Walking the off-beat path

Walking the off-beat path

A wide range of souvenirs, including handicrafts, handmade shawls and tea didn’t impress Kuriyaje Tirumaleshwara Bhat when he visited Nepal a year ago. Instead, a special variety of apple, which, he felt, could be grown in Dakshina Kannada, and an assortment of rare pebbles, caught his attention.

This farmer from Kodiyala village, near Bellare in Sullia taluk, integrates travelling and plant collection with his profession. He says, “When I tour, I make sure that the destination has some agricultural importance.” When he participated in Dharwad Krishi Mela, years ago, he came across Jafrabadi variety of buffalo. Awestruck by its features, he instantly decided to buy it. In a couple of days, he moved the buffalo from Dharwad to his passionately designed cattle shed four hundred kilometers away. Magic fruit, a unique fruit variety he collected from a nursery in Kerala, modulates taste buds, as a result of which, even a sour lime tastes sweet! Undoubtedly, his constant quest has equipped him with a comprehensible knowledge about places and the resources one could derive from there.

His love for plants and garden comes from his intense involvement in agriculture. Both Tirumaleshwara and his wife, Pavana, are hands-on farmers. They own and maintain three acres of rubber plantation and two acres of areca. Biogas slurry is the major nutrient for areca plants since last ten years while sheep manure is applied biannually. Every week, a part of the farm is fertigated and the distribution is planned in such a way that the entire farm gets supply at least five times a year. His high-tech cattleshed with showers and fans has three cows and a buffalo.

Tirumaleshwara has observed the change in the plant growth after they
shifted to organic farming ten years ago. “The plants have become sturdy and are capable of withstanding nature's vagaries,” he feels.

Most of the crops have started yielding and have begun to generate income.
Vegetables are also a regular feature of this farm, and fodder is grown in a small patch. He says, “Mono-cropping cannot sustain lives. If we grow a set of crops, we can rely on one or the other. Subsidiary crops, though they may not give as much profit as to main crops do, cannot be neglected, as they help run the show in case of a failed crop.” So, he has intercropped arecanut with banana, coconut and tropical fruits, like rambutan and mangosteen. In fact, he has been selling four quintals of rambutan every year in the local market.    
 
Vegetable cultivation, fruit collection and exotic plants enhance the value of their farmland. Since the couple do most of the work on their own, they are able to continue their activities in spite of labour problems. Agriculture machinery like weed cutter, plant climber and areca peeler have helped them cope with the growing challenge of labour shortage.

The couple has developed a garden in their house premises, which also adds to its aesthetic appeal. “Change is constant” is the phrase best suited to this garden: They re-design the garden regularly. It is a reflection of the couple's creativity and eye for landscaping. Plants, both exotic and native, available here, bear testimony to the successful farm tours the couple has made.

Tirumaleshwara Bhat is also a member of various farmers organisations in the
region. He participates in most of the exposure/exchange visits within the state and the country and even visited Thailand to study agriculture. He believes that such activities enhance the vibrancy of agri-cultural life. Challenging the general mode of thinking that farmers cannot travel due to their preoccupations, Tirumaleshwara and Pavana Bhat have shown that a well-planned trip can complement agriculture. Their urge to take the untrodden path has helped them stand out. Resultantly, the state government has honoured him with ‘Krishi Pandit Award’, in recognition of his innovative initiatives in farming.

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