earth360 Eco Ventures – reintroduces production of millets amongst farming community and develops proficient processing technology

Reintroduces production of millets amongst farming community and develops proficient processing technology. Aims to make millets as staple food in India

“Most farmers are aware of millets crops and millets foods. The crop has been integral part of their life. Unfortunately they moved away from millets but now we need to revive millets for farmers as well as consumers. We are trying to create the demand and also better market price for farmers so that they begin and continue growing these crops while consumers can attain good health free from threat of fatal diseases. We are promoting all nine millet crops are grown in the country,” shares Mr. Dinesh Kumar, Ashoka fellow, founder, earth360 Eco Ventures.

In all there are nine millet varieties namely Sorghum, Pearl, Finger, Foxtail, Little, Kodo, Proso, Barnyard and Brown top millets. Growing millets has multiple benefits. These are savior crops in drought and dryland farms for the farmers. It is healthy food and fodder for the livestock. These are not input intensive crops hence the production expense on growing these crops is much less than paddy and wheat. As millets are free from pest and diseases these crops can cultivated without agro chemicals easily. Consequently by growing millets farmers’ income would improve leading to positive impact in their lives.

Farmers moved away from millet cultivation as demand was low because of change in the diet of consumer, policies favored other crops and promoted just paddy along with wheat, and lastly millet processing is difficult. Small millets like Foxtail, Little, Kodo, Proso, Barnyard and Brown top millets are similar to paddy in their grain structure. They all have an outer non-edible husk which has to be removed before cooking. “Millets being small grains have lot of challenges in processing. Unlike paddy, especially small millets are more diverse and have lot of variability thus processing is difficult. To resolve this issue, having an engineering background I decided to use the power of technology. In this process in the year 2010 earth360 Eco Ventures was established,” he states.

earth360 Eco Ventures, a social enterprise is committed to improve the millets value chain from end to end. “We are working with farm to plate concept and have been closely associated with various stakeholders in the value chain to address the challenges. We have developed the technology for the whole grain processing of millets. The entire process is streamlined for cleaning, grading, hulling and sorting of millets. We de-husk and process millet grains, without polishing them so that they are nutritionally wholesome and attractive to consume. Our technology can process all eight types of millets- irrespective of its shape and size,” explains Mr. Dinesh Kumar. The products are sold under the brand name earth360 and White label. These are available in almost all major cities in India namely Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi and other cities also. Presently annual production is 200 ton/year.

Mr. Dinesh Kumar has been working on improving the small millets processing techniques by constantly trying to improve current designs of the existing machines. “In our country very limited research has happened on the millets related to their processing, especially for the efficient processing systems at the community level. Our company is one of the first to evolve the whole grain processing of small millets,” he elaborates.

Earth360 Eco Ventures is associated with farmers’ movements and civil society organizations across the country although its direct interaction is more with farmers groups in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. “We work with over 1000 farmers directly having 1-5 acre landholding. Now we are also engaged in some new programs for the millets promotion. And most important we are receiving very positive response from the buyers. We take lot of care in processing and make sure that the quality is not compromised,” asserts Mr. Dinesh Kumar.

By and large consumers are familiar with Finger (ragi), Sorghum (jowar) and Pearl (bajra) millets. Gradually other small millets are also gaining popularity as these are being considered as health foods precisely foxtail millet is most known. “We aim to make millets as staple food in the country thus we shall be able to create vibrant local millet economies and farmers shall be benefitted with improved income and consumers with good health,” he highlights. To attain this goal role of women is extremely crucial. “Their culinary skill to prepare different varieties of millets based tasty dishes is very important to bring these foods back into our daily life. Today we need to teach new generation to cook and relish millet food varieties. It would be not be very difficult as in every household exists plethora of traditional knowledge around millets, we just need to bring it back in our everyday diet,” he insists.

When asked millets priced higher than wheat and rice, Mr. Dinesh Kumar clarifies, “The millets consumption today is still limited and we have very high operational overhead cost to promote and market them. The lack of efficient processing facilities also increases the selling price. Moreover, many shops in the cities are pricing it high as they are now treated as health foods. It will take some more time before millets can become common diets of all sections of the society like rice and wheat. Once we are able to increase production and demand prices would come down.”

In future earth360 shall continue to develop efficient machines and simplify the process. “We want to develop simple and effective processing solutions to be made available for our rural communities as they it will boost the employment in villages thereby their livelihoods would improve,” he shares.

In past 60 years, India has lost 50% of the area under millets cultivation while over 80% of the production area under small millets. “Millets had been our staple and even today India is largest producers and consumer of millets. We are only reconnecting back to these crops and foods we lived with before green revolution over powered these nutritious grains. We are glad millets are again gaining consumers’ attention although after 70 years of India’s Independence! However, even after 70 years of independence as a society we have not done justice to farmers. The younger generation has lost pride in farming. Without youth moving back to villages, reconnecting with farming and growing of foods, we will be deepening the crisis which is now reaching point of no return. The despair among farmers is seen in the increasing numbers of farmers’ suicides. We are talking of millets as Smart Foods but whether this new found interest in millets will result in genuine concern to build a sustainable and responsible food system? It is a question that we need to answer,” Mr. Dinesh Kumar signs off with the concerned note!

Mr. Dinesh Kumar completed Engineering in Electronics and Communication in 1992 from University of Mysore. He hails from farming community and since his student days he had been actively engaged in activities concerning social issues. Deeply interested in sustainable lifestyles along with few friends he decided to move back to the villages to work with the land and grow food. It gave him the opportunity to reconnect with farming and farmers. Understanding the challenges faced by farmers and crisis that was setting in 30 years back, made him work closely with the farmers. Now he is plays an active role in promoting millet production and distribution. He is closely working with universities, research and development institutions to increase availability of seeds and support for millet farmers.

Contact details:
earth360 Eco Ventures (P) Limited
3-196 APIIC Industrial Park, Kadiri – 515591, Andhra Pradesh, India
Phone: +91-8494-221265

Long Tunnel Farms – serves city dwellers with hydroponically grown fresh and tasty veggies everyday

Serves city dwellers with hydroponically grown fresh and tasty veggies everyday. Based at Chennai, Tamil Nadu

“Magnificent appearance, rich flavor, stronger aroma, succulent taste and higher nutritional value are the unique features of the greens produced and supplied by my hydroponic farm. 15 thousand plants are raised in 6000 sq feet area in soilless media in the most natural way without any use of pesticides. Hydroponic is the solution to many problems agriculture is facing today like space constraint, climate change, water scarcity etc,” shares Mr. Vishal Narayanaswamy, young farmer and founder, Long Tunnel Farms. A year ago the farm was established in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Exotic herbs and greens are produced in the farm and entire produce is sold within the city under the brand name ‘Hydro Herbs’.

Mr. Vishal moved into hydroponic farming after devastating impact of cyclone on his family farm that uprooted around 15 mango trees transplanted 30 years ago. Taking the risk of investing his personal savings of Rs. 45 lakh he decided to farm in new way by integrating technology. “We came back much stronger, greener and cleaner with hydroponic farm. I am glad I took the risk to invest my savings in this business because it is paying off well right now,” he affirms.

The technology used in the farm is Nutrient Film Technique (NFT). “The plant roots are held in expanded clay pebbles. Later these roots are suspended in the shallow water containing the nutrients in the long tubes. We mix all the nutrients as required for the plant growth in the water. The formulation of nutrient mix is different for vegetables, fruits and greens,” he informs. Nutrients are made from botanical extracts and natural minerals. These are imported along with the seeds.

RO water is used in the farm for growing the plants. Everyday 200 litre water is required for replenishing for 15 thousand plants. In order to have consistent growth of plants it is critical to maintain the EC (electrical conductivity) and pH in water at optimum level because an error might be fatal for the plants. Different levels of EC and pH enable each plant to absorb different nutrients from the water. “We vary the EC and pH in water on daily basis so that each plants gets a well rounded diet from the nutrients mixed in the water,” he elaborates. The production cycle of greens is approximately 2-2.5 months.

It is easy to grow food through hydroponics but what to grow and how to sell it are the two main factors that control the success of this business. Crop selections were made after experimenting 180 varieties of crops out which presently 30 varieties of greens are grown. Few to name are four varieties of basil, 4 lettuce variants, 3 kinds of kale, celery, parsley, mustard greens, Japanese and Korean herbs etc. “Initially for six months I carried out experiments to understand what would grow in my farm in compliance to the climatic conditions of the Chennai as the city usually has hot climate round the year. Besides my farm is located just 600 meters from sea shore thus humidity is quite high. I documented every minute detail of the crop growth to know the process well,” he elucidates.

Everything produced in the farm may not sell in the market therefore market analysis is equally important for farm success. “It took me a long time to understand the consumer requirements and the process still continues. Keeping the customers in consideration I focus more on exotic varieties of greens to cater to Korean and Japanese communities in Chennai. Many of them are working here as expats in automobile industry. They like to eat their food here so my crop selection is based on their cuisine. As a result, growing as per the market has helped me to sell my produce well now yet I continue to experiment on crop selection and understanding the market is forever learning journey,” he insists.

Products are priced competitively and fixed most times of the year. “I have priced my farm products quite aggressively because the market is price sensitive and I want to reach more and more consumers. It is possible when my products suit their pockets. Besides I am able to keep less price because being a local producer I harvest and supply fresh produce every day. Consumers have access to fresh greens all days. Consequently they are able appreciate the freshness and delicate taste of my greens,” he explains.

Greens are harvested as early as 4 am, packed inside the polyhouse and delivered to 5 stores between 9-10 am. The stores are located 20 minutes drive from the farm. “By evening my products are sold off and I start receiving the next day orders. Consumers have started asking for Hydro Herbs brand from the retailers and this is extremely encouraging for me as a farmer!” avers Mr. Vishal.

Hydro Herbs is getting attention of consumers because of freshness and taste of the products. It is so because the crops are nurtured naturally without any use of pesticides. “We even do not use the bio-pesticides. There is absolutely no need of any such inputs apart from the nutrients mixed in water. We are able to keep the pests away because we practice stringent hygiene rules in the farm such as we cover our hands with gloves, mouth with mask, wear different pair of sleepers when entering the farm. Besides the floor is mopped with neem oil infused water. I am too concerned about my plants and would not allow anything to spoil it. With clean surroundings and adherence to sanitation rules our farm is safe from the all sorts of pests. No major issues have happened so far,” states Mr. Vishal.

With less price and superior quality ‘Hydro Herbs’ has crafted a distinctive recognition for itself in the market. Presently the demand exceeds the supply. “We started with supplying once in week, then twice and now it is six days in a week. Demand is growing very fast. To keep up with the demand I am planting more as well as plan for expansion by taking a new farm on lease,” he reveals his immediate plans.

Mr. Vishal did his masters in Aviation Management and holds an associate degree in Aeronautics from Florida, USA. His work took him to Spain and Africa. Later he switched his field with a new venture water bottling plant in Seychelles, Africa. “Now I am a full time farmer,” he says proudly.

Inspite of being just a year old, Long Tunnel Farm is riding high on consumer preference because Mr. Vishal has reduced the food miles thereby offers reasonably priced and fresh products on their plates. “Traditional farming is all about acres of cultivation and that doesn’t work with hydroponics. We need multiple hydroponic farms in an urban setting because with high capital investment the production cost is also high therefore we have to save the money wherever we can! Transportation charges is one such money saving area. Reduce the gap between the farm gate and a consumer’s plate to increase turnover and profits in this technology driven farming,” he signs off.

Contact details:
Long Tunnel Farms
2/192 Dr. B.P. Rajan Road, Uthandi, ECR, Chennai – 600119, Tamil Nadu, India
Phone: +91 9551336335

Acres Wild – farmstay established by bollywood film producer turned cheese maker

Organic cheese making farmstay established by bollywood film producer turned cheese maker. Located at Coonoor, Nilgiris, India

A family run farm, ‘Acres Wild’ is one stop to unwind from the stress and feel close to the nature. It was established in the year 2003 by the renowned director Mr. Mansoor Khan who gave us movies like ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’ and ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’. The films left a lasting impression and so his organic cheesemaking farmstay, situated in the picturesque location in the hills. Mr. Khan left his celebrated life in Mumbai to live an absolute non-urban life at Coonoor, Nilgiris, India. He speaks with us about setting up the farm, its operations as well as his thoughts on nature and life. Excerpts:

I left the city to live a distributed life instead of a concentrated life. It implies we live in harmony with the nature at Acres Wild. We grow our own food here to best of our ability without overloading the soil or ourselves, maintain a small dairy unit, make fresh gourmet cheese from the daily produced milk and provide cottages to the people to experience this amazing life.

Spread in 22 acre, ours is small setup but sustainable with organic farming, rainwater harvesting system, bio-gas to generate power and cooking fuel, simple cheese making unit and cottages for travelers. The farm has natural forest in 1/3 area. Myself and my wife Tina wanted to uphold it as it is because we believe nature is forest. In addition, to have bio-diversity we have also grown different kinds of trees. These are not only the fruit trees but other wood varieties as well.

Over the period of time our farm became self-supporting and local. Everything happened in its own pace of time. In the 2003, the condition of soil was extremely bad. It was not fit for farming so we let it rejuvenate naturally. We left the soil free for five years and never intervened. Gradually the grass started growing unevenly but it grew. Our cows grazed the grass, dropped the dung and urine. In this way soil got the biomass for restoring its nutrients. Now we grow seasonal vegetables and grains for our personal consumption while fodder for our cows. Our farming practices are absolutely chemical- free. We decompose all the farm waste into manure. The plants are fed with this manure and slurry from bio gas unit.

We have only 10 cows, mix of Holstein Friesian (HF) and Jersey breed. The cows are fed with green fodder and dry fodder along with the free graze in the farm. The green fodder is grown in house. We also give azolla to our cows. Azolla is extremely easy to grow, environment friendly and packed with nutrients as required for the growth and good health of the cows. Dry fodder is bought from the market.

HF is cross breed of desi cow yet it is a delicate breed. It demands high medical attention but we have learnt to take care of the cows with each passing day and we are also able to get the medical assistance from veterinarians so it is manageable. Everyday milk produced is 40-50 litre. We use milk for our personal consumption and remaining is used for making gourmet cheese.

Cheese is produced in different varieties such as Gouda, Colby, Cheddar, Parmesan, Feta etc. We also make flavoured cheese for that the herbs required are grown in-house like thyme, rosemary etc. All our cheese varieties are made of microbial rennet and therefore 100% vegetarian. It is managed by wife Tina. Cheese is sold under the brand name ‘Acres Wild’ at local outlets in Coonoor.

One kg cheese is produced from 10 litre of milk. Everyday approximately 4 kg cheese is produced. At our place the cheese is allowed to age naturally without any rush on increasing the production because we want to maintain the present operations as it is going on. We provide 2 days cheese making course for our guests at the cottages.

There are four cottages equipped with all amenities as required for the living the life close to the nature. When we moved in here, I felt to share the idea of living a non-urban life with others thereby we built the cottages in 2004. The cottages are built with sundried bricks and rest of the architecture is in alliance with the nature.

We do not advertise about our farmstay because we do not believe in selling. Our guests must have the joy of discovering Acres Wild so they find us either through our website or from word of mouth reference. We have 45-50% occupancy round the year. 10 people are working in the farm. Everyone is trained in multiple activities so we overlap their duties based on the requirement.

We would continue our present operations maintaining same herd size, cheese production and cottages. I am having the background of engineering and film making but formal education is not the only way to learn and acquire knowledge. The farm has been set up and managed exclusively through self learning. At our farm we strictly do not use chemicals, follow simple processes and grow local crop varieties. We learnt it all in different ways. Self learning gives confidence to continue and strive for excellence that is ultimately contending. Living near to nature and in compliance with local system is enduring and peaceful. Experience it with us.

Contact details:
Acres Wild
No 1 Tiger Hill, Coonoor 643 101, India
Phone: +91 94426-63881

Venkat Iyer – techie turned farmer lives simple and satisfying life in Peth village, 91 km from Mumbai, Maharashtra

Techie turned farmer living simple and satisfying life in Peth village, 91 km from Mumbai, Maharashtra

“I grow my own food as the nature allows. Never a day goes without plucking the fresh fruits from the trees and having it on my plate. Eating local varieties of unpolished rice is good for health so I grow nutrient packed paddy myself and process it as per my requirement. We love pickles so we grow special varieties of mango, gooseberry and lime only for making pickle. Being a South Indian, I like to eat sesame oil so I grow sesame seeds in the farm, get the seeds processed to make oil and cook my food with it. The list goes on. These are the luxuries of living in a village that were never experienced in Mumbai,” affirms Mr. Venkat Iyer, farmer by choice.

Mr. Venkant Iyer worked as Project Manager for software implementation in IBM for over seven years. A dream job for many, he was doing very well at work, good paycheck and was given all possible comforts. However stress and no-free time were inseparable parts of this city job in IT industry. On the contrary, he felt living in the village and working in the farm would be more peaceful and fulfilling. Of course, it is a dream life for numerous people living in the city. Stuck in the dilemma for around six months to make a pick, with detailed financial analysis of these two diverse professions, umpteen discussions with friends and family, Mr. Iyer finally took the decision in the favour of dream life over dream job! He resigned from his job in November 2003 and became farmer on 1st January 2004. He speaks about his journey being a farmer, simple farm life, crop selection and on-field experiments.

My fascination with farming started when my wife Meena, journalist by profession was writing a book on organic cotton. She used to travel to remote villages and interact with the farmers directly. On her return we used to talk about these farmers, their lifestyle, crop cultivation etc. I found it all very interesting and always wanted to know ‘something more’ about living in village and life of a farmer. Finally I asked her what if I become a farmer! She responded enthusiastically and encouraged me with my new idea. It motivated me immensely and after lots of thinking and analysis I became the farmer.
Our farm is located in Peth village, Palghar district, Maharashtra. I bought it in February 2004. The total land cover is 4 acre. It is an agricultural land near perennial river Surya. So I have consistent water source and electricity keeps playing hide and seek but it is fine, we are used to it. The farm already had a house and 70 sapota trees. Now we live here. I retained all the trees and planted my first crop, green gram on insistence of a village resident turned friend in March 2004. The seeds were sourced from Surat. It was amazing to see the plants grow and I never thought beyond it. Yield was not a concern! In the meantime being a first-generation farmer I started reading books and surfing internet on farming. Then I decided I am never going to use any chemicals in my farm because my idea of farming was to live a self-supporting life on farm, eat healthy, breathe clean air and enjoy the peaceful time. Moving forward on same decision, I didn’t spray any pesticide on the plants allowing it to grow naturally. The yield obtained was 300 kg moong from 2.5 acre. It was a big morale booster and I continued farming in most natural way without any use of chemicals for sure.

I tried to grow food items that are required in our everyday diet such as fruits, vegetables, spices, grains, pulses, oilseeds and so on because the aim was first to feed me and my family and sell the produce only if it was in surplus. The crop selection was made as per the local climatic conditions, only traditional varieties of crops were preferred because the strength of desi food is supreme and farming practices selected were sustainable in all aspects.

Crops grown are Kalagirga and Kudai (red colour) indigenous paddy varieties; sesame and groundnut for oil; pulses grown are green gram (moong), black gram (urad), vaal (kind of broad beans); turmeric, mustard and pepper as spices; local vegetables. The farm already had sapota trees that continues to fruit all round the year. Apart from this I have planted a wide array of fruits like 5 varieties of mango namely alphanso, kesar, malgova, rajapuri and local variety for pickle; lime; gooseberry; mulberry; 4 types of banana namely robusta, yelakki, red banana (coimbatore) and one variety of raw banana; 3 varieties of jackfruit; Indian almond; 4 varieties of guava – pink, white, round and conical and I keeping adding the trees as and when as I can. I have 2-3 trees of every fruit.

Seeds and saplings were sourced from multiple sources. I got Kalagirga and Kudai paddy varieties from a tribal farmer in some remote village in state. Earlier all farmers were growing these varieties but now it is endangered as farmers are moving to hybrid seeds. I am growing it for past 10 years and extremely satisfied with the taste, health benefits and yield.

Farming inputs are prepared from dung and urine of desi cow but I don’t have a cow in the farm. I get the same from a nearby gaushala of abandon desi cows. Also I have 20 hens in the farm.

Sowing is done based on the season. The cycle begins from monsoon with paddy cultivation in one part, urad in second part, seasonal vegetables in third part and turmeric in fourth. On bunds across the farm I grow pigeon pea (tuar), a local variety white in colour.
After harvesting rice in the same patch sesame is planted along with mustard as intercops. After harvesting sesame I grow groundnut and then moong. In this way it is one complete cycle. The crops keep shifting from one section to other following the thumb rule of crop rotation to allow the soil to restore its fertility and nutrient content.

Vegetables are changed continuously as harvested. I grow only local vegetables for exclusively for personal consumption because vegetables have short shelf life and travelling to Mumbai often is tough. Some or the other fruit is plucked every day to be on the plate. However this year we had bumper yield of mangoes that we cannot eat so it will be sold.

The surplus farm produce is sold at two organic stores in Mumbai, one run by my friend and other by Ms. Vandana Shiva. They fix the price and I take it with no-questions asked! These are fair stores and I trust them completely.

Processing is done in and around the Peth village mainly for paddy, oil and dals. I have traced all these units and it is hassle free activity.

Life is too peaceful as a farmer and very much sustainable. All it requires is to willingly accept and adjust to the local food and environment. Besides farming is fun for me because I keep experimenting all round the year with crops and methods. I believe in holistic farming practice that implies soil, trees and plants are living beings just like man and livestock. The soil is living only when it has alive earthworms and microbes in it so I am more focused on soil than the plant. If soil is healthy plant will grow naturally.

Agriculture may not be the brightest profession in today’s world but it is definitely a noble profession. Until the consumers realizes the effort and labour put in by the farmer and agree to pay his/her due farming can never be a profession of choice for many!
Contact details:
Mr. Venkat Iyer
752, Peth village, P.O Tawa, Dahanu Taluka, Palghar district, Maharashtra

Laxman Singh – makes his Laporiya village water rich by building proficient water systems in cooperation with villagers

Makes his Laporiya village water rich by building proficient water systems in cooperation with villagers

“24/7 access to water for farming, livestock and household, consistent ground water recharge, well maintained moisture level in the soil, right to live for every living organism and green cover all around are the unique features of my Laporiya village. It is the same village that was severely stuck under the dry spell (drought) till 1977 but today we have achieved water sufficiency and economic independence. It had been possible because we all residents of Laporiya village collectively built water bodies and designed unique systems for water conservation and natural resource management. Our village is the living example that affirmative transformation is possible if valuable resources are conserved and human beings work and live in harmony,” asserts Mr. Laxman Singh, facilitator of change and founder, Gram Vikas Navyuvak Mandal Laporiya, Rajasthan.

He started on this journey in 1977 at the tender age of 17 to make his village renowned in the world.
Little he knew then that his dream would become a reality as at present Laporiya village is recognized throughout the globe for its ‘Chouka System’ and other natural water harvesting techniques. Today his established ‘Gram Vikas Navyuvak Mandal Laporiya (GVNML)’ is working round the clock to develop and administer water bodies and natural resource management systems to ensure the village progresses towards prosperity every single day. Besides, once his village began recovering from the water scarcity issue Mr. Laxman Singh reached out to other villages for assisting them in attaining water-independence. To do so rural youth are trained to design and implement locale-specific blueprints for water systems that are managed and spread by local village communities.

At first with only two friends cum supporters he initiated the process of transformation by opening the school. “With no fees charged and completely self-funded our school started having students from all age-groups in the village. Then we proceeded to conserve whatever water we had by repairing the broken ponds and bunds. Slowly and gradually entire village volunteered in repair work as well as we collectively built new ponds and canals as long as 3 km to secure the rainwater. All our systems are designed in a way that the rainwater is diverted to seep below the ground and if in surplus it is collected for the external use,” he adds. “With perseverance to solve the water scarcity problem we searched for practical solutions. Finally one by one we designed and developed unique water systems,” he affirms.

Chouka System
Chouka System, also called as square system was first built in 1979 on village owned land. Since then 1600 hectare common area in the village has choukas of various dimensions. “Basically this system consists of rectangular shallow pits (choukas) bordered with bunds that hold the rainwater till it is absorbed by the soil to recharge the ground water and excess is held back as surface water. 9 inch depth pits of same sizes are dug on the edges of land. The bunds separating the choukas are two feet high. Centre of the land, surrounded by the choukas is prime area for free grazing for the livestocks. Here we grow 30 different types of green fodder for our cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats and other farm animals,” explains Mr. Laxman Singh. The choukas ensure to refill ground aquifers and also serve as drinking troughs for the village livestock. The excess water if any is diverted safely without erosion and without loss of precious top soil to low lying water tanks (nadis), or ponds for future use as surface or ground water.

Villagers have together resurrected three ponds. The water of these three ponds is used for specific purposes. “We have named these ponds as per its usage in the joint village meeting. Phool Sagar (flower pond) is used for watering flower plants, Dev Sagar (pond for the gods) for religious rituals and Anna Sagar (food pond) for irrigating farmlands. Every year we pay homage to these ponds in village celebrations,” he elucidates.

Canals and Anicuts
Many canals and anicuts are built across the village to manage the water flow and improve the moisture level in the soil. The canals can store overflow water from the chouka system. “With these canals and anicuts our soil has high water retention capability. As a result crops cultivated in our farmlands requires less water for example wheat commonly needs 6 times irrigation but we irrigate only 3-4 times,” he highlights.

To improve the breeds of cows in the village, 80 bulls of gir breed were sourced from Gujarat for breeding. The bulls are looked after by Gwal Committee appointed by the villagers through election. The committee also takes care of the common grazing land. “We brought the gir bulls because we wanted to improvise our cattle thereby have best quality of milk produced in our farm. Our everyday milk collection is 2400 litre including buffalo milk. Milk price per litre vary as per the fat content. On an average every household earns Rs. 15-50 thousand per month from milk supply,” states Mr. Laxman Singh.

Open Aviary
“Every living organism has right to live so we allow all to live freely in open aviary referred as Khula Chidiyaghar. It is 80 hectare barricaded area where human activity is prohibited. This place is home to 130 plus birds and numerous wild forest trees,” he shares. In this way farmlands are free from pests as these birds take care of pest naturally.

With water conservation systems in place horticulture and animal rearing thrives in the village. “In Kharif season we have bumper crop of moong and other crops grown are jowar, wheat, maize and seasonal vegetables. In Rabi season we have high yield of channa that grows without irrigation, only with soil moisture it grows well,” he shares. All the produce is sold to the traders as of now while plans are to develop some marketing model to enhance the revenues.

Mr. Laxman Singh concludes, “The village has been developed very well where life is comfortable and peaceful. Most important it has become self-independent and no one finds life as burden! We receive many visitors from different parts of the country and world to learn our water conservation and natural resource management techniques. We are more than happy to share our techniques because we want everyone to live a fulfilling and dignified life!”

Contact details:
Gram Vikas Navyuvak Mandal Laporiya
Laporiya, Dudu, Jaipur, Rajasthan 303008, India
Phone: (+91) 09784355071

Rajesh N Gaidhani – leaves 26 years long corporate career to show new path of farming to farmers in his village

Becomes full time farmer leaving 26 year long corporate career. Grows Vekhand roots to restore soil fertility and prepare bio-solutions to safeguard other crops from pest attack

“Vekhand medicinal root is a low maintenance crop. It grows naturally and incurs very low production cost. It is an excellent insect and pest repellant as well as restores the soil fertility. This root has the ability to reduce the production cost to minimum due to its medicinal properties,” highlights Mr. Rajesh N Gaidhani, turns farmer leaving corporate job of 26 years.

Mr. Gaidhani’s farm is located in Lakhani village, Bhandara district, Maharashtra. It is a 16 acre farm in which 8 acre was inherited and other 8 acre was purchased. It is 100% chemical-free farm. Speaking about turning the farm organic he says, “I absolutely had no idea about crops or cultivation process but I had decided neither to grow only conventional crops nor follow the conventional farming practices of using chemical based agri inputs irrespective of drop in the yield. On researching the non-conventional crops suitable for the soil, water and climatic conditions I selected five medicinal plants out of which Vekhand roots were the best choice. Now as by nature medicinal plants are grown without any use of chemicals thus rest of the farm where I was growing food crops also became organic in the process. Finally entire farm became 100% organic,” he explains. The farm was started in 2013.

“When in job, being in purchase department I used to travel extensively across India and used to come back home in village on break 2-3 times in a year. I found this India (rural) and that India (urban) to be totally different. It is a complete mismatch! Life in cities is very comfortable with all amenities and good income on the contrary life of rural people mainly farmers is pitiful. I used to feel sorry for the farmers for a very long time but then one fine day I quit the job and next day became farmer. I left the cushy job because only after becoming farmer I can help other farmers,” he shares the reason for leaving the job paying annual package of Rs. 19 lakh/annum and starting from scratch in farming.

The farm is gifted with immense water as it receives heavy rainfall thus all the crops grown are those that require more water. Initially the planting material of Vekhand root was bought from Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, “Later its gets multiplied. First on experiment basis I grew the roots only in 1 acre area in 2013. It grew well and gave good returns hence in the next season I cultivated in 3 acre, then 6 acre and presently it is grown in 8 acre,” asserts Mr. Gaidhani.

Vekhand root (botanical name Acorus Calamus) is a one year crop, sown during monsoon as it requires lot of water for its growth. “The ideal time for sowing the root rhizome is June. The plantation method is same as sugarcane. One foot high beds are made in the farm keeping the distance of one foot. On each bed the rhizomes are sown 9 inch apart. Approximately in one acre 20,000 plants are accommodated that yields 1000-1200 kg roots,” he elucidates.
Post harvesting the left behind plant is either mulched back in the soil or decomposed to prepare the bio-solution. Farming inputs used in the farm are vermiwash, vermicompost and in-house prepared farm yard manure and bio-pesticides using Vekhand plant waste and roots respectively.

Ayurvedic medicine manufacturing companies are the buyers for dried Vekhand roots. Demand of the root is high and stable in the market but the root is subject to extreme price fluctuations. “In the first year I sold dried Vekhand roots in the market but I strongly believe cultivation and selling the raw/dried farm produce at the first stage stagnant the growth of a farmer therefore value addition is important for scaling the operations and increasing the revenues. Proceeding with the same mindset I did some R & D on Vekhand roots. As it is good repellant I made powder and extract from its roots. The powder proved to be excellent for preserving edible food commodities while the extract performs extremely well as crop protection solution. It is used as bio-pesticide, bio-insecticide and bio-fungicide in the farm to protect food and horticulture crops from all sorts of pest attack,” highlights Mr. Gaidhani.

Crop rotation is must for this medicinal plant. “In my farm I keep rotating the crops so that soil restores the nutrients. Other crops grown are local varieties of paddy, wheat, Bengal gram, moong etc. After harvesting Vekhand roots the soil becomes fertile thereby in the next season other crops gives bumper yield for example last season wheat production was 900kg/acre. This is the reason I get high production of all crops,” he affirms.

To identify buyers for Vekhand root Mr. Gaidhani suggests participating in the meetings and conferences organized by National Medicinal Plant Board, “It definitely helps in building new contacts and is gainful for latest updates in the industry,” he states. Other farm commodities like rice, wheat, pulses etc are processed, packed and sold to direct consumers. “Buyers for these products come in touch with me through word of mouth publicity.” Price for food items is reasonable where only 20% premium is charged.

In time to come, Mr. Gaidhani’s farm produced food items shall be available on websites and online store. “I also plan to explore farming potential of aromatic rice ‘Chennur’. It is the specialty of our region and has huge market. I intend to work with the farmers for this crops as well as Vekhand roots. It shall surely improve their livelihood,” he reveals.

Mr. Gaidhani is hopeful India shall have bright future as, “I see many young people interested in organic farming. If this keenness for chemical free farming continues then we surely will have best quality of water, air and soil in our country. Sooner or later we have to adopt organic farming because land quality needs to improve then only we will be able to give land to next generation and not stones!” he signs off.

Contact details:
Mr. Rajesh N Gaidhani
Near Ganesh Rice Mill, At/Po/Tal Lakhani, District Bhandara, Maharashtra – 441 804
Phone: +91 75178 96559, 94231 12684

Barun P. Singh – become farmer over secured government bank job. Integrates crop production with livestock for steady farm revenues

Chooses to become farmer over secured government bank job. Integrates crop production with livestock for steady farm revenues

“Less production cost and continuous cash inflow are the two main highlights of integrated farming that keeps the farmer stay in the business thus I always worked towards farm integration. We do face lot of tribulations due to dearth of labor and selling challenges yet the farm is functional and generates monthly revenues as ours is an integrated farm,” shares Mr. Barun P Singh, banker turned farmer. He established Maa Ishwari Krishi Pariyojana farm in 2007.

“Farming is the key to good health although it is packed with umpteen challenges. It demands consistent hard-work and dedication nonetheless it is peaceful unlike the banking job that leads to high-stress always,” affirms Mr. Barun Singh. He resigned from his job seven years before retirement, leaving the perks he could have received being in a government job for growing food in his farmland.

The farm is located at Patuaha village, Saharsa district, Bihar. Maa Ishwari Krishi Pariyojana is split in two farms, 5 acre and 40 acre. The 40 acre farm has vermicompost unit, banana cultivation using high density technique in 10 acre while in rest of the area vegetables and traditional crops are grown mainly cereals and pulses. The five acre farm has dairy unit, fish pond and vegetable farming.

Dairy being intrinsic part of agriculture, Mr. Barun Singh took his first step with the same. Presently the farm has 25 HF cows. 100 litre is everyday milk production. It is sold to cooperatives. Milk is extracted with a milking machine.


In order to utilize cow dung Mr. Barun Singh started a vermi-compost unit in 2008 to produce and sell vermicompost manure. “All our farm waste such as rotten vegetables, dried leaves and fruits is converted into manure. The waste is spread on the ground using the plastic sheet. It is then covered with cow dung and slowly the waste is converted into nutrient rich manure through exotic earthworms. The manure is sold at Rs. 6-8/kg under the brand name ‘Mani Vermicompost’. This manure makes the soil fertile and even can transform a barren land into high yielding farmland,” he claims. Capacity of vermicompost unit is 3000 metric ton.

The farm has fish pond that largely contributes to the farm revenues. Fish varieties reared are common carp, mirgal rohu and catla. “These fish variants stay in different levels in the pond thus it is easy to manage and also sells easily as we have good demand of fish in our state. Fish seed is sourced from West Bengal through the agent. Later he only harvests the fish and sells in the market. The entire system is standardized and I never face any major issues. In my farm, fishery is the most profitable component of agriculture,” he asserts.

Banana grown through high density farming is also gainful for the farm. “All the trees grow uniformly and banana yield is stable. Timely pruning is most important in this technique. Fruits are sold to the trader from the farm gate,” he states. Rest of the farm produces are also sold through traders because Mr. Barun Singh finds direct selling as time intensive and enormously complex. Presently the farming practice is conventional although the farmer advocates organic farming for high production but feels dejected as selling is a huge matter of concern. “Two years (2007-2009) I did 100% chemical free farming and the results obtained were extremely encouraging. I could harvest 150 quintal tomato from one acre while 50 quintal could not be harvested because of lack of labor. Further I couldn’t sell the produce because the traders proposed very low price same as for the conventional produce (Rs. 300 per quintal). It led to the loss as I could not cover up even the production cost. Marketing system of agricultural produce is highly disorganized in Bihar state therefore inspite of doing good work farmers are not able to come up in life!” he opines.

In time to come he wants to continue present operations with expansion in fishery unit. “Amongst all the components of agriculture in my farm I find fishery to be the most profitable because in our state demand of fish always exceeds the supply. Besides labor cost is also minimal. So now I am planning to increase the area of fish farming,” he shares.

Mr. Barun Singh concludes, “Farming is a forever gamble thus it is largely passion driven where the grower derives will to work in the fields for the satisfaction of growing food, prime requirement of the nation. Irrespective of challenges and financial loss I will continue being a farmer because my health has improved a lot. I am totally medication free because I live stress free life in my farm. Lastly I have a feeling of satisfaction of growing food.”

Contact details:
Mr. Barun P. Singh
Gram: Patuaha, Block: Kehra, District: Saharsa, Bihar – 852201
Mobile : 08809419388

Nisarga Farm – one stop for desi seeds for grains, vegetables and fruits

One stop for desi seeds for grains, vegetables and fruits

“Hybrid seeds might have reached millions of farms across the country but many villages still have desi seeds. Few crop varieties might have lost but still lots of desi seeds are available somewhere in the country. It is not destroyed completely thus we have to sincerely collect, preserve and use desi seeds in farming,” assures and advises Mr. Rajashekar R. Nimbargi. It is more than a decade he is working on collecting, multiplying and supplying desi seeds to other farmers.

Nisarga Farm of Mr. Nimbargi is 21 acre farm 3kms away from Benakana halli, Vijapura district, Karnataka. “It belongs to me and my two brothers. As they both are working in cities I take care of the entire farm,” he adds.

“Desi seeds are sturdy in nature thus resistant to diseases and pest attack. Due to this farmers need not spray pesticides on the crop and are able to produce poison free food for the buyers. Desi seeds definitely yields more than hybrid seeds and the food produced is packed with nutrients. It costs half the price than hybrid seeds. We are eating desi produce for past 12 years and since then we have not visited doctors for medication. It is the power of ‘desi’ seeds and farming practices,” he highlights the unique features.

Mr. Nimbargi develops seeds and also cultivates horticulture crops. At his own farm he has mixed fruit orchard, 2 acres banana and 1 acre lemon. Vegetable are also cultivated but for seed purpose and personal consumption. Few fruits grown at his farm are coconut, custard apple, sapota, papaya etc, vegetables seeds available are okra, radish, bottle gourd, cluster beans, rajagiri, cucumber, coriander, methi etc. Desi seeds of moringa and millets are also available with him.


As his farm is organic he receives many visitors who buy seeds from him on their return. “I make small packs of 100 seeds and sell it for Rs. 25/pack to the visitors who come to see my farm from different Indian states and other countries too,” he shares. Price of bulk seed purchases vary as per the quantity required by the buyer. Mr. Nimbargi receives orders for desi seeds from Haryana, Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh etc. If required he also couriers the seeds ensuring to deliver the promised quality. Presently he receives frequent orders for moringa, “Earlier I used to sell drumsticks but not anymore because demand for drumstick seeds is increasing every year. I sell drumstick seeds at Rs. 3000/kg. Similarly demand for millet seeds is also on constant rise mainly small millets like Porso millet (baragu), Little millet (saame), Brown top millet (korle) and Foxtail millet (navane).”

In 12 years his seed collection has 50 varieties of desi seeds of different crops. “Apart from it I have 10varieties of sorghum seeds (Halasgunde, Basamathigunda, uddmaandangi, halasjola etc) and 7varieties of paddy (navra, etc). Primarily it is the effort of my parents and now I am committed to carry on the legacy,” asserts Mr. Nimbargi.

Seeds are stored in simple gunny bags with neat labeling. “I soak gunny bags in cow urine and dry it for 2 days. Then I mix powders of Calotropis Gigantea leaves, neem leaves and custard apple leaves with seeds. In case of dicot or monocot, I mix the seeds with ash. To prepare the ash, I burn cow dung cakes and sieved it to get fine powdered ash. Sometimes as required I make a paste of ash and apply it on the seeds. Millets are tough fiber so it is stored as it is. All these measures are taken to improve the shelf life of seeds,” he shares.

Speaking of seed requirement per acre, he says, “It varies from crop-to-crop. For example, in one acre 200 gram millets are sown, vegetables and onion seeds 2-3kgs/acre, cluster beans 0.5kg/acre, okra 1.5kg/acre. The yield obtained is huge, 200 gram foxtail millet yields 15 quintals, Korle yields 10quintals, 2.5 kg onion yields 8tons and so on. These figures show the production ability of desi seeds. In addition there is not much production expenses incurred as seeds are resistant to diseases and pest attack. It sprouts well and the plant growth enhance with desi cow based manure. Hence overall income and then profits for the farmers increases.”

Mr. Nimbargi was practicing chemical farming for 29 years but now he switched to zero budget natural farming after attending Mr. Subhash Palekar’s seminar in 2006. “As per Mr. Palekar’s advice every farmer should grow everything and eat the same. He also insisted on using native seeds. The seminar moved me a lot and subsequently I immediately discontinued use of chemicals in the farm, started preserving and using desi seeds and began integrated farming from mono cropping. I strongly feel farmers must attend such seminars to learn new things,” he avers.

Collecting, developing and supplying desi seeds is an add income for the farmers as per Mr. Nimbargi. “Desi seed is just one time purchase because from the next season farmers can save their own seeds for next sowing. They can even sell the surplus seeds to other farmers and earn some extra money. Moreover it shall help to reduce diseases that people suffer from quite often these days,” he explains.

Sharing future plans Mr. Nimbargi concludes, “I want to create a model farm along with a training centre to show the visitors the strength of our desi farming and extend training to everyone. Seeing the changes in life I am convinced that desi seeds are best for the soil, environment and human health. Sooner the farmers begin using desi seeds faster shall be growth of their farm and themselves.”

Contact Details:
Nisarga Farm
Mr. Rajashekar R. Nimbargi
Nisarga Nilaya, Mukkaam PO, Benakana halli, Indi Taluk, Vijapura District – 586112, Karnataka
Phone: 8762482005

Santosh Sambhaji Kalane – improves farm revenues with grapes cultivation

Improves farm revenues with grapes cultivation

“Due to climate change our region faces hot and dry climatic conditions. It is a challenge for many crops therefore I selected grapes because high temperature is suitable for grape cultivation. In my village few farmers were growing grapes so I prepared myself well taking assistance from them. All the efforts invested were worth as my farm revenues doubled with grapes,” shares Mr. Santosh Sambhaji Kalane, progressive farmer from Belwandi village, Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra.

Mr. Kalane is doing farming on 12 acre farmland, 8 acre self-owned while 4 acre is taken on lease.
The 8 acre farm has sugarcane, seasonal vegetables and grapes cultivation. “Post harvesting sugarcane I shall be growing wheat. Change in the crops not only helps the soil but also enables me to expand my knowledge on farming,” he adds. 4 acre land on lease has moringa and grape cultivation. “Being a son of a farmer I could very well relate with the soil and understand about the plant growth therefore soon after completing schooling I started farming in the year 2000. I began my life as farmer with sugarcane and moringa cultivation. However, inspite of having good demand of moringa and it being a sturdy crop I had to discontinue it because the pesticide sprayed on sugarcane affected moringa badly. Therefore, I took another farmland for growing moringa.”

Sonaka (white, seedless) variety of grape is grown in the farm. Mr. Kalane cultivates different crops in the farm because monocropping has been proved to be risky! “I am now focused on grape cultivation as it is a new crop while rest of the crops’ cycle and routine operations are standardized. On an experiment basis I grew grapes in 1.5 acre in June 2016. The plants grew well and now I am harvesting the crop. The first production is satisfactory and encouraging. The first batch is already sold and it was profitable,” he states. The berries are firm, evenly spaced along the stalk and well attached to the stalk.

Dogridge rootstocks planted in the farm were sourced from nursery in Sholapur at Rs. 6/piece. Along with support of hard wood cuttings the rootstocks are raised on flat beds. “Each wood stick cost Rs. 10/piece. After ploughing the empty land thoroughly we dug the pits of 90 cm x 90 cm x 90 cm dimension keeping row-row distance as eight feet and plant-plant five feet. The pits were filled with desi cow dung and well decomposed bagasse (sugarcane fiber waste left behind after extracting juice). After transplanting the rootstocks it is covered with the soil. We then irrigate the entire plantation with drip system,” he elucidates the process. Rectangular system of planting is adopted for growing grape.
As the plants grow the trellis (pandal) is prepared enabling the vines to grow consistently. “I have used bamboo for creating the pandal as it is cost effective and hard,” he says. Once the rootstocks are 1 foot high, the shoots are tied with jute twine on the structure. The plants were fed with biofertilizers namely azatobacter, phosphate solubilizing bacteria(PSB) neem cake and vermiwash. Quantity of trichoderma,
azatobacter and PSB required for each plant was 20-25 gram/plant. Neem cake used was 1.25 t/ha.

Unseasonal rain is the biggest threat to the grapes as it causes diseases and the plants become susceptible to pest attack. “In grapes we have to use little pesticides as the plant is extremely delicate. As I use only bio inputs in the growing stage of the plant it has the resistant and sturdy to withstand the pesticides and doesn’t absorb much. Besides, pesticide is sprayed as preventive measure so quantity used is minimum and less harmful. Yet we ensure to stop all chemical pesticide spray 3-4 months prior to harvesting. These it makes the fruit residue free,” he reveals. Weeding is done manually.
Pruning is important for health of the grape vines. “We pruned the canes in September 2017, almost a year later for good flowering and fruiting,” he avers. With these numerous efforts the fruiting was very good. Per plant the yield obtained in 13-14 kg. Once planted the vineyard yields upto 15 years. The production of grapes is expected to increase more than 20 kg/plant after first year harvest then after the plants are required to be changed as fruiting stops after 15 years. If the soil and plants are nurtured well then plants continues to yield till 15 years.

As it is first year grape sale for Mr. Kalane he sold the produce to the traders. “We receive many traders from metros. As the produce of my farm was good selling was difficult in terms of selecting the trader because most of them quoted similar prices. We harvested and packed the grapes ourselves. We sold the boxes to the best price offered by Mumbai based trader,” he shares.

Sharing future plans he concludes, “We are convinced grapes are good for our soil with the results obtained thereby we shall be developing another vineyard in 2 acre from this June on the 4 acre farmland taken on lease. The risk taken for grape cultivation paid off well. In addition this year the attention would be on moringa plants too. I will make sure everything goes well this time and confident to earn better and higher!”

Contact Details:
Mr. Santosh Sambhaji Kalane
AT Post Belwandi (BK), Shrigonga Tehsil, Ahmednagar District – 413702, Maharashtra
Mobile – 09960611855

Thomas Kattakkayam – preserves and popularizes jackfruit, maintains collection of 210 plus varieties

Rubber farmer shifts his attention to jackfruit to keep illness away. Preserves and popularizes jackfruit, maintains collection of 210 plus varieties. Also sells budding seedlings

“In the year 1970 farmers received subsidy of Rs. 3000/acre from Government to grow rubber in their farms therefore we farmers cleared our farmlands to grow rubber. Subsequently we started losing our state’s treasure ‘jackfruit’. After few years, I could reinvent my faith in jackfruit when my blood pressure level controlled and overall health improved by eating jackfruit regularly! After all jackfruit is packed with vital nutrients and medicinal properties as it is naturally grown fruit. There is no requirement of any sorts of chemical agri inputs to nurture the tree. I am convinced of its curing properties thus started collecting and preserving jackfruit varieties from across the state, country and world,” Mr. Thomas Kattakkayam describes the drive to conserve the fruit.

Mr. Thomas, 75, hails from Pala, Kottayam district, Kerela. The entire region is referred as rubber belt. Now slowly with the efforts of Mr. Thomas jackfruit is returning back in the farms. He owns 10 acre farm in which 2 acre has jackfruit plantation exclusively while rest of the farm has a good mix of forest trees along with rubber. So far he has been successfully able to secure and protect 210 plus varieties of jackfruit.

80% jackfruit varieties in the collection have been procured from Kerala state (Kottayam district) while remaining 20% is sourced from other Indian states as well as other countries. All the varieties differ from one another in respect to colour, taste and aroma. The fruit has to pass the stringent taste test of Mr. Thomas before it is selected to be included in his collection. “So far only 40% jackfruit that I tasted got selected!” he says. Jackfruit is monoecious that implies male and female flowers are borne on the same individual tree therefore every tree is distinctive.

With numerous efforts invested in variety selection it is obvious entire collection will be unique yet the main attraction is ‘All Season Jack’. “I have two varieties of jackfruit that yields fruits throughout the year. The mother trees of these two varieties yield 20- 50 jackfruits in a year weighing approximately 12 kg each. The fruit is tender and juicy,” he highlights. In addition there are two varieties that yield fruits once in 6 months. There are 10 trees of each of these varieties in his farm. “Soon these trees will start bearing the fruits everyday all 12 months then I shall make jackfruit as a staple crop.”

When asked about the taste and aroma specific features in his collection, he shares, “I have 12 ‘Varikka’ jackfruits variants. All differ from one another such as one tastes like honey while other has the aroma of ginger. There is one red-fleshed jackfruit having bright red carpels,” he asserts.

Mr. Thomas wants more and more farmers to grow this fruit variant as it is low maintenance tree, requires less attention and is naturally organic thus he prepares best quality budding seedlings for other farmers. He observes his trees closely, evaluates its qualities and then selects the best of all for propagation. Ready stock of jackfruit budding of all popular and fast moving varieties is always available at the farm. “In my collection there are 25 high-yielding varieties. Amongst these ‘All Season Jack’ budding gets sold off just in couple of days. It is rapidly gaining the attention amongst the farmers,” he states. Jackfruit budding must be planted keeping the distance of 20 feet between two trees.

In time to come Mr. Thomas plans to make feed for livestock from the left over part of jackfruit after taking out the bulbs. “Besides, my immediate plan is to prepare 20 thousand budding every year for regular supply to other farmers. Also I am clearing another 1.5 acre in my farm for new jackfruit plantation,” he reveals. IPR Cell of Kerala Agricultural University is extending immense support to Mr. Thomas for his notable work in crop conservation. They intend to bring the farmer into limelight for his dedication for jackfruit.

Jackfruit is a natural medicine for the people suffering from lifestyle diseases such as diabeties, blood pressure etc. Its’ demand is surely going to increase, “So farmers must start growing this tree in their farms. Further, jackfruit is one of the few fruits that is free from all contamination and does not have harmful chemical residue. Only with cow based farming inputs the tree grows well and yields good quality of fruits. It surely will be rewarding for the farmers in the long run. I am preserving these distinctive varieties for future generation as well as restoring health of my countrymen,” he concludes.

Contact details:
Mr. Thomas Kattakkayam
IPR Cell of Kerala Agricultural University, KAU Main Campus, KAU P.O. Vellanikkara, NH – 47, Thrissur, Kerala 680656
Phone: 09495213264

Puttappa – post retirement becomes full time farmer to grow food for family and friends

Post retirement becomes full time farmer to grow food for family and friends

“We believe in growing our food ourselves so we planted different kinds of fruits, vegetables and grains that we like to eat and of course if practically possible to grow in our farm considering soil requirements and climatic conditions. Also we are concerned about health of soil, environment and ours therefore since 2004 we are engaged in 100% chemical free farming. The change of farming practice was mandatory for good health,” asserts Mr. Puttappa.

Mr. Puttappa retired from PWD in Holenarasipura in 2001 and since then he is into farming. “While in job I was part time farmer but now I am full time farmer,” he says with pride. His farm is small but packed with green cover. “Half of my land is dryland while remaining is wet land. Due to scanty rain it was not possible to grow paddy so I grew millets instead mainly sorghum and finger millet. It grows well even in less water,” he affirms. Green gram, black gram and Bengal gram are grown after harvesting grains.

Different varieties of trees are the attraction of the farm. It not only enhances the bio-diversity required for natural pest management but boon for the environment as well. “We have wide array of tree collection. Few to name are 56 coconut, 20 arecanut, 3 mangoes, 8 jackfruit, 20 sapota, 30 Millettia pinnata, 10 neem, 50 teak, 30 silver oak, 30 melia dubia trees etc. We have 6-7 more fruit varieties. Some trees are yielding fruits while others are in growing stage. Altogether we get enough fruits for the entire year,” he asserts. Approximately all the trees are 20-30 feet far from each other with the only exception of neem trees that are planted 8 feet apart. Coconut tree yields in 7 years while other fruits in 4-5 years.

Seasonal vegetables grown are green leafy veggies, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, bottle gourd, coccinea, chow-chow etc. 2 honey-bee boxes are kept in the farm for honey and improving pollination in the farm. Mr. Puttappa maintains a small garden (30 * 50 feet) in front of his house within the farm. The garden has ornamental and flower plants and even medicinal plants like insulin, aloe vera, basil, star gooseberry, guduchi (medicinal herb) etc. Trees, vegetable seeds and medicinal plants are all local varieties procured from multiple sources from different locations. “Whenever I travel to attend some program or seminar then I surely bring one or two varieties of plants. It had been a practice for a long time therefore I have such an assorted collection of plants and trees in the farm,” he adds.

“I feel farming is impossible without livestock so we rear desi breeds of poultry hen and cows. I have local breeds of 5 sindhi cows. 20 litres excess milk is sold at Rs. 42/litre to the dairy. Feed for cattle is cultivated in the farm like paddy grass etc. The dung of cows is fed into gobbar gas unit to make cooking gas while slurry is again used as farming input,” he shares. The quality of eggs is very good as the breed is desi thus not even a single egg is left for sale!

Mr. Puttappa has some unique features in the farm. Beetle vines are grown in support of jack fruit trees. “Our house is on the hill and farm is down the hill thus all used water of our house along with cow urine, shed washed water flows down to the biodigestor. Even the fermented water of Calotropis Gigantea, Millettia pinnata and neem leaves is pumped in the farm. By spraying this liquid our farm gets a protective cover from diseases and pest attack,” he informs.

He switched from chemical to organic farming in 2004. “I received immense help from agriculture department for guidance. State krishi department gave 2 vermicomposting tanks and biodigestor. Cow urine is used for making different bio-liquid sprays. Also the litter of poultry is converted into manure. Green manure is grown in the farm too to enrich the soil with vital nutrients. With these activities we are able to produce 6 tractor loads manure every year sufficient for our farm. Some people might find organic farming practices as labour intensive and ineffective towards pest control but it is not true! ” he adds. Irrigation is done through drip system.

Farm produce is sold only if in excess after the consumption at home. “We grow first for our family and friends and then sold if we can’t consume it full! Fruits, vegetables and eggs are not sold in the market. We mostly sell milk, coconut, rice, pulses and arecanut. Every year 4-5 quintal rice is sold at Shankar guruji Ashram. “They pay us Rs. 200/quintal more than the price offered by rice mills or traders,” he asserts.

When asked about agriculture prone to more loss than profits, he promptly replies, “It is not so! In our farm we sell limited quantity of products yet we sell all the year round. The revenues earned are sufficient for farm expenses if any and living comfortable basic life. Every week we get money from selling milk, once in 3-3.5 month from coconut, once in 3 months from pulses and annually from paddy and arecanut. It proves agriculture is sustainable for farmers if the farming practices are correct and dependence on external factors is minimum. Agriculture is not a miracle but a living profession that requires proper planning and management.”

Mr. Puttappa concludes, “Presently most important thing in agriculture is to recharge the ground water and improve the level as much as possible. We collect the rain water not only for farming but also for drinking purpose! Past 10years we are drinking rain water collected from the terrace of our house. The water is filtered thoroughly before using. Further trees across our farm don’t allow the rainwater to flow and it gets absorbed by the ground. We have to take care of our resources and restore the green cover for healthy future.”

Contact Details:
Mr. Puttappa
S/o Hirannaiah, Thotada Mane, Kodangi Koppalu, Ward No. 17, Holenarasipura Town, Hassan District – 273211, Karnataka
Phone: 09035393680

Srikantamurthy N – grows yelakki banana to tap growing demand

Chooses yelakki banana in his multicrop farm for higher demand and income

“Earlier I had G9 variety banana but now I am growing yelakki banana. The later has higher selling price and demand is good all the year round. Also I could see more disease in G9 variety so changed to yelakki banana. Moreover selling price of yelakki is more than G9 variety,” shares Mr. Srikantamurthy N. Banana and arecanut are grown as intercrops in his farm.

The farm is located in Suttur village, Mysore district, Karnataka. Banana and arecanut is cultivated in 5.5 acre area fenced with teak and silver oak and in another 2acre coconut, sapato and guava are cultivated. Additional 2 acre has Nilgiri trees and paddy in 1 acre. “Besides these plantation I have grown few trees of pomegranate, gooseberry, betel leaves, jackfruit, jamoon, kokum, Syzygium jambos etc. More the trees better is the overall growth of the farm. Three months back I have grown 700 pepper grafts supported by teak and silver oak. The grafts were sourced from Kodagu district,” he adds. All trees are fruiting giving add on income to the farmer who primarily earns from arecanut and banana.

Mix of chemical and zero budget farming is practiced in the farm. “I began the cultivation with chemical agri inputs but now gradually I am increasing use of cow and farm waste based manure. As I do not have cows in the farm this year I bought 43 tractor loads of cattle manure. It costs Rs. 2000/tractor load including transportation, loading and unloading. I have dug a manure pit. All farm waste is put into the manure pit and water is sprayed on the waste. Later crystal salt (edible salt) is added on the farm waste and once again it is watered. After 6 months or 1 year it decomposes into manure,” he states.

Approximately 600 banana plants are transplanted per acre in the farm. In all there are 3000 banana plants. Speaking on banana cultivation process, Mr. Srikantamuruthy says, “Soil testing is done once in a year at Krishi Vigyan Kendra without fail. According to the soil report we add the nutrients or chemicals. Like we add gypsum if it is less. Everything is done under their guidance of agricultural officers. After the banana variety is selected healthy sapling are purchased from KVK or other nursery. 100-200 saplings are soaked in chloroflourifides solution for 5 minutes and then dipped in cow dung solution. Prior to this pits are dug maintaining the spacing of 6 feet in case of monocropping while 9 feet in case of intercroppong. Row-row distance is 8 feet in either case. Mix of soil and cow dung is added in the pit, the saplings are transplanted and pits are covered with the soil. 6-8 neem granules are left on the top soil near the sapling to keep it safe from pest attack. 2-3 gram cake/plant is used.” Along with neem granules, neem oil is also sprayed. “We try neem oil extensively over chemical pesticides as preventive measure to control the pest.” Banana saplings are attacked by suli rog (leaves twist) and caterpillar disease (eats leaves).

Pollination rate is good in the farm due to bio-diversity. “Irrigation is done in controlled manner because excess water can hurdle the growth of plant and makes it susceptible to diseases and pest attack,” he highlights. Irrigation is done with drip system. Flowering takes place 8-9months after transplantation. In 11 months harvesting begins and completed at the end of 12th month. Earlier in G9 banana the yield obtained was 24-26 kg/plant. As yelakki plantation is presently 7months old flowering is yet to begin. “Each banana plant get one brown colour flower that turns in brown coloured banana flower. It is used for making vegetable.”

Each parent plant gets 4-5 suckers. “We look for healthy sucker and cut the remaining suckers thus post harvesting the mother banana plant is left as it is to provide the food to the healthy sucker and the same crop cycle of one year is repeated. In this way, we can harvest banana 4-5 times from the same plant. Later the entire plant is cut and new sapling is planted,” elucidates Mr. Srikantamurthy. Banana waste is decomposed to make farm yard manure.

Entire farm produce is sold at HOPCOMS, Mysore. “I am member of HOPCOMS, Mysore. Only disadvantage selling the produce to them is that they ask for specific quantity. If excess then the entire produce is sent back therefore I prefer selling the produce to traders even if it Rs. 1 less than HOPCOMS price. Reason being, traders only harvest, load, unload and transport the stock unlike HOPCOMS,” he informs. He looks for more avenues for selling.

Mr. Srikantamurthy wants to diversify into dairy, goat and pig farming however he is not able to take his plans forward due to lack of labours. Therefore he shall continue his present operations. “Farming will be profitable only when farm owner is a farmer himself. His everyday active involvement is must for the farm growth. With willingness and genuine interest only farming would be a profitable venture!” he signs off.

Contact Details:
Mr. Srikantamurthy N
S/o Late S M Naganna, ‘Mahamane’, Block No. 16, JSS Nagar, Mysore – 570 029
Phone: 9448020554

Dhanpal Nagappa Yallatti – with intercrops to cope with challenges in farming

Runs an integrated farm powered by intercrops

“Marigold is the best intercrop in farming. It complements many crops and proficiently controls nematodes, trips and mites. In addition it also secures the crops from diseases. It has the ability to control 40% pests! I use other crops as intercrops too. I have almost all crops in my farm grown interrelated to one another. It helps to cope not only with market price fluctuations but also lessen the loss,” affirms Mr. Dhanpal Nagappa Yallatti, an experienced farmer from Halingali village, Balgalkot district, Karnataka.

The integrated farm of Mr. Dhanpal spreads in 37 acre. “12 acre is self owned while 25 acre is on lease. We pay Rs. 20, 000/year/acre as lease amount,” he adds. Sugarcane is the primary crop of the farm. “We grow Coimbatore variety or any new variety from Dharwad University. If the new variety produces high yield then farmers are encouraged to grow the same. Other crops grown are turmeric, papaya, pomegranate, watermelon, banana (G9, jawari), marigold, capsicum. Vegetables cultivated are cluster beans, tomato, brinjal, sweet corn etc. Every month my farm generates revenues thus profit and loss are balanced and our routine operations continues systematically,” he asserts. Production plan for the crops is decided meticulously with the aim to earn profit of Rs.2.5-3lakhs/acre.

Farm even has small dairy unit, shadenet (under Krishi Bhagya project) for cultivating coloured capsicum and a tissue culture lab. The farm has drip irrigation system in 20 acre while rest of the area is irrigating with flood system.

Mr. Dhanpal advocates on growing intercrops in the farm. He definitely finds marigold as finest intercrop and uses it extensively. “I have intercropped marigold with papaya and banana. When grown as intercrop with papaya, the later is planted 6 feet plant-plant and 7 feet row-row whereas in between marigold is transplanted at 3.5 feet in a line,” he informs.

Marigold is also good to intercrop with vegetables. “I grow it with brinjal. The later is susceptible to mites and trips attacks so when grown with marigold, the bright yellow colour of the flower attracts all the pests. The flower plant is transplanted at 5 feet distance and brinjal at 1.5 feet,” explains Mr. Dhanpal.

Apart from marigold, watermelon is intercropped with pomegranate. It is planted 10 feet row-row while watermelon at 5 feet distance. “We use mulching for watermelon for water management and disease prevention,” he states.

Sugarcane is intercropped with cabbage, cauliflower, soyabean or marigold. Sugarcane is planted in the channel near the beds. On the beds either any one of these vegetables or marigold is grown.

Other than intercrop, Mr. Dhanpal also has an exclusive cultivation of marigold for commercial purpose. In one acre 5000 marigold plants are planted keeping plant-plant distance as 2 feet while row-row as 5 -feet. “Flowering begins 45 days after plantation and continues to yield till 2 months. Earlier I used to grow it during Diwali but I had incurred loss thus I grew it in this March (2018) and harvesting now. I got the bumper rate. This crop is becoming significant part of my farm,” he highlights. It can be grown anytime round the year. It yields flowers for 2 months then after plants need to be changed. “I am selling 5 ton marigold flower in Mumbai through a trader.”

Most of the farm produce accept sugarcane is sold through traders from Goa, Delhi and Bangalore. They visit the farm and buy the produce from the farm gate. When asked about fixing price for each farm produce, Mr. Dhanpal elaborates, “It depends on market price. Brokers have competition among themselves and we sell to the broker who quotes maximum price. As the quality of our products is good we are able to sell at the price little more than other farmers in the village.”

Earlier sugarcane was processed to make jaggery within farm premises but now the farmer sells entire sugarcane produce to factory as he finds it more gainful. In his words, “Factory gives us good rate along with seeds, guidance and fertilizers. It is Somaiya Sugar Factory. When our produce goes to the factory, they will deduct the price of seeds, fertilizers and gives rest of the money.”

Mr. Dhanpal has a small tissue culture laboratory too. It is managed by his friend to develop banana, tomato and brinjal tissue culture saplings. Vegetable saplings are sold at Rs. 0.50/plant and banana at Rs. 13/plant. “I sell approximately 5lakh saplings of banana every year to the farmers. They are given the assistance if required,” he avers. Seeds used are hybrid varieties sourced from trusted suppliers.

Small dairy unit of four desi cows (2 gir cows, 2 jawari cows) and 2 murrah buffaloes is maintained at the farm. Cows are reared mainly for fulfilling the demand of cow dung and urine as required for making agri inputs. “We sell cow and buffalo milk only if in excess else the cows are only for obtaining milk for personal use and cow dung plus urine for manure. The milk is sold at Rs. 50/litre or value added into ghee/butter, sold at Rs. 1500/kg,” he shares. Cattle is fed with dry fodder, green fodder, concentrates. Green fodder is grown in house and also hydroponically.

Mr. Dhanpal concludes, “I always felt proud to be a farmer’s son so became a farmer. I am happy to have chosen this profession 30 years before and now I want to run my farm into industry like operations.”

Contact Details:
Mr. Dhanpal Nagappa Yallatti
At PO Halingali, Jamkhandi Taluk, Balgalkot District – 587 315, Karnataka
Phone: 99000 30678

Imamsab Nadaf – leaves secured job in UAE to empower farmers in his village through goat farming

Leaves lucrative job to develop stable revenue generating model for Indian farmers, finds solution in goat farming

“Americans produce every agricultural commodity they consume and export it to other nations. Please note only 4% Americans are farmers. On the contrary 75% Indians are farmers yet we import many agricultural products. Why? Our farmers are poor and commit suicide. To solve the problem I found the solution in goat farming. Goats are mobile ATM. It will give instant cash when the farmer is in need of money because in our country demand for mutton exceeds the supply. On an average in our country mutton consumption is estimated as 20 kg/month/person. It implies goat farming has huge potential in our country and farmers can have their hands full of money,” highlights Mr. Imamsab Nadaf, progressive goat farmer.

His 35 acre farm is located at Antargangi village, Sindagi Taluk, Bijapur district, Karnataka. He started his goat farm with 19 does (female goats) and 1 buck (male goat) in the year 2012. It is an exclusive ‘Osmanabadi’ breed goat farm. “Just in one year the herd size in my farm became 240 from 20. That is the remarkable feature of this breed of delivering 2-4 kids in one year. It is best suitable for dry land areas having hot climate. As the temperature level is soaring high every year due to global warming Osmanabadi breed is the best choice amongst the 24 different goat breeds available in India,” he asserts. The breeding stock was sourced locally but nurtured with self-prepared rearing and breeding program of Mr. Nadaf.

“Soon after graduation, I went abroad for work. I extensively travelled to 16 countries and in my last job in Kuwait my salary was Rs. 1.5 lakh/month plus all perks. One day while in office I thought, why I am working for 13-14 hours? Who is the beneficiary of this hard work? Answer was ‘Arabs will be benefitted.’ Immediate second thought was why not I work for my country, my people and my soil? Within next 15 days I resigned and came back home in 2009. With all the savings I bought 35 acre farmland in my village. I tried almost all possible crops be it vegetables, grains, pulses etc. The production was satisfactory but the net profit was marginal. Besides farmers in Bijapur district were depressed and were committing suicide. It once again set me to think as what is the solution. Then I realized most of the enlightened souls like Jesus Christ, Mohammed Prophet used to rear goats so it certainly is extraordinary venture! I did extensive research on goat farming and found it to be indeed profitable business thus became goat farmer in 2012,” Mr. Nadaf describes the drive to set up the goat farm.

Within the first year itself Mr. Nadaf earned good profits and started recommending goat farming to other farmers. He provided free-of-cost training at his farm to farmers on rearing goats with the intention to enable farmer earn better and put a forever stop to suicides. So far he has trained 650+ farmers and farming enthusiasts. “My training sessions are practical oriented so that farmers can apply the learning on the field,” he affirms.

Osmanabadi goats feed primarily on dry fodder precisely 70% while remaining 30% is green fodder. Dry fodder comprises of dust of pulses, sorghum and groundnut. Green fodder includes subabul leaves, hedge lucerne or even hydroponically grown greens. Green fodder is grown in-house while dry fodder is sourced locally.

Mr. Nadaf recommends concentrates to be a ‘must’ in everyday diet of goat along with the fodder for weight gain and consistent growth. He shares his secret formula of preparing concentrate, “Take coarse powder of maize (35 kg), black chickpea (15 kg – called kala chana in Hindi), groundnut (25 kg), wheat (15 kg), green gram (10 kg- called moong in Hindi). Apart from these take 2.5 kg mineral mixture and half kg salt. All these ingredients should be mixed together and stored in the dry container. It is nutrient rich concentrate to fulfill all mineral requirements for consistent growth of the goats. It also provides resistance from diseases.”

Speaking about the feeding schedule of fodder, Mr. Nadaf says, “Start the day with green fodder around half kg/goat. Next give dry fodder. Later in afternoon start again with green fodder and then dry fodder. Repeat the process around 4 pm. Finally between 6-7 pm give concentrate. Best time to feed concentrates is in evening. Add little water to the coarse mixture of concentrate so that it becomes easy for the goat to lick.”

Quantity of concentrate to be fed to the goat varies as per its health conditions and age. Kid upto one month should be given 50-80 gram, upto 4 month 100 gram/day, normal adult female goat 150 gram/day, pregnant goat 200 gram/day, after delivery 250-300 gram/day. “Lastly the breeding buck must be given 500 gram/day concentrate without fail.” Life duration of goat is maximum 10 years. After 4 months it is considered as an adult. In 24 hours water intake of goat is 1-2 litre/day. It doesn’t require much water.

Standardized vaccination schedule is must for the goats. It includes 5-6 vaccination and de-worming once in three months. “We maintain best hygienic conditions in the farm so disease breakout is almost negligible,” he highlights.

Goat can deliver kids 15-16 times in its total life cycle of 8-10 years. It delivers twice in a year. Osmanabadi goat is the breed having high prospects of giving twin kids in each delivery period. Usually doe become pregnant after 6 months age. Buck can be used for breeding after 11 months age.

Goats can be sold easily in the local market. “With more than five years in the business I receive farmers on the farm for buying goat kids and also buyers for buying adult goats. In addition, if in some need of cash I take the goats to the local market on Sunday and sell. There is no problem at all in selling goats as buyers are more than sellers,” asserts Mr. Nadaf.

When asked about the price of the goat he says, “Unfortunately price is never fixed and it is under the hammer of bargains. I have suggested the government authorities many times to fix the price as per the weight of the goat but it is still sold as per animal. Selling price per goat depends on its age, gender and health conditions. A pregnant goat is sold for Rs. 20 thousand or more, 4 months old male goat for cutting at Rs. 3-4 thousand, 6-7 months old male goat for cutting at Rs. 5-7 thousand if its health condition is good.

Sharing future plans Mr. Nadaf concludes, “I am committed to help farmers engage in goat farming because it hurts when farmer ends his life due to financial crisis. Goat farming has the ability to put an end to these suicides however only problem faced is getting loan from bank! Loans for buying any vehicle can be obtained within one week without any mortgage but for goat farming even after visiting bank everyday for six months, mortgaging the farmland, there is high probability of loan application getting rejected. It is the biggest hurdle in attaining the true potential of the goat farming. If government supports then from one district Rs. 10 thousand crore profits per year can be generated. It will surely give stability to our economy. I assure farmers that goat farming is a profitable farm, take the training, do it diligently and earn the fortune!”

Contact details:
Mr. Imamsab Nadaf
Mogalai Complex, First Floor, Opposite Manuguli Ayurvedic College, Near Tasildar Office, Sindagi, Bijapur District, Karnataka
Phone – 09880227247, 08488222040

Sangita Shashikant Mhatre – cultivates jasmine to have round the year production and supply of flowers

Wins the battle of difficult times with jasmine farming

“Jasmine flower gave us a stable monthly income soon after six months of plantation. The waiting period was long but I was sure it will be good,” affirms Mrs. Sangita Mhatre, progressive women farmer from Mande village, Palghar district, Maharashtra. Along with her husband, Mr. Shashikant Mhatre she owns less than one acre farmland. Half of the farm area has jasmine cultivation while in the rest of the area vegetables are cultivated. “Jasmine had been life-changing crop for us. Once cultivated each plant yields flowers for 10-12 years. It yields flower round the year. The price of flower is certainly fluctuating but during the festivals it is sold at premium price thus balances the low price during off-season,” she adds.

Mhatre couple tries to minimize the production cost by preparing compost and bio-pesticides themselves. They have adopted unique techniques to increase the yield during festive periods. “We feed the plant with good quality and quantity of manure a month before the festive week as a result the yield increases remarkably during festival and we earn good profits,” she highlights.

Jasmine is a hassle free plant but it needs hard pruning once in six months. “We cut the plant in umbrella shape ensuring not a single leaf is present on the plant. It is important to restore the health of the plant. After 8-10 days new leaves sprouts along with the buds and quality is much better. The chopped cuttings are developed into grafts and sold to other farmers. It is an add-on income for us,” explains Mrs. Mhatre and insists sharp observation of the grower to keep a check on pest attack.

“We have to be extremely careful on pest attack. The tiny insects/pests will be stuck on the flowers so we check the flowers minutely from all sides and accordingly spray the medicine. However we prepare a preventive solution of tobacco by ourselves. It is effectual in controlling all sorts of insects even those that are not visible with the eyes,” she affirms. To make tobacco spray, in 4 litre water boil 1 kg tobacco for one hour. Then after mix one kg pearl millet flour (bajra) in it and allow the liquid to cool. Once it is cooled, mix one litre sour buttermilk in it. This concentrate should be mixed in 100 litre water and sprayed on the jasmine plants once in 15 days. This spray can be used for other plants too.

Jasmine buds are harvested, stored in refrigerator, stringed into hair garland (gajra) and then sold in the wholesale market the next day. “Mostly we sell it to traders and he pays us in cash. We are aware he makes more profits than us but we have no other way out as of now. Any genuine guidance or help in this regard shall be appreciable,” highlights Mrs. Mhatre.

Irrigation in the entire farm is done through drip irrigation. The system has been installed without any subsidy. “We never tried taking the subsidy because it involves tedious paper work and we find it tough to spare the time for the same. However drips are important for using water efficiently so we installed on our own by taking the loan from our self-help group,” she shares.

Speaking about her engagement in farming activities, Mrs. Mhatre says, “After my husband lost his job due to closure of MIDC factory he decided to turn into a full time farmer as we had the land. I supported his decision and helped him in farming as much as possible along with managing home and children. We used to grow paddy through SRI method and had backyard poultry. We were earning but it was meager! In parallel I was also proactive in welfare activities of women in our village. We formed self-help group in 2008. Then a turning point came in 2015 with BAIF Development Research Foundation run ‘Umeed Abhiyan’. The organization was looking for women with some knowledge on farming as the facilitator for change in the village. I was selected as ‘Krishi Sakhi’ and given training in numerous verticals of agriculture. One of the programs was on jasmine cultivation and this is how I got introduced to this flower farming.”

In her farmland it was getting increasingly difficult to cultivate paddy as the soil was not supporting the crop therefore changing the crop was the best way out. Being affirmative in approach and never scared of failures Mrs. Mhatre decided to try out jasmine crop. She even convinced her husband and transplanted 200 saplings in a small patch on experimental basis in 2015. “Within six months we started earning regular income from jasmine. The production was good thus in 2016 we planted more saplings. Finally as of date in half of our farm area we have jasmine cultivation,” he shares. All the saplings were sourced from BAIF Development Research Foundation. In remaining farm, mostly green vegetables are grown as it is sold fresh and at good price. Poultry was discontinued due to lack of space.

Mhatre couple faced big loss in December due to sudden rains in green vegetables but not in jasmine plantation therefore they are now transplanting new plants in their vacant area of the farm. “Irrespective of loss in green we will continue it because multicorpping is important. However, we have little space (two gunta) available with us so this June we will be planting some more jasmine plants. We will be transplanting our grafted jasmine saplings instead of purchasing from BAIF,” she reveals.

Mrs. Mhatre concludes, “Farming is a gamble but farmer has immense power to come out of every problem. If we face loss in one season we will be able to recover it in the next season. We are not scared of problems or losses in farming as our respect and love for soil is infinite!”

Contact details:
Mrs. Sangita Shashikant Mhatre
At Vittalwadi, Post Virathan Bubruk, Mande village, Palghar district, Maharashtra – 401 102
Phone: 09209245623

Niranjan V Parangi – decides to grow palm trees for less maintenance and regular cash in-flow

Switches to palm cultivation for stable income and less maintenance

“Less monitoring, no fear of theft, disease and pest resistant, assured crop and regular monthly income are unique features of palm cultivation. Earlier than palm we were focused on coconut and sapota. These two crops demand more attention for production and marketing. On the contrary palm cultivation is more stable and hassle free to manage,” highlights Mr. Niranjan V Parangi, progressive farmer. His 14.5acre palm plantation is located at Hosaritti village, Haveri district, Karnataka. “We also have 12 acre coconut and sapota plantation but it is given on lease,” he adds.

“We have Tenera variety of palm in our plantation. In this variety male and female flowers are grown in the same plant,” he shares. Primarily palm crop was chosen over coconut and sapota because of less labour requirement and regular monthly income. “As palm neither gets affected by any major disease nor suffers from pest attacks there is not much work in the farm apart from irrigation and feeding the soil with manure. It too can be managed automatically now. In addition palm is not stolen at it is thorny and heavy unlike coconut and sapota. Palm fruits do not have any other use apart from extraction of oil.
Moreover in case of any problem regarding health of trees then Karnataka palm growers association are easily approachable for assistance. Further they regularly visit the growers and help them in best possible way. This association is linked with government,” he elaborates.

Once the saplings are transplanted the first harvest is obtained after 4years that then continues for 40 years. Saplings were transplanted in triangular method pits of 60cmx60cmx60cm dimension. 60metres distance is maintained between plant-plant. In one acre approximately 52-58 plants are accommodated. Saplings were sourced from Simhapuri Agri Tech, Harihara. “To promote palm cultivation amongst farmers government has agreement with the company thus we got the saplings free of cost. Also the horticulture department makes regular visits to our plantation and gives required guidance,” he informs.

Water is the only key requirement for palm trees. It needs 200 litres water in an interval of 5days. Any land is fine for growing palm and as it is supported by most of soils except saline, alkaline, coastal sandy and water logging. The trees yield fruits once in a month. “As the fruits are harvested and sold every month we get the stable income every month for the entire year. In winters the yield will be usually more because of cold temperature. Giving adequate water is important for increasing the yield. Further we try to improve the yield by pruning the branches once or twice in a year. Also we feed the soil and trees with organic fertilizer thus our production cost is very less,” he asserts.

Zero budget natural farming is practiced in the farm. As palm trees are disease and pest resistant farming inputs used are farm yard manure, neem fertilizer and green manure. When asked about practicing zero budget natural farming, he says, “It is efforts of my father. He was a committed agriculturist. When he learnt about organic and natural farming he instantly started practicing it. In the process of conversion he realized farm maintenance is less when compared to conventional farming. Zero budget natural farming is labour intensive in the initial years but later the farm becomes self-reliant.”

Speaking about intercropping palm with other crops Mr. Parangi clarifies, “First 3-4 years we can go for intercrops but it is labor intensive. We had cultivated groundnuts and sweet corn. However later as the palm trees grow intercropping is not possible because of shade.”

Fruits of palm tree have good market value. One bunch of palm fruits weighs 20kgs. It is sold as a whole fruit. Oil is extracted from pulp as well as seeds. In Mr. Parangi’ s farm palm fruits are sold to one company for more than a decade. “Palm cultivation is simple routine work of taking care of the trees, harvesting fruits and selling the produce to Simhapuri Agri Tech, Harihara. We have tie up with them since the beginning thus everything happens on time. We will harvest the fruits and they will pick up the produce from the farm gate,” he states. Annually yield per plant is 150-200kgs and yield per acre is 10 ton.

Price of palm fruit is fixed jointly by company and Directorate of Horticulture. “Presently company pays Rs. 7.75/kg for every harvest and Government pays additional Rs. 2/kg annually as a support price to encourage farmers to continue palm cultivation,” he reveals. Payment is made through online transfer. Every year cost of production would be Rs. 10,000-15,000/acre while profits earned would be approximately Rs. 80,000-85,0000/acre. “Overall it is a secured agriculture crop.”

Mr. Parangi holds B.Com and was working in Bangalore until May 2017 in cyber media. He took up farming after demise of his father. “I have relocated to my village to look after the palm plantation,” he states.

In time to come he shall continue the present operations. “My father took the right decision at right time of doing palm cultivation and practicing zero budget farming. Now the soil health is improving and our farm revenues are satisfactory. Agriculture requires series of experimentation with various crops, once clicked then farm becomes independent and revenues are consistent,” he signs off.

Contact Details:
Mr. Niranjan V Parangi
S/o V. K. Parangi, Bazar Main Road, Hosaritti PO, Haveri Taluk and District – 581 213, Karnataka
Phone: +91 97393 41639

Shivappa Hanumappa Hadimani – grows multiple crops along with livestock rearing for stability in farm operations

Recommends growing multiple crops along with livestock rearing for stability in farm operations

“Integrated farming is much more interesting than mono cropping. It is nice to have farm with diversity in plants and livestock. It also helps to learn more things endlessly. Monocropping is risky, mundane and bad for soil. In case of some problem either in cultivation or market price, if the mono crop fails then it shall be a complete loss whereas it is never so in integrated farming. If one crop looses then surely other crop picks up. The flow of cash is continuous every month,” insists Mr. Shivappa Hanumappa Hadimani. His farm is located at Kotnalli village, Bagalkot district, Karnataka.

Maize is the main crop grown commercially in the farm. As trees help in improving bio-diversity Mr. Shivappa planted a good mix of tree varieties across the 8 acre farm area. These are 100 coconut, 10 sapota, 10 mango, 100 teak, 10curry leaf and 10 drumstick trees. Seasonal vegetables grown are onion, tomato, brinjal, okra and ridge gourd. “We grow almost all veggies even the green leafy vegetables like fenugreek, coriander etc. Oilseed cultivated is groundnuts. We are cultivating sugarcane in 1acres for the seed purpose. We will harvest seeds in another 6months and then start the cultivation,” he adds.

An integrated farm needs to have livestock, “Yes! We have cows, sheep and poultry in our farm. The set is small but largely helpful in farm maintenance and contributes to farm revenues significantly. We have 4 cows of jawari breed and 2 buffaloes. The milk yield is less but for us it is mandatory to have these local breed of Karnataka for its dung and urine. The milk yield is less but quality is superior thus instead of selling it to cooperative we prepare butter and sell it at Rs. 1500/kg. On an average we are able to produce 2 kg butter every week,” states Mr. Shivappa.

Commonly 8-10 sheep are always there in the farm and it keeps changing. Sheep kids are sold at Rs. 5-6000/animal and its litter is used for making manure. “We also have local jawari breed poultry birds. We sell eggs if in excess and also hens. Litter of birds is nutrient rich thus it is decomposed to make manure,” he says.

Mix of organic and conventional farming is practiced in the farm. “We do use chemicals but our focus is more on using cow based manure along with sheep and poultry litter turned compost. We make all the commonly used agri inputs from cow dung and urine such as panchgavya, jeevaamrit, farm yard manure etc. Slurry from biodigestor is fed to the soil regularly. It helps immensely to restore soil health. IN addition we grow manures once in two years for improving the soil health like sun hemp for 1.5 months,” he shares.

Crop cultivation is planned as per the season. Pre monsoon vegetable, wheat, Bengal gram (household purpose) crops are selected while post monsoon in 2 acre groundnuts, 2 acres jowar and maize are cultivated. Later to harvesting these three crops seasonal vegetables are grown. “We grow onion every year in different places so that it helps in crop rotation. In our production plan we also consider the harvesting period. We ensure crops cultivated have different harvest time so that every harvest would have at least 15 days time. It is a cycle as per the nature. It moves on naturally,” he states. Sprinklers and flood irrigation is used in the farm.

Farm produce is either sold to the traders or in wholesale market. The price usually is negotiated with the traders while it is auction system in the APMC market. “Traders come to our farm, harvest, take the coconuts. We prefer to sell tender coconut as it is more lucrative. We earn approximately Rs. 1lakh/year. From coconuts,” shares Mr. Shivappa. Teak trees are sold occasionally. “Recently we sold 25 teak trees for Rs. 25 lakh each. The trees with 4 feet girth fetched good price. I have another 50-60 which I will sell after 2years.”

Price fluctuations in farming must be controlled feel the farmer. He went through difficult time due to a continuous dip in the vegetable prices. “Onion is sold anywhere between Rs. 50 thousand to Rs. 1 lakh per annum while production cost is Rs. 20-30 thousand. Tomatoes and brinjal seems to no-profits at all! Similar was the issue with groundnuts. The yield has dropped and so is the price! Earlier we used to get 20-22bags of 35-40 kg but now it has reduced to 10-12 bags. We have asked for assistance from KVK, hopefully next season shall be profitable,” he informs.

Inspite of the recent loss in vegetables farmer keeps up his spirit with livestock rearing and fruit trees. “This is the reason why integrated farming is important. It strikes the balance. Loss doesn’t deter me from agriculture. Also as I belong to a farmer’s family I felt farming is suitable for me than any other profession. It is been 20 years I am into farming and deeply satisfied. I find farming to be profitable. Further we follow simple process then there are not much problems faced. In my farm I find new technique driven farming difficult so I have age-old farming practices and it is worth it all. I enjoy farming and that is more important,” he concludes.

Contact details:
Mr. Shivappa Hanumappa Hadimani
Kotnalli village, Layadagundi PO, Guledgudda Taluk, Bagalkot District – 587203, Karnataka
Phone: 09448956384

Srishailaparappa Sankartti Handigund – recommends sweet corn for stable annual income

Trader cum farmer finds sweet corn more profitable than other crops

‘Initially sweetcorn was grown as intercrop for earning additional income but it became more profitable than other crops! Within 4months we could harvest sweet corn. Demand of sweet corn always exceeds the supply therefore price appreciation is more than other crops,” says Mr. Srishailaparappa Sankartti Handigund, farmer cum trader of chemical agri inputs. His 40 acre farmland is irrigated land located at Handigund village, Belgavi district, Karnataka.

Being part of agriculture community, slowly and gradually he has multiplied his farm acreage and now grows multiple crops. “I grow sugarcane (15-20 acre), turmeric (3-5 acre), banana (3-4 acre), vegetables (1-1.5acre) namely tomato, brinjal, green chilies, cluster beans, beans, wheat (1-1.5acres, kaveri and jawari variety), Bengal gram, groundnuts, sweet potato, carrot,” he informs. Vegetables are only grown organically rest all other crops are cultivated through chemical farming practices.

It is ideal to grow sweet corn in June for best yield. “Sweet corn and turmeric were grown simultaneously in June. Sweet corn is harvested after four month while turmeric is harvested after 8.5 months. Sweet corn can be sown anytime in case of sugarcane,” he states.

Sharing the details on sweet corn and turmeric cultivation, he says, “First the land is tilled properly after applying cattle manure. Beds are prepared leaving the channels. The soil is fed with DAP and irrigated with water. Sweet corn seed is sown in the channels and turmeric rhizomes on the beds. We give water through drip on the beds and moisture from the bed is utilized by sweet corn in the channel. After a month we give chemical fertilizer like urea, complex 26:24:24, Neem hindi, DAP, Potash etc. Weeding is done manually as required. We leave the land for slight drying and then add urea again and complex 26:24:24. We give fertilizers when required. We spray Roger, cofidor, neem oil as pesticides. It is all as per the guidance from KVK.”

Two varieties of sweet corn are grown alternatively namely jawari and dekalb in the farm. 2kg sweet corn seed were sown in two acre that yielded 20 ton. Cost of seeds varies from Rs.900-1100/kg. By and large sweet corn is free from diseases or pests. One plant yields only one sweet corn thus after every harvest farmer has to go for the next cycle. Post harvesting sweet corn the left over plant makes nutrient rich fodder for the cattle.
Traders buy entire farm produce from the farm gate accept sugarcane that is sold to the sugar factory.
“The traders come for auction of the produce. Whoever bids maximum we sell the produce to them. Sweet corn is sold to traders from Mumbai, Belgaum, Vijapura etc. Turmeric is sold at Sangli (Maharashtra) at Rs. 7500-10000/quintal (depending upon the grades). Sugarcane, 86 variety, is sent to sugar factory in Sahidapura (Belgaum district). It is sold at Rs. 2500/ton. Earlier we were producing jaggery but discontinued due to labour problem. In our farm sugarcane production is 800-900 ton and turmeric produced is 35-40quintal per acre,” shares Mr. Srishailaparappa.

He concludes, “I am cultivating sweet corn from past 10years. It had always been a profitable crop. A crop like this helps in farm endurance.”

Contact Details:
Mr. Srishailaparappa Sankartti Handigund
Raibagh Taluk, Belgavi District, Karnataka
Phone: 09844496811

Gangavva Avaradhi – grows green leafy vegetables for higher profits

Develops profitable model of farming with green leafy vegetables

“We grow green leafy vegetables as it has a stable market throughout the year. It also gives quick returns as almost all green veggies are one month crop. Selling veggies is easy because we have the market nearby and I have good customer base, they come to the farm for buying greens directly from us. We grow minimum 4-6 varieties of greens in 0.5acre. We plan the plantation in a way that green crops are grown in alliance with winter, summer, pre-monsoon and post monsoon. For example dill leaves are sensitive to disease attack (budi roga)(ash disease) so it is not cultivated during mist formation. We have learnt all these farming intricacies with experience in farming for last 20 years. This knowledge is beyond the books and google,” affirms Mrs. Gangavva Avaradhi, progressive farmer from Gamanagatti village, Dharwad district, Karnataka. Green leafy vegetables grown are fenugreek, coriander leaves, dill, spinach, mint, rajagiri etc and vegetables namely radish, tomatoes and onions. All these crops are grown as intercrop between mango and chickoo trees.

The land preparation is done with cattle manure in summer once a year. “In addition, before sowing 10 kg seeds we treat the soil with 1bag of 50kg vermicompost only,” she says. To get high yield,
seeds are thrown in the farmland and irrigated appropriately. “In our one acre (40guntas) land we prepare our 0.5 gunta at a time. We partition it into 4 parts. In each part, we make bed 3feet wide and 100 feet long. We sow seeds, cover it with manure and then water it. We will not waste even an inch of land!”

Mint leaves are cultivated on separate portion as it yields for 3 years once planted. “After 3 years we remove it and grow mint on other land as crop rotation is important. Post harvesting mint three years later in the same land we grow some other vegetables after treating the soil with cattle manure. In this way the cycle keeps repeating. We will try to control disease with good pest management,” highlights Mrs. Gangavva.

Pests are controlled with the bio-solutions made from neem oil and cow urine. “As we are into organic farming all the agri inputs are made within the farm. During heavy rains the farm is prone to pest attack so we spray some organic tonic to give the crop protection. These are sourced from KVK in half price,” she states. Rest the farmland is nourished with cattle manure and vermicompost. “We have one cow and 2 oxen. Milk is used for home consumption while cow dung for our farm.”

Speaking about seeds to crop production yield, she elucidates, “Seeds sown in the farmland depends on the weight of the seed like radish seeds are heavy but spinach seeds are light. However on an average we harvest 1-2 ton greens from approximately 1quintal seeds. Our harvest also depends on the climate and environment. We can say that we get some amount after deducting the production cost and are happy that we are not dependent on any one crop financially.” 50% of the produce is sold to the walk-in buyers where as rest is sold in the market.

Price of the vegetables is decided as per the market price. “It is the only discouraging factor of farming.
We do not get any premium price for our produce even though we have organic certification. The market price is same for all the produce whether organic or chemical produce. Only benefit is that as we are organic our production cost is less because we do not buy any expensive chemical fertilizers or pesticides. So whatever we earn is our profit. Further I am satisfied as we grow organic and eat organic thereby our health and our soil health is maintained,” asserts Mrs. Gangavva.

Greens sell all through the year. “As per my experience I feel summer is the best time to grow greens as demand is more and supply is less so price is high. During monsoon the supply is more as many farmers grows greens thus price comes down,” she states.

Mrs. Gangavva also has mango and Chickoo trees in her farm. The varieties grown are Ratnagiri and Alphanso while chickoo is cricket ball variety. “In our region we are having poor demand of chickoo as people do not prefer the fruit due to its high sugar content. Mango fruit is good but the price drops as supply is increasing every day. To cope with this problem we have now transplanted moringa saplings,” she shares.

600 moringa saplings are transplanted in 5 X 5 feet distance in 10guntas. In the same field greens and vegetables are cultivated as intercrop. These veggies are harvested 4 times in a year. “Moringa is a bonus crop as we neither spend any money nor much time on cultivation. There is no need for manure because moringa saplings fulfill its manure requirement from greens and vegetable cultivation,” she says.

Mrs. Gangavva concludes, “Farming is more than just a source of income. By spending two hours in morning I am able to take care of my farm. Growing crops like green leafy vegetables organically is gainful for the soil, environment and our health. It is extremely satisfying. I am glad to be a farmer.”

Contact details:
Mrs. Gangavva Avaradhi
W/o Parameshwar U. Avaradhi, Gamanagatti Grama, Navanagar PO, Hubli Taluk, Dharwad District – 580 025, Karnataka
Phone: 09986944554, 09448822254

N. Revanna – supplies native vegetable seeds

Arts graduate becomes seed supplier. Specializes in onion seeds

“I used to buy onion seeds for my farm and found it very expensive. I used to pay Rs. 1,500-2,000/kg so I started producing my own seeds. After a while other farmers also started asking for seeds thus slowly and gradually I began producing onion seeds commercially,” says Mr. N. Revanna, onion seed supplier. He supplies seeds to 350-400 farmers.

His 5 hectares farm is located at Hosakunduru village, Chitradurga district, Karnataka. “I completed Bachelors of Arts and took up farming because I realized I could work best in the soil. In the beginning I was cultivating cotton and the returns were nominal. However on the advice of a friend from Hiriyur, Chitradurga district, I switched to onions to get higher crop yield. And now since last 20 years I am into onion cultivation and seed production. I also grow other crops on small scale,” he adds. Seasonal vegetables grown are brinjal, tomato, chilli and sweet corn. Farm also has Raichur jowar, Bengal gram, tur dal and pomegranate cultivation.

First and foremost Mr. Revanna was growing desi onion namely Garva and Roganimbakaru but later he switched to Arka Kalyana and Bheema super variety of onion. “With the help and guidance from Babbur Horticulture department I have started cultivating these super onion varieties. They gave us 2 kg seed free of cost to check its performance in the fields. During the trials the varieties performed well in our soil with good yield, better quality onion and disease resistance. Then after many farmers started using it,” he shares.

Speaking on discontinuing local onion varieties he says, “We farmers were noticing regular pest attack on Garva and Roganimbakaru varieties and drop in the yield too. On the contrary the super onion varieties have longer shelf life so the selling price was higher thus more profits.”

Arka Kalyana and Bheema onion is 4months and 10days crops, sown in the month of May-June and harvested in September. “After harvesting, I sell onion tubers and keep 10-20quintals of 30mm size onion tubers for seeds in shade. These are kept for a month in shade. I pick good quality onions and sow in the month of November for seeds. These sown tubers give seeds after 4months that is in March,” he explains on the seed production process. The land used for cultivation of onion and seeds is different. “I keep a land patch exclusively for producing seeds.”

The farmland is nourished with cow dung manure with trichoderma and pseudomonas mixture for seed productions. In one acre 20quintals tubers are needed. “The tubers are sown at a distance of 6inches from tuber to tuber. Later after sowing, first irrigation is done manually then with sprinklers. Once the onions sprout it is irrigated with drip lines. It will sprout in 10days,” he elaborates.

To manage the pest in onion seed production sweet corn is grown on the farm boundary. The sweet corn plants grow high and secure the onion plants from pests and insects. “The onion tubers are fenced with three rows of sweet corn to avoid the entry of insects. It will break the flow of breeze and keep the onions tubers safe. Sweet corn is planted at the distance of 4 feet from onion plant in 3 rows. 5kg corn seed is used that yields 4 quintals corn and leaves for cattle fodder. To improve the onion seeds yield honey bees box are kept during flowering sourced from horticulture department (free of cost). The bees help in pollination and good yield is obtained,” he states. In one acre, the production cost incurred is Rs. 80 thousand.

The yield obtained is 4-5 quintal seeds. By the end of March, seeds are harvested. One tuber will give approximately 50-100seeds. The size of the flower decides number of seeds produced. If the tuber is treated well with manure and bees boxes are kept in the farm then 150-200 seeds per flower is obtained.

Seeds are sold to the farmers across Karnataka at Rs. 500, 1000, 1500 or 2000/kg. “If the seed production is good then price is reduced,” assures Mr. Revanna. Seeds are also sent through courier as required by the farmers. Seeds can be sown directly in the soil as preparing the nursery plants will be more expensive for the farmers. “Germination rate of my farm produced seeds is almost 95%,” he claims. In one acre 5kg seeds are required.

The unsold seeds are stored in air tight containers. “The containers are kept in cold storage at Akshaya Food Park, Hiriyur for 5-6 months. Rs. 2000-3000/quintal is paid as rent. If I keep seeds at home the seed germination rate reduces by 25%,” he shares.

To improve onion yields Mr. Revanna advices farmers to focus on land preparation and using drip irrigation. “To prepare the land for onion cultivation, 15 days before mix 2ton cow dung with 4kg trichoderma and pseudomonas. Ensure to keep the mixture moist. Water the land and add manure mix to the soil. A week later add bio-fertilizer in the soil, sow the seeds. Put sticky traps to attract the insects. In case of any trips or other pest spray the neem based herbal solutions. Irrigate the farm with drip system,” he explains.

In future Mr. Revanna wants to form Onion Growers Sahakari Sangha and create a brand name for his farm produces to get the recognition in the market.

He concludes, “Crop yield can be increased by learning and adopting modern techniques such as keeping bees boxes during flowering as it helps in pollination. Similarly for selling the produce we must keep exploring new avenues and stay alert then earning will surely improve!”

Contact Details:
Mr. N. Revanna
S/o Neelagiriyappa, Hosakunduru, HosadurgaTaluk, Chitradurga District – 577 554, Karnataka
Phone: 9008555454, 9945553680