Green is his calling...

Green is his calling...

Back to roots

Green is his calling...

Ronald Anil Fernandes visits the farm of a software professional who has infused new life into it, and is inspiring others through his passionate efforts

Of late, the number of techies who are being attracted towards agricultural activities is on the rise. While some have quit their corporate jobs to try their hand at agricultural activities, some try to balance between the two.

Vasanth Kaje, who hails from a farming family in Dakshina Kannada district, belongs to the second category. He manages to find time to look after 18 acres of his farm in Manchi village, Bantwal taluk, amidst his office work. In fact, a tour of his farm would help explore several possibilities in anybody’s existing land, irrespective of the space available.

What is unique about Vasanth is that he has tried to preserve the existing flora and fauna at the ancestral farm and has added something new to the available space, giving a new dimension to the farming activity. He has trees that are over  100 years old as well as trees that are less than a year old. Vasanth was interested in farming activities since childhood and his interest grew with age. He doesn’t regret his decision to work as an engineer and live in the cities, but feels that the exposure has helped him take the decision to return to his native.

His parents Ramakrishna Bhat and Jayalakshmi are progressive farmers and are happy about Vasanth’s passion for farming. After working as an engineer in Bengaluru and abroad for a few years, Vasanth returned to his farm with an intention to manage two professions at a time, (in 2011), at the age of 28.

“Farm holdings are complex systems and need successors for their stewardship. Since our son has come back to farm-living with support from his wife Shilpa, we are able to hand over the baton slowly and enjoy our old age, while supporting their innovative efforts,” his parents say. Right now, traditional crops like areca nut plantation are managed by the elderly couple, while Vasanth and Shilpa have been documenting the biodiversity of the six-acre forest land, that has been left untouched. Vasanth has also been experimenting with varieties that suit the agro-climatic conditions of the region while trying to introduce new plant species. Recently, the family bought four acres of land and is trying to develop it systematically. Vasanth has even started paddy cultivation in this patch.

The old farm has been divided into different sections for easy management. Six acres of land is the forest patch; another six acres of land is used for cultivation of areca nut, coconut, pepper and banana. A model forest plantation and a fruit garden with various medicinal, arboreal plants, and a medicinal plants nursery have also been developed in different patches of the farm. The family has hosted programmes like tuber workshop — to encourage farmers to collect, grow and understand the culinary and medicinal uses of tubers. Vasanth has also conceptualised and organised an event to share information about local plant varieties. Such events are held in the forest auditorium that has been created with minimal changes to the space inside the farm forest.

Right from the rare anjan (Hardwickia binata), sequoia (redwood conifer tree), edible rudraksh, dhataki (Woodfordia fruticosa), camphor tree and white torch ginger flower to the not so common in the coastal region like apple tree, mosumbi, orange to the commonly available like mango and jackfruit varieties and exotic ones like jabuticaba, rambutan, cherry and Lakshmanaphala.

Vasanth has grown many horticulture, medicinal and forest species in his farm. Among the medicinal plants in the farm are bellulli hullu (garlic grass), ashwagandha, sandhu balli (said to be a cure for joint pains) and shatavari (a lactogenic herb aiding feeding women and a medicine for those suffering from paralysis) and telegraph plant. “Our garden never disappoints us,” says Vasanth, as the family gets a constant supply of fruits and vegetables from the farm.

Something cool

Vasanth, along with family members, produces a variety of ice creams with unusual flavours such as jackfruit, chikoo, rambutan, coconut milk and cashew apple. These flavoured ice creams are produced only during the season, when fresh fruits are available. The chemical-free ice cream made of cow milk and fresh fruits is gaining popularity in the coastal region. The ice cream is available in 50 ml and 500 ml cups made from the fronds of areca nut palm.

Networking with like-minded people in the region has been of immense help to him and given a new dimension to his passion for farming. While workshops and information-sharing exercises help the new generation enhance their understanding of farming, they also provide a platform to learn.

He also gets information and inspiration by reading different perspectives on farming and visiting sustainable farmers. With each season and each activity, Vasanth’s conviction has only grown strong and now he is also contemplating quitting his job to take up farming as a full-time profession. “Farming is the ultimate profession one could dream of,” he concludes.

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