Reaping a rich harvest

INNOVATIVE FARMING

Reaping a rich harvest

“He is good at marketing,” Susheelamma says, smiling at her husband. Sadashivaiah agrees with her wholeheartedly and adds, “I have inherited the skill. Irrespective of whether it is flowers or vegetables, I have never returned home with unsold produce. That has added to my success in agriculture.” The couple lives in Maragondanahalli village 12 kilometres from Tiptur in Tumkur district.

The Kannada translation of ‘One straw revolution’ by Masanobu Fukuoka changed 75-year-old Sadashivaiah’s outlook towards chemical-based fertilisers and he shifted to a non-chemical-based method of irrigation. He has been practising organic farming since 1991. Over the years, he has experimented with his land and crops and has evolved strategies to make agriculture sustainable. He has twelve acres of irrigated land, spread across four different patches. A seven-acre dry patch where finger millet, jowar, oil seeds, chilli, pulses, drumstick and other vegetables are grown meets the food needs of the family. Susheelamma claims that the family has to buy only four items: rice, jaggery, salt and kerosene for their kitchen. One block of the irrigated land spread over two and a half acres consists of five varieties of areca, four varieties of banana, pepper, turmeric, ginger and coconut. Cocoa, cardamom and coffee are other crops which he has successfully tried on the farm. “I ensured that there was a stable market before opting for the new crops,” says Sadashivaiah.

He spends most of his time in the farm, overseeing agricultural activities and sometimes, working along with agricultural labourers. In the morning, the day’s work is charted out and discussed. Sadashivaiah observes that once they understand the purpose and importance of a certain task, implementation becomes easy. Sadashivaiah’s family shares fruits and vegetables with labourers’ families, as they do with the relatives. “Taking them into confidence and treating them with dignity is important. For us they are our extended family. Our children are away in Tumkur and Bangalore, progressing in their profession. They have great love for the farm. We draw our strength from their immense support,” says Susheelamma.

A wide range of crops
Sadashivaiah is also popular among farmers for his passion for varieties. A range of betel varieties grown on an elevated platform in the middle of the farm showcases his creativity. Seven varieties of lemon are the highlight of his fruit farm. Another block has varieties of mango, sapota, guava and lemon plants interspered with coconut trees. A variety of jasmine, kakada, grown on 20 guntes, fetches a daily income for eight months in a year, starting from August. Lemon and vegetables are short-term crops while the others bring in the annual income. Sadashivaiah believes farming is rewarding. He again divides his income into four expenditure heads. This includes: agriculture, domestic needs, savings and other expenses like labour charges, organising agriculture related programmes and helping others.

The farm is designed in such a way that every plant draws maximum natural nutrients. Sadashivaiah says that 25 per cent of the nutrients should come naturally through nitrogen fixing, sunlight, monsoon and wind. Each plant should get 50 per cent of the nutrients from its biomass. So the bio-waste of the farm is utilised insitu. External inputs like vermicompost, cow manure and manual labour should amount to the remaining 25 per cent.

Sadashivaiah strongly feels that at least ten guntes of forest species should be grown per acre. That provides proper raw material for composting and ensures supportive biodiversity. A vermicoposting unit is maintained on the farm. Currently Sadashivaiah is trying to enhance the nutrition value of vermicompost.

Colourful crotons and flowering plants in the farm create an environment that soothes your senses, and also act as moisture indicators. When the sensitive crotons turn dull, he waters that particular region for three hours through drip irrigation. Four borewells irrigate the twelve-acre area.

Role model for other farmers
The farm is encircled by a live fence comprising teak, gooseberry plants in the southern direction, hebbevu (Melia composita) and silver oak in the north, mango, jackfruit and pongamia towards the east and tamarind and wild mango towards the west. The plants are chosen to gain maximum advantage from nature.

Farmers from different regions and districts are inspired by Sadashivaiah’s approach. He says that at least 40 farmers in Tumkur district have changed their cultivation methods after visiting his farm. Komala, a weekend farmer says, “His guidance  is very useful for first-timers like us. Every time I visit this farm I get more ideas and also bagful of plants.” Sadashivaiah maintains a nursery of plants which fetches him a small income.

Susheelamma used to work alongside Sadashivaiah till visitors started flocking to their farm. Sadashivaiah is an active member of organic farmer movements in Karnataka. Their farm has hosted several farmers’ meets and helps in passing on key lessons about sustainable farm life.  

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