Reaping a rich harvest

Reaping a rich harvest

Reaping a rich harvest

Shankaregowda, a farmer from Devagalli near Mysuru, has shown that a farmer can make a good living through farming. His success is attributed to a variety of factors such as organic farming, crop diversity and non-dependence on external inputs, including seeds. He has a four-acre farm, of which three acres are irrigated with the help of a borewell and the rest is rainfed. Earlier, he was practising conventional farming. He realised the significance of organic farming after attending various awareness sessions conducted by various State departments and nonprofit organisations.

Once he understood the basics of non-chemical farming, he gradually incorporated the eco-friendly methods. As the first step towards eco-friendly farming he increased the crop diversity with stress on both perennial and annual crops. Thus he grows coconut, banana, mango, lime, vegetables, greens, millets, pulses, ginger, turmeric, etc. He also grows silver oak, teak and melia trees. He has found that crop diversity decreases the incidence of pests and diseases in the farm.

While he considers crop diversity as key to his success, farm management and farm-based enterprises have contributed to it as well. Farm yard manure and vermicompost are two major sources of nutrition for the plants. He also recycles all the crop debris into good quality manure without burning or wasting it. “If we convert all the bio-waste into manure and put it back to soil, then there is no need to apply external nutrients,” says Shankaregowda. 

He has a pair of bullocks, two cows and 12 goats in his farm. Shankaregowda also uses jeevamrutha in the form of spray and drench, which he says is useful for short duration crops. He also has two beehives that help in pollination and as a result, enhance crop productivity. Green manuring and mulching are other practices that have contributed to improving soil health, moisture retention and weed control.

Driven by demand

Supplying the required quantity of organic produce to interested buyers consistently is a tough ask for any farmer. To address this issue, he has followed the concept of staggered sowing and planting for all the crops. As per this, he plans the crops based on the consumer requirement. For instance, he grows greens at different intervals to ensure constant supply. Crop rotation also acts complementary to this practice.

While Shankaregowda began organic farming 10 years ago, he began marketing his produce eight years ago. Initially, Shankaregowda used to sell his produce at the local mandi only. Soon, he realised that most of his profits were being consumed by middlemen. At this point, he thought of selling directly to the consumers. Though he was growing only a few crops, he immediately acted on his thought and started selling the produce in Mysuru.

Since then, he has gradually expanded his market catering to the needs of organic food buyers. Unlike the organic market trend, he sells vegetables, grains and fruits at an affordable price. This move has benefited him and his customers. Furthermore, he sells only on Sundays between 5.45 am and 7.00 am - a time when most shops are not open. Over the years, his consumer base has expanded and now there are about 150 regular buyers. When he is unable to sell most of his produce, he sells them to nearby organic shops.

Adding value

While most farmers buy their seeds and seedlings from external sources, Shankaregowda keeps a few plants or reserves a small area for seed production while harvesting the crop. He says that this practice reduces the cost of production, ensures good quality seeds and makes the farmer self-reliant. Furthermore, he grows local varieties as these are his and his consumers’ prime choice. Recently, he learnt the art of grafting and layering. This method has helped him produce good quality plant material of rare fruit varieties.

He also realised that to have higher profits, it is necessary to add value to the produce. For instance, he began to sell organic turmeric powder as per the suggestions of the customers. Last year, he produced 400 kg of turmeric powder and sold at Rs 250 per kg. Similarly, he sold foxtail millet powder at Rs 120 per kg.

One main crop and one ratoon crop are common in banana plantations. However, in Shankaregowda’s farm,  one can see around 100 banana plants planted a decade ago still yielding. After harvesting the bunch, he allows one sucker to grow every time and repeats the process again. He has also introduced 15 local poultry birds to produce organic eggs. He has a tamarind tree, from which he gets an income of Rs 15,000 by selling the deseeded pulp at Rs 100 per kg. He is also able to sell excess earthworms that are produced during vermicomposting.

At this crucial time when most farmers are affected by unpredictable weather patterns, crop failure and price crash among others, Shankaregowda stands out as a successful farmer with assured income whatsoever the circumstances are. Two years ago, he was awarded Phala Shreshta, an award given to successful horticulture farmers by the University of Horticultural Sciences, Bagalkot.