This farm's a celebration of diversity

Farming

Uniformity is not nature’s way; diversity is nature’s way - Vandana Shiva

“You can find 80-100 varieties of birds and 20-25 species of butterflies in this farm. It can qualify as a butterfly park,” Dr Sanjeev Kulkarni remarks, while walking on his farm, which he likes to call a ‘forest-farm’. A barren patch of land, 15 years ago, has been nurtured into a big, diverse farm. Having realised early the perils of monoculture crops, Sanjeev Kulkarni decided to make his farm as diverse in nature as possible. A place where not a single tree stood, today stands lush green. Kulkarni, a doctor and an avid nature lover has fondly named his farm ‘Sumana Sangama’.  

Celebrating bio-diversity

‘Sumana Sangama’ means the ‘confluence of flowers’ and the ‘confluence of good minds’. This farm is about 10 kilometres from Dharwad and is situated on the edge of the Western Ghats. This 17-acre land has undulating slopes and has flowering trees, fruit-bearing trees, timber, water bodies and colourful birds and butterflies. Out of the 17 acres, nine acres of the land is used for horticulture and forest trees. Crops such as paddy, sugarcane and vegetables such as radish, brinjal, chillies and leafy greens are grown here.  

The meandering narrow lane leading to the farm is greeted by wood rose and two neem trees. The flowers of wood rose are of ornamental importance and are widely used for decorative purposes. The wood rose, Sanjeev Kulkarni explains, invites a lot of bees to the farm, which in turn helps in pollination. A small house built with sun-dried bricks at the entrance is idyllic in nature. The sound made by the casuarina trees and chirping of birds welcome you to the farm.

There are silver oaks, giant bamboo and teak trees on this farm. As the name suggests, Sumana Sangama has several flowering trees and plants, some seasonal and some perennial. To name a few flowering plants, jasmine, hibiscus, bakula (commonly known as Indian Medlar), calliandra and many others. The calliandra, commonly known as powder-puff plant, was in full bloom with pink fluffy flowers. Bakula, as it is known commonly, is a large evergreen tree and when in bloom has star-shaped fragrant flowers, which bloom during the months of April and June.

Trees of Sumana sangama

Bamboo, agave, acacia, cactus and many other plants are used as natural fencing at the farm. Fruit-bearing trees include mango, jackfruit, jamun, chiku, custard apple, wood apple and papaya, varieties of lemons, pineapple, cashew, star fruit, butter fruit, bread fruit, eggfruit, ramphal, laxman phal and hanuman phal. It is interesting to note that five fully grown mango trees were transplanted to this farm. Sanjeev Kulkarni says, “we transported five fully grown trees from Dharwad and transplanted them on our farm and they are growing very well.

These trees were 30 ft tall and were 20 years old and we brought them to our farm from Dharwad. The branches of the tree were cut off and the trees were lifted from the ground with their roots intact.” Five coconut trees have been transported similarly. Some special trees which are relatively uncommon to this part of the region adorn this farm.

Gloriosa superba, which is endemic to the Western Ghats, rakta chandana (Pterocarpus santalinus)(whose wood is used to make toys), litchi, beggars’ bowl (double coconut) and baobab trees (Adansonia digitata), one of the longest living trees in the world are the ones which need special mention. The crowns of bright orange-red flowers of ‘Flame of the Forest’, commonly known as Palas tree, are a sight to watch. The flowers provide a brilliant orange-yellow dye.

Water management

The farm has gentle slopes on the three sides and has naturally made it easier to harvest rainwater, which has played a major role in shaping this eco-friendly farm. Sanjeev Kulkarni explains, “the groundwater levels were so low when we bought this land. With enormous efforts we recharged the groundwater and dug up ponds to harvest rainwater.”

The farm has a well, located on the lowest part of the land. With the help of contour bunding, he was able to harvest rainwater and recharge the well. There are five ponds on the land, each with unique names, the Sampige honda, Maina honda, Raghu teertha, Kavali kola and Bodhi kere.

The Sampige honda holds water for almost four months after the rainy season. The Raghu teertha, named after Sanjeev Kulkarni’s deceased younger brother, is a quadrangular pond. The Bodhi kere is the largest of all. This pond gets the name from the Bodhi tree, which is in the middle of the pond, on an island. It forms an ideal place for boating, fishing and meditation.  

Unique features

This farm has a small sitting area, which is located amidst the slopes of the farm. Several discussions and gatherings are held here. The structure is a simple slope, which has been shaped by levelling the land by using cow dung. The steps and a pedestal adjoining it, make it ideal to hold discussions or book reading sessions.

The other area worth mentioning is the Antharanga, a roofed structure built out of discarded IV fluid bottles collected from Sanjeev Kulkarni’s hospital in Dharwad. This place is ideal for social gatherings. Film screenings and several workshops are held here. Children from Baala Balaga School, run by Sanjeev Kulkarni and his wife Pratibha, are regular and eager visitors to this place. The IV fluid bottles also find a place in two more structures namely, Kaj Mahal and Sheesh Mahal, owing to the nature of the material used.  

More than a farm

For the last three years, the organic produce from his farm which includes vegetables and fruits, have been popular among residents of Dharwad. As many as 100 people visit the shandy, which is held at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, in the vicinity of District Court Complex. The joy of eating healthy food, free of pesticides, is priceless.

For Sanjeev Kulkarni, this land is more than just a farm. “The returns from this farm cannot be quantified,” he exclaims. Dr Sanjeev Kulkarni admits that constant nurturing of the farm is a challenge, as it demands a lot of his time.

The farm represents a perfect communion with nature. It not only gives healthy produce free from pesticide, but also great joy. The farm is a result of the hard work put in over a period of 15 years. The farm attracts visitors in plenty. Be it winged beauties, avid nature lovers or children, this place offers solace to all of them in different ways.

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