breath of fresh air for the soul.
The goal of Sambali Beach Farm really is to become an all-natural haven, an oasis for people who need a getaway, and to support the people who serve as its pillars. Ching’s work on building the farm is not only seen in its products and surroundings, but it is most (and best) seen in herself.
Founded in 2000 by Ching Camara, the farm is an organic, sustainable beach farm that produces various vegetables and livestock. The property spans eight hectares and is set in the local fishing village of Danacbunga in Botolan, Zambales.
The farm began as a small garden for the beach house, with plants and trees that were useful for the Camara family’s consumption, like edible plants and trees for building materials. Demand for the produce grew gradually over the years and is now a full-fledged beach farm.
There are a number of things that separate a beach farm from a “normal” farm, one of which is the composition of the land, which allows for less pests. “You just need to recreate the soil and make it rich enough to grow your plants,” Ching says. What makes the beach farm work aside from the soil is the farm’s use of biochar or carbonized biomass, which is agricultural waste made into charcoal. Biochar is used for trapping carbon and other greenhouse gases in the soil, housing microbes that plants use to take in nutrients, and for repelling heat and cooling down beach sand.
Apart from its advantages in farming, the use of biochar also aids in reducing greenhouse gases, which is one of Sambali Beach Farm’s advocacies. The farm also advocates for the use of bokashi, a process of composting, and vermi-composting, among others. Tours of the farm are also offered to guests and organizations who want to learn about this way of farming. “We usually start with the biochar production and explain what biochar is, and then move on to the different applications—the piggery, poultry, and the vegetable and herb beds,” Ching says.
Beyond farming, the farm champions the local farmers of Zambales by providing jobs and training to its staff. “We do a profit-sharing scheme with our household and garden staff,” Ching explains. This scheme extends to the house rental, for which the staff gets a 30 percent cut. Sambali’s farmers also get incentives from volume productions of the vegetables and meats, and the women it employs to slaughter and dress the chickens are paid per piece.
The farm’s goal and vision in the long run is for the farm to be a center for sustainability, healing, and a place where people can go to be with nature, have clean air, and clean food. Artist residencies are also in the works. The bottomline, as Ching explains, is this: “I don’t ever want to make this place a commercial space. I want it to continue to be a private getaway for healing and inspiration.”
To be a place of healing, inspiration, and clean and sustainable living.
Grow organic produce and livestock using natural techniques and technologies, provide a refreshing getaway for its guests and educate them on clean farming, and be a partner of growth for its farmers and staff.