We make it part of our learning to head out to natural and organic farms to understand the untapped potential that food generating spaces give us. As we meet and interact with farmers, we learn that growers are exciting encyclopedia’s of natural living.
We visited Bettada Budadha Thota a community farming initiative started by 11 urban professionals who came together with a common passion in natural farming and started Bettada Budadha Thota means ‘farm at foothill’. Started in 2015 and located in Malvalli Tank about 75 km from the city, the farmer team grows produce in natural ways. Laxminarayan also known as SL is one of the founding members says, “We changed little when it comes to landscape with the intent of utilization nature as much we possible. Our intention is to make this a community initiative, knowledge sharing and improve understandings about natural ways in growing food”. Once you reach the farm there is an immediate shift in climate, temperature and atmosphere all refreshing to the first time visitor. The food grown is pulses, millets, vegetables, greens and fruit trees. As we examine and taste fresh moong dal straight from the plant, SL explains “The major nutrient given to our crops is Gliricedia Sepium (gobrada gida) which acts like a natural manure and keeps all the growing plants healthy.”
Millets are powerhouses and the easiest, climate-resilient forms of food known. We observe finger miller saplings, foxtail and proso millet growing. The farm also has bee boxes placed strategically in different corners of the farm to maximise on flora and fauna that nature brings. 95% of the crops grown here are rain-fed, rainwater harvesting is an integral part of their natural setup and At our next visit to the natural farm than a week later we had 100 high-energy 5th graders who were educated and taught about rainwater harvesting, beekeeping, millets, pulses, vegetables, horticulture. With heaps of questions from both farmers and students it was an intensive day of learning for both sides and the students also enjoyed a meal from grains grown at the farm, a delicious dessert made with nutrient-rich black rice from Burma – Payasam had quite a few taking second helpings! The farmers intended on making the farm-to-plate truly relevant and impactful. Understanding the significance of a natural environment and benefiting in knowledge that comes to young minds is step into natural education. We held a 5 hour outdoor education connecting the dots on nature, food and urban consumers to switch to sustainable mindsets.
The next week we drove to Chiguru Farms an organic horticulture farm spread over 25 acres started by Raghavendra Bhat a retired IT professional who went back to his roots along with 2 friends some years ago. Chiguru means ‘sprout or new shoot’ and focuses on organic horticulture; they grow bananas, roseapple, barbados cherries, litchi, mango, fig, a variety of medicinal plants like bonesetter, brahma, tulsi. We tasted some crunchy, delicious winged beans which are uncommon. Huge Rainwater harvesting have been created
Raghu explained “We have avoided using any material to trap the water faster, we allow weeds to grow and over time water starts accumulating. Almost a water marsh with wildlife sightings its long-term thinking on the farms part. Taken through vermicomposting which are fed back into the soil and large drums filled with panchgavya (mixture of cow products – ghee, milk, urine, dung, water) We also spot beeboxes which have been recently installed. Walking through the space, Raghu explains that getting bananas to go organic when it comes to bananas is not so easy. You need to be prepared for pest attacks and patience.
His intention of creating Chiguru is also to reach out to schools and have as many students and young minds exposed to his space to connect with food better. “We sometimes learn from students greatly, its not just one way, the other day a young boy of 11-12 years of age explained how his schools subjects talk about biology and geography he was making practical connections which we learnt about and were thrilled to know. This only shows and reinforces the fact that students need more exposure to natural and organic farms”. We believe so, if schools want students to do well!
Our last visit was A Green Path Sukrishi Farm – Our most recent and long-pending visit was at Sukrishi Farm located in Nelmangala one of Bengaluru’s oldest organic farms. Started by former lawyer Jayaram more than 15 years ago, this was a stepping stone for Bengaluru to start thinking and acting organic. The farm immediately hits you with one word – Food Forest. We notice more than 10 varieties of permaculture and horticulture interspaced and growing together. Coffee growing under shades, drumstick varieties, passion fruit vines with hanging fruits, brinjal, aamla, etc. Mr. Vasanthappa who met us said, “We believe in letting the environment play a natural role in growing this plays a huge advantage when it comes to growing different plants”.
A mix of orchard (fruit varieties), wood, vegetable and greens at the farm shows the living, breathing diversity in itself. All the produce is directly sent to their stores thrice a week, sans storage. It just shows how farm-fresh this is. We learnt that bush beans are harvested thrice a week 30-40 kg each time spread over an acre. As we crunched into freshly harvested ones it makes you realise that nothing can ever fresh handpicked produce.
Its been a magical August for us and we have an exciting October planned with farm visit workshops! Sign up with our google forms on a farm experience in October as we take you into the world of food, farm-fresh and reconnecting to nature and soil with the farmer expert.
Watch our newly made video on farm visit experiences in the city below