Shri. Sarvdamanbhai Patel
Bhaikaka Krushi Kendra, At & Po. Ravipura Post Ghunte, Anand- Sojitra Road,
Anand District,- 388 440, Gujarat, Ph: 02692 281664, Cell: 09825045730, Email: email@example.com
Sarvdaman Patel is one of the pioneers of the organic farming movement in Gujarat. His 40 acres farm in Ravipura, near Anand in Gujarat , is a pilgrim centre of farmers interested in biodynamic farming. Like many others, Patel too once practiced chemical farming. It was only later, when he realised the after effects of chemical farming that he changed to organic farming. His farm yields a good crop which he sells from his own shop. The surplus is sold to an organic shop in Baroda and to other organic farmers who have their own outlets.
Shri. Vivek and Julie Cariappa
KRAC-A-Dawna Organic Farm, Halasnur Village, Birwal P.O., Mysore, H.D. Kote Taluka, – 571-121, Karnataka. Ph: 08221 210101, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: geocities. Com/kracadawnaorganiks
When the winds of fortune blow two unilikely souls into a partnership of perfect amity, people exclaim ‘but, how id you do it? Absurd temptation to give a ludicrous answer often crossed our minds. Instead, we are intrigued that testimonies of honest hard work yielding achievement are so surprising to many.
It’s hard work to dream of a world worth livng in these days. Especially when you corner yourself into duty and a 9 to 5 job, encirled by plastic, cement and steel that say nothing of the earth below, where you come from and where you will go same day. And between the coming and the going what have you to show for it and whom are you going to show it to, for what? I guess that’s why we got our act togethr and started to dream.
Dreaming is a risky business. It makes you want to do things and when you are twenty with life’s passion pulsing throught your body, flowing in you mind, doing risky things seems like a wise idea. So we got risky, gave up our jobs to more worthy contenders and went scarching for the holy grail… A place to set down our dream.
This dream invloved finding out about whether all this talk of our earth dying before our very eyes was true. It is distrubing to be just beginnng your adult life and hear pronoucements regarding its very futility. So together, unlikely and impossible, armoured generously with love, we began our walk to the other side.
We found same land. Beautiful, hopeless, stony soil bordered by a trickling river and crowned with a naked hill of thorns. We thus challenged our earth, giver of life, to show us she was dead. We built a small stone house among the nakedness and began to plant trees, till the soil, sow seeds… you think we knew a thing about planting? We did not. But, we knew how to dream. That power made the two of us learn faster and work harder. We worked fourteen and a half acres of land with two pairs of hands, never giving up hope. Insane. Once we bungled things so badly that we had only 73 rupees left to survice an entire month, but Juli made stone soup and we got by. Along the way we quickly learnt that farming is perhaps the most under-valued profession that exists. Its complexity challenged us to innovate at every trun and continues to do so.
One part of the dream became a crusade. We vowed never to use chemicals, fertilisers or pesticides on the land. We have managed to keep that promise. Imagine eating a whole meal grown solely by your own effort, on your own land, without Malathion, lindane, DDT, or Roundup!! It’s a marvellous feeling… good for the soul and a lot else too.
Over the years we realized that the conventional agricultural model has not been and efficient design for small farming. Which makes up the majority of agrarian economy in India. Principles of seed-saving, multiple cropping, integrated and inter-dependent animal and soil husbandry, optimal utilization of animal and plant-waste, small-scale food preservation and storage and ultimately the cornerstone of strong community-family participations, have no value in the new scheme of things. Chemical agro-inputs have been terribly abused because their effects on the soil and ecological balance have been mis-undertstood. In the end, although our national food surplus is statistically pleasing, rural India is more food insecure than ever before and steadily losing its aility to survive in a ‘free-trade’ world, let alone fight for its share of resources.
Rural children are taught to yearn for city jobs and urban lifestyles and in a population of 1 Billion +, with all the cards stacked against them, they are unlikely to achieve their dreams. Instead, society will reap their anger and hunger not to speak of the collaps of rural economy. Our own childeren do not go through the conventional schooling system as the rural negative bias is very strong in the India system. As they grow up and work beside us on the farm they are aware that they are different. Their bonding with the Earth already tells us that they love her in a special way that we do not know.
Hopefully they will be proud, innovative citizens of a helthy farming India, in their time.
Even our own experience has been a struggle with all the advantages of educations and background that we have. We have had to learn not only how to farm per se, but also how to survive as a farming family. It has become clear that the sustainability of our operation depends on the diversity of our crops both from the aspect of establishing a fundamentally stable ecology on the farm as well as in terms of optimising energy inputs to sustainably maximise fertility, bio-mass and crop output.
From here on began another saga. The ‘how to maximixe the monetary RETURNS from our produce’ question. During the first two decades of our farming experience we developed a value addition system that helped us to ensure that nothing left our farm in its raw state; we tried to get the final produce to the consumer … directly. The grains are sold as flour, the perishable fruit as jams and jellies, the sugar cane as jaggery powder, the coconuts as cold-pressed coconut oil, soap and the cotton as hand spun vegetable dyed fabric and garments. This takes a lot of our effort and imagination, but it has also improved our economic viability and our sustainability in the market society, where every thing is for sale.
Our cotton story in particular, illustrates the challenge amd extraordinary effort we have had to put in to turn around the view of cotton growing as a losing proposition (as it is for small growers of raw cotton), into a highly integrated rural product benfiting rural society as a whole. We chose to grow cottong 19 years ago because it was a major crop in our area, consuming 60% of the national pesticide use. It took us several years of field trials before we could feel sure we were on the right track, but we finally grew good organic cotton and then were faced with the dilemma of what to do with the damn thing! It was completely demoralizing to consider selling our organic cotton on the conventional market.
Our age-old tradition of KHADI or home spun was staring us in the face. In the first years of our journey into creating what we now call ‘sustain life’ textiles, we had trained a team of women locally to spin our cotton. This became unviable eventually as the activity required a stamina which was too challenging in an agricultural community which was too busy trying to survive. Now, in a world of ever increasing scales and volumes we attempt to spin our cotton in spinning mills which can provide us with a service of segregating our cotton and ensuring the yarn we get back is from our own cotton. The challenges are always there to keep our small productions viable. Once our yarn is returned to us it is then sent to a weaving village in Kannur district, kerala where 3rd and 4th generation handloom weaving families help us to convert our yarn into a wide variety of fabrics. We have trained ourselves in traditional vegetable dyeing and the art of shibori tie and dye and produce about 3000-5000 metres of cloth from 3 to 5 acres of cotton not to mention growing and extracting many of the vegetable dyes on farm). Our fabric is transformed into a number of different styles by urban women tailors and from beginning to end Krac-a Dawna cotton ends up weaving together about 50 families, the majority of whom are rurally based! In 2008 we were able to produce possibly the only turly handmade indigo jeans. Even our coconut buttons are produced by local artisans from Kerala. The ‘sustain life; cotton story will, we are sure, further evolve as we meet the chalenge of creating a quality product in an ever- changing and fickle marketplace.
Krac-a Dawna organic farm at present covers about 30 acres of land and grows, besides hedgerows and wild species of shrubs and trees, about 30 different kinds of crops, to which we value-add on farm in one way or another. On a regular basis we employ six persons besides our selves and sell produce to at least 100 families locally in Mysore and other cities. For six years now we have participated in a bi-monthly green market and also supply many of our products to a growing number of eco-shops around India.
Most of our input are produced on–farm (such as vermicompost and biodynamic compost) and these are enhanced by sustainable biotechnologies. We depend heavily on green manuring and cropping systems which utilise different yet mutually beneficial types of crops including, horticultural and plantation crops. In most cased we do not produce more than two acres of a single crop at one time and even these are generally inter-cropped with short-term crops like pulses, especially in cash crops.
Crop-protection is defined largely by careful soil management. It has been our experience that organic farming in itself is a tool to correct pest imbalance. Frequently pest problems are easier to control because the diversity of plants diffuses the situation quickly. Along with this we attempt to plan our sowing with respect to moon-phase activity and known pest peak periods which helps to reduce critical situations. Additional plant-derived pest control is occasionally used when the above systems prove inadequate.
As much as possible, we try to use seeds that are grown by other organic farmers or ourselves because the seeds produced for conventional farming are designed to respond to chemical inputs. However there are a few crops that we do grow from commercial seed for a lack of any other alternative.
Weed-control, intercultivation and successive planting using manual, mechanical and powered tools have proved to be an effective combination. Shallow tillage, whether bullock-drawn or using a small tractor, has conserved our soil and rehabilitated its natural self-sustaining mechanisms. Practical realities are the best motivation to constantly innovated and develop better rechniques.
Every year we find the complementary relationship between the soil, crops, animals and humans requires less effort to maintain. This is proof of sustainable design; that no one part deprives another part of its ability to access the basic requirements of helthy living.
For many years Krac-a Dawna has been evolving into an ever more beautiful and productive space for all the creatures who depend upon her. As her human family we have been ever grateful to be part of this experience and have tried, at every turn, to make choices that regard her overall health and vitality as the most important critieria in our decisions. Our children Kabir, Azad and Sukanya like the trees on Krac-a Dawns, are speading their branches in all kinds of ways knowing fully well that their roots are firm and well-nourished.
About four years ago, our eldest son Kabir (now20) went to biodynamic agriculture course in Kodaikanal and spent a week with our friend David Hogg, a long time bio-dynamics practitioner. As a young person raised in the spirit and born into organic living, Kabir came back from the workshop bubbling with Peter Proctor’s enthusiasm and speaking with remarkable fluency about the effect of planets, moon and sun movements on the earth, thanks to Rachel Pomeroys’ good teaching. He felt we should apply some of the techiniques he learnt there to energise the soil in an even more optimal way. Believing that the instinct of a child raised in organic farming was to be respectedd, we all agreed to take part and learn whatever there was to learn from Steiner’s teaching.
Krac-a-Dawna is a place that was never ‘idea’ for agriculture. It is stony in most parts. Uneven, hilly and with a very thin layer of soil in many areas. Our diversity in crops, mixing horticulture, agriculture and plantation crops was really our salvation. The mixing of crops had the two-fold effect of revitalising the soil, while maximising the utilisation of whatever was there. Through the seasons this further effected a spiralling cycle of aeration, humifications and water holding capacity in the soil while the microbial life returned en-masse thanks to the regular green-manuring, vermi-composting and mulching we pratised. We were doing well, but our harvests were never quite as good as they ought to have been; the healing was taking place no doubt, but it was slow. Years of soil and wind crosion as well as de-forestation prior to our stewardship had taken a deep toll that was not going to recover quickly. It was at this juncture that biodynamic principles as well as the application of panchagavya began to take effect and literally, turn the tide.
Within the first three months of using biodynamic preparation 500 and 501 and applying panchagavya at critical intervals there was a distinct effect. We thought we were imagining the heightened sense of wakefulness in the life around us until several visitors, who had visited us before, remarked ‘some thing has really changed on this farm’ …. ‘everything looks so green and alive! When the food began to taste different and the solidity of the produce reflected an ability to withstand pests and diverse weather conditions we relised that we were not just dreaming it all up.
It was probably the sugarcane and cotton that finally verified that there was a qualitative difference in the performance of the living energy of the microcosm of the farm. The harvest of sugarcane brought a 30% increse in sugar yield and the cotton fibre was tested to show there was a substantial increase in the tensile strength of the fibre besides an increase in yield. Almost across the board we were seeing a comparative qualitative improvement in our almost 30 different crops, which required almost no intervention in pest management, had better keeping quality and definitely improved taste as frequently told to us by our consumers. Much of these improvements were also influenced by our increased understanting of the cosmic rhythms with relation to the earth’s seasons. The subsequent years have also seen a remarkable difference in the health of our animals and our own bodies seem to be more resilient and have more stamina. 2007 brought us to the point where we are producing our own cowpat pit, BD 500, BD 501 and our own formulations of panchagavya and jivamrutha which are essentially ancient Indian liquid soil conditioners that can be made by any farming family.
The last few years have also broadened our experience to embrace many other farming families in our taluka who have asked us to help them develop a strategy to make a transition to organic farming. Thus was born the Savaiyava Krishikara Sagha (SKS) with a present membership of 150 farming families. For many years we had waited for other farmers to want this change. Often we were criticised for not going our and ‘converting’ other farmers, but we belived that the missionary way was best left to missionaries and when the time was right we would be ready with a model not only for organic farming but family based organic farming and living. We have developed a unique internal self-assessment system based on our own experience and earlier organic certification with JAS (thanks to the inspired thinking of Kihata-san) which is implemented through record keeping, farmer inspections and monthly meetings to discuss a wide variety of issues regarding the growing and marketing of our produce. We are all under a group certification with IMO; Krac-a-Dawna is the model farm where all different techniques we use are a resource for the entire group. Some families have even adopted some bio-dynamic principles but the process of transition is different for everyone. The important thing is that these farming families are developing sustaining strategies to take care of the land and feed their own families; in befriending the land we all tend to change the way we view ourselves and the life around us. We change, we breathe easier, we grow, we learn to live in harmony with the earth and the cosmic rhythms.
We have now been farming organically for more than half our lives and one could almost say the transformation has been complete. We are not the same creatures we were 24 years ago. As we grow older, we begin to see that the most important things are the ones that are gradual and are likely to have a long term effect. Our business relationships, whether with our consumers or with buyers small or big, are ones that take the long view. With them we build the soil responsibly, with us they can make responsible investments for the future of the Earth. This is largely why bio-dynamic composting and vegetable growing have become important things to do here. Building soil, improving air and water quality and building healthy plants, happy animals and happy people are the most lasting things we can do for this planet.
Juli and Vivek Cariapp, farmers by choice. (Source; Communication with OIP)
Shri. Bharamagoudra D. D.
PO Yelavatti, Shirahatta Taluka, Gadag District-582 117, Karnataka.
Cell: 09449514329, Ph: 08487 264313, Fax: 0836-2353596
Anurag and Sujata Goel
Mojo Plantation, Galibeedu Village, P.O.Box 101, Madikeri, Kodagu-571 201
The Mojo Plantation is a farm nurtured on ecological principles in the midst of the Western Ghats by two former research scientists (who left behind the race of urban living and academic research in search of a life in harmony with nature), and (their young daughter) Maya.
Mojo Plantation is located in one of the highest rainfall zones of Kodagu District which lies in the heart of the Western Ghats in Karnataka and is densely forested with native trees. While this environment places limitations on the types and quantities of crops we can grow it creates its own unique flavours which are reflected in the quality of our organic produce.
The most attractive feature of this area is that local crops such as cardamom and pepper (indigenous to the W. Ghats) and coffee (introduced) are grown under the shade of rain forest trees. Therefore, much of the biodiversity can be preserved. Most plantations in Kodagu are abundant with diverse species of trees, birds, reptiles, small mammals and a fascinating array of spiders, lepidopterans and insects. However, excessive use of fertilizers and toxic pesticides pose a serious threat to the biodiversity of this region and therefore it is all the more necessary to adop sustainable agricultural practices. We have been completely organic for the past 12 years and have encouraged others to do the same.
Our major crops are cardamon, coffee, black pepper, vanilla, kokam, fruits and some tree spices. These are sold in the domestic market largely as farm processed and packaged produce. We also grow a variety of fresh foods for inhouse use at our guesthouse, Rainforest Retreat.
The rain forest offers an amazing range of both animal and plant species and a rich detritus in the soils. The field is a complex ecosystem that cannot be evaluated upon merely its NPK content and requires one to consider the soil as a living system. Our endeavour is to strike a balance time-tested traditional practices and modern scientific approaches. We encourage multiple cropping and have much of the cardamom intercropped with the vanilla on the base of the valleys, whereas the coffee and spice trees are grown along terraced slopes which are contour-bunded. Black pepper vines grow on the native tree species. Additionally, the forest canopy is maintained to harbour the diverse resident plant and animal species as well as to conserve the fragile top soil. Canopy shade is regulated to enable about 60 per cent light on the crops. Part of the forested lands are left uncultivated.
The weeds found on the land here are diverse and we conserve their populations throught use. Weeds are invaluable in providing biomass which we require in abundance for composting, mulching to keep the soil moist and protected, and for returning nutrients back to soils. Weeds also create native habitats for all the other supportive species which constitute an integral part of the ecosystem. Intially, we had developed mixes of plant extracts which we used for curtailing populations of stem borer, a major pest of cardamom, the larva of a moth (Conogethes punctiferalis). Since most of these were repellents, spraying them on the cardamon crop encouraged the pest (and other sap suckers) to move into the uncultivated areas in the valleys. Over the years, we have been able to build up an amazing range of predatory pupulations like birds, spiders, dragonflies, mantids, frogs, shrews, wasps, etc, who are now actually doing all the pest control work for us. We have not used any sprays for pest control in the last 6 years. We still havw the borer moth; however, these are no longer above pest thresh hold levels.
We feed our plants with the compost prepared on the farm. The major components are the native weeds which already have the nutrients required for plants to grow. The trick is to bring it into a recyclable form in a cost effective and efficient way. We mix in cow dung, farmyard wastes, wood ash, and drench it with a mix of EM (Effective Microorganisms, which is a mixture of native soil bacteria). The bacteria can be propagated in mollases and help in rapidly breaking down and mineralizing all the organic matter. Conventional methods took us 6-8 months to prepare good quality compost. The use of EM enables us to have excellent friable and sweet smelling compost ready in two months under our conditions. We do not use any external inputs and all organic matter in recycled. We occasionally use traditinal preparations like Panchkavya and cow urine (composted) as supplementary liquid manures.
We collect, save and share seeds and maintain nurseries for all crops. The location is changed every year to avoid pathogens from developing in one area.
Solar energy is tapped for electric lights and a part of the irrigations. Bio gas (from cow dung) is used for the kitchen. All domestic wastes are recyceld into compost using EM. Water is harvested for irrigation and domestice use.
Organic farming is an integration between plants and our animals like the cattle, poultry, ducks, geese, turkeys, dogs and goats are invaluable in complementing all the agricultural activities on the farm. We have come to realize that it is only when farming is based upon ‘natural principles’ can it be truly sustainable. Ecological farming is based on nurturing and nourishing the soils. Having healthy predatory populations wihtin the agri-ecosystem naturally reduces the pest damage caused to crops. Having genetic diversity amongst the cropping system also enables us to select and maintain resistant clones. The heavy rainfall zones in the Western Ghats have a fragile ecology and are extremely prone to soil erosion. It is important to try and adopt agricultural practices which emphasis soil conservation and build up of organic matter rather than convertional farming techniques which depend upon heavy use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that destroy the natural balances and lead to further destruction of this rich environment.
The land can only continue giving if we return to it what we take from it.
Our certified plantation producuts are: Gourmet filters Coffee, Cardamom, Garcinia, Black Pepper, Vanilla Beans, Green Tea and Black Masala Tea. All products are available by mail order nationally and internationally.
The Rainforest Retreat is a unique eco-lodge that enables the experience of living in harmony with nature. www.rainforestours.com
Education Outreach Programme
We also organize and host workshops and educational programs with emphasis on organic farming, sustaibable living, rain forest ecology and biodiversity for students and special interest groups such as organic farmers.
(Source: Communication with OIP)
Annadana Soil & Seed Savers Network, Vilpatty Village, Kumburvayal (P.O.), Ganeshpuram Raod, Kodaikanal – 624 104, Karnataka. Cell: 9448068347, Email: email@example.com
Annadana endeavors to equip each state within India, with a state of the art Seed Bank having access to a wide variety of heritage and local high yielding open pollinated varieties of vegetables, legumes and a few cereals, replicable by marginal farmers.
B. N. Nandish
Churchigundi, Shikaripura Taluka, Shimoga District-577-214, Karnataka. Ph.:08187 743212, Cell: 09845553078
Nandish is growing legumes in different cropping patterns and getting tons of nutritious nitrogen for his plants free of cost. For this he is growing different crops which can fix atmospheric nitrogen. The collection of legumens has now crossed hundred, ranging from annual, perennial. Herbs, shrubs, climbers, aquatic, trees, creepers and to some being spring, winter and summer legumes.
Apart from providing biological nitrogen, some legumes provide grains, pulses, fodder, timber, fuelwood, natural dyes, medicines and also work as wind breakers. Foe each type of nutrient there is a particular crop, hence the whole land is enriched with all the necessary nutrients. As if this were not enough, he also uses mulch to enrich the soil. For this he uses green fodder. Tow months before monsoon, he sows all types of plants in the field, and provides sufficient water and organic manure. He makes sure that oil seeds, millet corns weed, ‘rooty’ plants, beans, etc are included. Within six months, all enter flowing stage. These are the crushed by bullocks or tractor, watered and left to decompose. By the time monsoon arrives, the land is rich and ready to receive the ‘real’ seeds.
By following this method, Nandish saves a lot of money and fertilizers and pesticides. And adds, ‘with mulching most of the weeds perish and become rich fertilizers themselves and over the years the weed population goes on diminishing. The result: a good harvest at much less expense and labour. It is the simplest method and anyone can follow it. It saves labour and costs close to nothing. There is no complex technology involved, all the work is left to nature.’
President, Organic Farmers Club, Bedkihal, Taluka Chikodi, Belgaum-591-214
Ph.: 08338 261052, Cell: 09480448256
Global Green Agricultural Society, Swastik Plaza, Behind Pearl Hotel, Tarabai Park, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
Suresh Desai has achieved a production miracle in organic sugarcane farming through an innovative mulching system devised entirely on his own. His approach is that whatever elements are essential to sugarcane (or any other crop) should be supplied through the medium of a multi-mix of vegetation that has decomposed. This is achieved he says by microbial saturation, catalyzed by mulching, in the treated soil. This resulting biomass product of mulching is known as ‘Aurogreen’ in honour of the activities of the Maharishi Aurobindo Ashram.
‘Aurogreen’ is a mixture of nitrogen fixing legumes such as green-gram, horse-gram, black-gram and beans, oil seeds such as sesame and Karla (blace sesame), chilli and aromatic seeds such as dhania (coriander) and other such locally available greens.
There is a certain proportion in the quantities of various seeds which are to be grown using the Aurogreen mulching method. For a land of around 40 gunte (1 acre), five kg horse-gram, 1 ks dhania, 200 grams rajgira, 200 grams black sesame, 200 grams white sesame, 500 grams methi, 1 kg black gram, 500 grams chili, 1 kg green gram, 500 grams beans are to be mixed and sown in the spaces between each rows of the main crop. When these germinate and some growth has been achieved, this supportive vegetation is cut down and mulched below the canopy of the plant of the main crop.
Non- leguminous mulching biomass in which the C:N ratio is over 120 should be avoided, because it does not provide essential elements in the proportion needed. In Aurogreen mulching the C: N ration is maintained between 20-30, which is most suitable for developing sufficient quantities of microorganism species, leading thereby to rich bio-diversity in the soil.
Of the mixture of supportive vegetation, coriander and horse-gram are primarily used for their medicinal properties. On the surface layer of each leaf are acids, namely oxalic and malic acids. These two acids are the basic bond of a variety of amino-chains, which have important medicinal characteritics. In comparision to other green, leafy vegetables, coriander leaves and stems have several more micro and trace elements in organic and degradable forms for the bacteria and fungi in the soil to feed on.
The spacing between two sugarcane rows as well as each sugarcane plant in a row is kept at nine feet. Each of these give around 10 sprouts which works out to around 40,000 plants per acre of land. The population thereby reaches the same quantities as that planted by farmers using chemicals. Significantly, the direction of planting is kept in a North-South direction ensuring that all the leves of the sugarcane as well as the Aurogreen vegetation on the land get the maximum amount of sunlight. The heat generated by this is good for the mulching process. Because the leaves are exposed to direct as well as indirect, percolated sunlight, the process of photosynthesis is enhanced, leading to greater production of food/sugar content in the plants.
The tonnage of sugarcane achieved by Suresh Desai is substantially higher that that produced on chemical farms. Besides this, his methods have ensured a big saving in water usage for a crop which has always been known to be a water guzzler. Nine to 10 irrigations for the entire duration of the crop are now sufficient because the soil has incresed its capacity for retention of water. The soil becomes rich in organic matter and in, as he calls it, bio-film – a rich, loamy layer of soil that is densely polullated, not only by earth fauna, such as earthworms, but one that is taken over by earth colonies of beneficial fungi, aiding and enhancing the process of decomposition.
Though having done only secondary school, this farmer aged 57 is a voracious reader and enthusiastic experimenter. Inexpensive farming has interesed him from the begining. In 1972 he began thinking that green bio-mass could be given directly to plants instead of composting! In 1973 he stopped burning the ‘waste’ on all of the 12 acres on which he grows sugarcane. He made use of the green bio-mass to cover the land rather than putting it into the ground. He also thoght that drip irrigation was an expensive proposition and so devised an ‘appropriate technology’ using the same principle, viz not allowing the water to sink too deep into the land but instead seeing that it flowed parallel to the land and fed the plants. He says that just as chemicals put into the land kill microorganisms and ruin the fertility of the soil, excess water too proves fatal to these microoganisms.
The most remarkable feat of Desai is that, besides being a successful practitioner of his principles, he communicates the science and art of his techniques in a simple lucid manner to one and all. His recent initiative in this direction is the development of an organic farming training package that is being offered to framers around Kholapur in Maharashtra. Spread across Kholapur in Maharshtra. Spread across Kholapur district are many demonstration plots growing various local crops exhibiting his innovative farming methods.
Mr. Desai is working in collaboration with Mahila Arthik Vikas Sangathana in five districts of Maharashtra promoting kitchen garden farming amongst rural women. Through this endeavor women are able to generate Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000 annually from their kitchen garden produce in small 15 to 20 gunta plots. There is also a proposal of developing a buy-back system for farmers that is under finalisation.
His recent innovation is in light and air harvesting technology. According to Mr. Desai there are four vital factors that affect crop yield: light, air, soil fertility and water. Farming has stressed so far on soil fertility and water, which though important play only part of the role in obtaining good yields. As a consequence, farmers have over used fertilisers and water. He believes that this over use is firstly not required and secondly caused growth of weeds, kills soil microorganisms leading to disease in crops. His emphasis now has been to introduce strip farming and low inputs of water. Apart from this he is conducting experiments in making optimum use of light and air which are freely available and can be put to optimum use if one follows a relevant sowing pattern depending on the crop. He is in the process of writing a paper on light and air harvesting technology which is available on request. Sugarcane cultivation being his specialization, his research indicates that a combination of sugarcane and turmeric planting has a ‘liche-crop pattern benefit’ meaning they enjoy a symbiotic relationship ensuring high yield of both.
Suresh Desai is basically an institution in himself. Like all pioneers, he has worked on his own without much assistance from Government officials or universities, to perfect his system of organic farming in the growing of sugarcane and spreading the word widely.
Mr. Desai is presently the Vice-President of Global Green Agricultural Society, Kolhapur, Maharashtra which primarily works towards disseminaitng information on organic methods and an active working member of the Organic Food Club, Yamakanmaradi. He was honoured for his work by the Government of Karnataka as Krishi Pandit for the year 2005-2006. (Source: Communication with OIP)
Shri. K.V. Deyal
Sreekovil, Kayappuram, Muhamma P.O., Alappuzha District, – 688 525
Ph: 0478 2583289, Fax-0478 2583289
Inspired by Prof. John C Jacob, a veteran of the environmental struggle in Kerala, Dayal grew into his current avatar of promoter of Organic Farming Practices. Conducting workshops, far visits and trainings, Practicing naturopathy are all part of a day work for Deyal.
Deyal is one of the founders of the Keral Jaiva Karshaka Samity, founded expressly for the progress and propagation of organic farming in Kerala and a founder member of Vembanad Eco Club that takes envornment and sustaibability education to students, youth groups and the community at large.
Deyal an organic practitioner and convincing speaker has inspired many farmers to change over to organic farming and a natural way of living. His modus operandi of taking the message forwards simply stated is, ‘For something to go into the soil it has to first go into the mind of the farmer first’.
Pottamkulam, Yendayar P.O., Kottayam- 686 514, Kerala. Ph.: 04828 286138, Cell: 09447086138, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pottamkulam Thenpuzha, Kootickal P.O. Taluk: Kanjirappally, Kottayam Dist-686514, Kerala.
Johny Mathew represents a farmer family cultivating 51 acres land. His farm is located at Thenpuzha, Mukkulam and Vermpala ward of Kokkayar Gramapanchayath, Kokkayar village of Peerumedu Taluk.
Johny Mathew grows rubber, coconut, arecanut, mango, jackfruit, guava, coffee, pineapple, pepper, nutmeg, passion fruit, papaya, tapioca, tuber crops, banana, rambutan, sapota, ginger, vanilla, turmeric, variety of medicinal plants and vegetable. He is making and using vermicompost. He has a processing unit for making white pepper.
He of OFAI Managing Committee Member and member of Eco- Friends PGS group
(Source: Rony Joseph)
Eco-friendly Farmers Forum (EFFF), Erathumuttathukunnel, Poovarany P.O, Kottayam- 686579, Kerala. Ph.: 04822 226041, Cell: 09447808417
George Anthony’s interest in farming began in childhood while living and working alongside his parents on the family farm. An acknowledged expert in seed preservation techniques today, the various indigenous and ingenious skills are a consequence of his deep and active involvement with the Participatory Technology Development Programme of INFACT,The Eco Friendly Farmers Forum, Organic Spice Growers Forum, Karshakavedi, INAG, OFAI and others, but above all, from working alongside his father on the family farm since his childhood days.
Antony grows rubber, coconut, arecanut, mango, jackfruit, guava, coffee, pineapple, pepper, nutmeg, passion fruit, papaya, tapioca, tuber crops, banana, ginger, vanilla, turmeric, variety of medicinal plants and vegetables on his five acre farm.
The two cows he keeps supply part of the raw material for the manure prepared on the farm, while the rest is purchased from outside.
Some of his prize seed collections are: Five varieties of amranthus, three of cow pea, two each of brinjal and lady’s finger, and cucumber, local brinjal, winged beans, sword beans, bitter-gourd, various spice and tubers.
And his favorities are: Elephant tusk lady’s finger, one meter long cow pea, local cow pea, blue brinjal and cucumbers.
He is the convener of Eco- Friends PGS groups.
SARI – Sustainable Agriculture Research Institute, 484, Kaushik Vita
Sangli District-415-311, Maharashtra. Ph.: 02347 272141, Cell: 9422615878
I completed my M.Sc. in Physics and was working at the National Chemical Laboratory, Pune. I was also a lecturer in physics in reputed college in Pune for five years. Then I was asked by my father to come back to my native place because we have property here and I was the only son. So I had to go back. With some research of my own, we started a unit for manufacturing textile dye intermediates. The name of the product that we were manufacturing was para Nitro Aniline. This was by a different method. We brought this product into the market and the small factory that we erected was doing well upto 1984.
But then a crisis developed because of the new policy of the government: the import rates of the same product we made were lower than ours. So we had to unfortunately close down the factory. It was a problem for me as to what to do there. So I started with the business of marketing chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers. We had a small laboratory in our office and we used to give suggestions to the farmers as to what is to be sprayed for which disease, after testing.
In this way our business started growing very well. In Sangli district we got a name because we were the only consultants at that time (1984-1988) giving proper ‘medicine’ for the particular disease. We were marketing a product of NOCIL. So the business was growing very nicely. One day I was sitting in our shop and one farmer approached me and asked for a pesticide to repel the crows that were coming for the grapes in his vineyard. He told me that when the grapes are at a ripening stage, the crows were coming and damaging bunches. So I asked him when he was going to harvest the grapes. He told me that he would be packing them during the following week. I thought to myself that if he sprayed any hazardous chemicals to deal with the problem, then these would go along with the grapes to the consumers. What would be the impact of this?
This was my turning point to organic farming. Till then I had a farm of my own but was not looking after it. I decided that I should do farming myself and do only organic farming . So I met several people and started reading on organic farming. I met Dr. Bhavalkar and Jambekar of Pune and with their held we planted a grape plot of about one acre or so. We thought that we should not use chemical fertilizer. So we started with vermicluture. At that time, before planting of grapes and also after another six months- because the mind was set with laboratory and science behind it – we took the analysis of the soil and observed how nutrient and organic carbon levels of soil were increasing and so also the potash content.
After a year we came to the conclusion that this is the only way by which we should produce grapes or any farming system should follow this particular way of vermiculture. So we started manufacturing vermicompost also. The biomass was not available with us so we approached the Vita Municipal Council and started buying vegetable market wastes continuously for three years for our farm. We would convert it into vermicompost. We would bury dead dogs and dead birds. We got very good results with vermicompost. Our grapes werem best in quality. At that time we were exporting grapes from our particular group-the vita village farmers’ group and continued with it till 1994.
But at that time it struck me the limitations for organic farming, vermiculture, what I read at that time was, if you supply organic carbon to the soil, then the worms will grow automatically. So you need not do composting or building a shed, putting water on it for surface variety of worms, but only give organic carbon to the soil, the soil will improve automatically and the microbes will develop. So with that concept I began thinking the vermiclulture is not the only solution.
We thought of some concentrated organic material and collected a number of these materials – like oil cakes, phosphates and silicon oxide, bentomite and rock dust. At that time I read in some literature that in fact composting is not recommended in any of the ancient agricultural systems. Some of this literature came from Dr. Rahudkar from Pune and Mr. Ashok Joshi, son of Mahadev Shastri Joshi who has translated ancient agricultural literature series and published these. In ancient times, nobody was doing composting work. At that time they would collect the dung, keep it in some shelter, powder it and sprinkle on the farm. That gave better results because it was not composted and it provided raw food to the soil, and the soil microbes.
The concept stuck in my mind that I thought of giving raw food to the soil. We have to give organic carbon. If we compost it in some pit, then, all the degradation will happen in that pit. Microbes in the soil will not get food. So we thought of putting direct organic microbes in the soil. So we mixed all organic carbon materials together and when we started mixing together we got good results. Again we had to do all lab tests continuously for two years.
Then my son Jaydev also completed his microbiology B.sc. We started a unit for making organic manure at my place and that unit is coming up very nicely. We have a product called Sanvardhan. We are marketing it all over India and mainly Maharashtra and exporting to some extent. Also another product called green harvest. We are marketing this in two districts only. This manure is now formulated to replace chemical fertilizers totally.
The second aspect was. That the soil was improving but we wanted to get rid of the pesticides.
In 1992, I closed down the business of chemicals and pesticides with an official function. I invited many people and I closed down the marketing business. We wanted to replace the pesticides, so I started reading the ancient books. At that time I met Dr. Nene from ICRISAT. I purchased a book called Suraphala’s Vrukshayurveda. Prof. Raudkar was always writing something on the herbal preparations. There was a book, Return to the Good Earth, a Malaysian publication and from that I started preparing some herbal preparation of our own and by 1995 our grapes were absolutely chemical-free we got a separate market.
There was no certification. I would market it in my name and earn good income out of it. This continued upto 2000 from 2000-2003 there was a drought and we were not able to manage the grape plantation. So unfortunately I had to cut down the grape vines. But after 2003 a small dam has been built near my farm. I lost around 10 accres of land to the dam, but the rest of the 25 acres became irrigated land. All the organic literature that I read and with the preparations that we made, all the knowledge we had gathered on the farm, now enabled us to do organic farming more consistently.
We are producing many things, right from cereals, pulses and other things. We have plantation of 900 mangos plants. In situ we have done grafting of mango plants. There are chickoos, amla etc. when I started farming in 1988 in that land of 40 acres there were hardly 20-25 trees. Today in my farm there are 5000 trees of 54 varieties. This huge biodiversity I have maintained.
We are also growing a number of crops like sugarcane, ginger and turmeric. In turmeric we have a black variety which is for medicinal purpose. We are growing jowar, wheat etc. along with beans, red gram, horse gram, etc. This year we are in contact with the company to supply them specific vegetables for export. So we are growing brinjals, tomatoes, onions, garlic, chili, etc.
So now my farm is self sufficient. We are not dependent on anybody. All preparations are made by us. The soil is not very good.
Shri. N. Gopalakrishnan
No. 4/19, Akila Nagar, 1st Cross Street, Ganapathy Extension, Tiruchirappalli
Mambalasalai, Trichy-620 005, Tamilnadu.
Farm: Panickampatty village, Kuliathali Taluk, Karur District, Tamil Nadu. Cell: 09443148224, 09942167789, Email: dngoapal email@example.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org
I am rooted to the village and my native village is Panickampatti of Karur district. My father and mother had no basis education. But throght hard work they increased their land holding from a mere ½ acre to 60 acres and provided us with education. Our of these 60 acres I inherited 10.5 acres as my share. I used to follow the agricultural practices adopted by fellow agriculturists. My experience with chemical fertilizers and pesticides was not so encouraging. Cost of cultivation and pesticides was not so encouraging. Cost of cultivation increased due to price escalation of basic inputs, at the same time there was steady decline in the yield. My see-saw battle continued with chemical farming till 1998. Having strongly felt the need to enhance agriculture production and also to do away with chemicals to save land from degradation and man from health hazards, I started experiments with natural ways of farming and organic farming in 1998.
My baptism with organic farming was with the preparation of vermicompost. Traditionally, even during my farther’s time, we used to compost about 400 to 500 tonnes of farm yard manure. This exposure proved to be a stepping stone for me. Instead of making farm yard manure I opted for vermicomposting.
Mehods of vermicomposting at our farm at Panickampatti are:
Under Thatched Shed: Heap and tank method.
Under shadows of trees: Heap method.
Allowing earthworms to grow and multiply in between rows of plants like sugarcane, banana, etc.
In house: Earthworms in mud pots.
To get quality vermicompost the raw materials used are partially decomposed cow dung, farm waste, municipal waste, stalks of banana plants, small quantity of press mud, etc.
Other organic inputs prepared onfarm are vermiwash, panchakavya, herbal pest repellants, lemon-egg solution, fish solution and amrutha karaisal.
All these organic inputs are being used in our lands. The other organic methods deployed to enhance soil quality and prodictivity are mulching, live mulching, etc. To know the extent of organic farming in our farms one may dig one sqare feet pit and easily find a minimum of 10 to 15 earthworms. Fertigation tank method is used to disperse organic inputs.
To enhance the efficiency of Panchagavya the following ingredients are added with primary panchagavya inputs.
Asafetida-To induce flowering and to avoid sheddng
Egg of Chick-To increase mineral content of Panchakavya
Tricoderma Viridi and Pseudomonas-To check the spread of diseases and to create resistance.
With the support of Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) training programmes were conducted in Malaysia and Malaysian farmers were given training on our farm at Panickampatty. I had the privilege of meeting our former President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam at Delhi in March 2004. In 2007, earworms from Panickampatty farm were taken to Mughul Gardens, Rastrapathi Bhavan, New Delhi to setup vermicompost beds. More than 4 lakh people have visited our farm over these years for a firsthand exposure to organic farming.
Organic farming is popularized by holding exhibitions, practical domonstrations and throgh newspaper articles, radio and television shows.
You are welcome to visit my farm at any time to gain first hand experience on organic farming.
Rajchettyar Thottam, Uppupallam, Kenjanur PO, sathyamangalam via,Erode-638 401, Tamilnadu. Ph.: 04295 24779, Cell: 9442726649
Ravi is growing a variety of trees on his farm like nelli) gooseberry), pathimukham (from Kerala, bark used as a coloring agent), sapota, and guava. His farm looks like a wild patch of upcoming forest. He has put in place drip irrigation, inspite of enough water in the well. He sells earthworms and vermiwash. (Source: Ramki Pamakrishnan)
Organiser, Tamil Nadu Farmer’s Technology Association, Sundaram Iyer Farm, Kombupallam, Satyamangalam, Erode-638 401, Tamil Nadu. Ph.: 04295 225047, Cell: 09842724778