Their farm, Neernalli farm house, nearly eight kms away from Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district, is home to a mix of traditional and modern crops including areca, cocoa, coconut, pepper and jackfruit. The couple has also taken up dairy farming in a big way.
Seetaram Hegde owns 15 acres of areca plantation, all raised on his own. He also owns five acres of coconut plantation. These two plantations have nourished cocoa and pepper which are intergrown. He has also grown 500 plants of agar wood and as many as 3,000 cocoa trees, nearly 1,000 banana plants and 5,000 pepper creepers.
Cocoa was a neglected plant in the midst of areca plantations a decade back. It was even taken out of many areca plantations at a point. But Seetaram Hegde persevered with the growth of cocoa.
The forestrio variety is suited to the climatic conditions of Uttara Kannada district. He has as many as 3,000 cocoa trees of the same variety, which yields beans twice a year.
In his plantation, a cocoa tree 20 years old yields 40 kgs of wet beans, mirroring his success. The present market rate per kg of wet beans is Rs 40. This makes cocoa an excellent subsidiary crop. Also, cocoa is a good mulching tree which restricts weeds.
Fertilisers are not a problem for the couple because they run a big dairy. The mutual understanding between the couple ensures the smooth functioning of the plantations and the dairy. Seetaram Hegde looks after the plantations while Vedavati Hegde helps him through dairy farming which also provides the requisite fertilisers. The couple took up dairy farming as an experiment way back in 1988, with 15 buffalos and eight cows.
Today, their cattle shed has 70 cows and calves of Jarsi, Holstein, Sahival and Red Sindhi variety. Ever since 1995, the couple has not brought cows from outside because of the breeds they have in-house. The couple sells 400 litres of milk everyday and each cow yields 18 to 24 litres of milk everyday. After the minimal use of fodder, maintenance of cattle, labour charges, the couple makes a net profit of Rs 30,000 per month excluding gains made from fertilisers generated on the farm.
“Dairy farming can be successfully, if one chooses the right breed of cattle, ensures a proper supply of feeds and green fodder and nurses calves,” says Vedavati Hegde, winner of Auspee Award and K N Nagegouda award. The dairy has become a centre of learning for those who are passionate about dairy farming.