Fresh vegetables, sans chemicals

Nutritious Views of Akshayakalpa farm at Dasarighatta in Tiptur. Photos by Author

Fresh organic vegetables welcomed me when I entered Akshayakalpa farms at Dasarighatta in Tiptur in Tumakuru district. While one person on the farm was grading vegetables, another one was packing them in paper covers as per consumer demand. At some distance, I could see vegetables ready for harvest on a raised bed.

“This is the way we grow vegetables organically using the raised bed method of cultivation,” said a farm manager pointing towards the variety of vegetables grown on raised beds filled with compost-enriched soil. He added that through this method, they are able to grow vegetables throughout the year. 

Raised bed method

Akshayakalpa Farms is an initiative of like-minded enthusiasts who began experimenting with sustainable methods of agriculture a year ago. They also run an organic milk production unit. They are growing vegetables without using chemicals on one acre of land using the raised bed method on an experimental basis. 

Here, an acre of land is divided into three portions. Small channels have been dug on the periphery of the land to help percolation of rainwater. Plants like curry leaves, drumsticks, papaya and banana are grown here as these plants grow a little taller than other plants. Green manure plants are grown along the fence. Amid this, creeper vegetables are planted. A corner of the land is reserved for preparing compost using the efficient Nadep method.

In the remaining land, there are around 41 raised beds. Each raised bed framed by Kadapa stones is four feet wide and 70 feet long. These beds which raise above the ground are filled with red soil, silt, coal and compost and vegetables are grown there. Space has been left in between the beds to facilitate harvesting and maintenance work.

Water management

The vegetable cultivation here is completely dependent on water supplied by tankers. Drip pipes have been installed below the beds and the plants are watered through droppers. Interestingly, every raised bed has a variety of vegetables. Seeds are sown in geometric patterns with some space in between.

After 15 days, a new set of seeds are sown in the space left in between. This ensures a continuous supply of fresh vegetables. In this way, over 25 varieties of vegetables are grown here.

Pest control

For managing pests, 30 flytraps have been installed. A liquid mixture of green chilli, ginger and garlic is sprayed over plants as an additional measure. Post-harvest, the vacant space is filled with organic compost which is prepared on the farm itself using agriculture waste.

Another speciality of this farm is that the vegetables grown here are of native varieties and the seeds needed for this are also produced here itself.

Preparation of compost

For preparing the compost, a simple brick tank of four feet height has been constructed with vents provided between the bricks for necessary aeration. First, a layer of biomass is filled in it. This is followed by sub-layers of slurry and lake silt. This process is repeated until the tank is full of compostable materials. After sealing the tank, creepers are grown over it so that moisture is maintained. Once the compost is ready after a few months, it can be used for three to four months.

Consumer base

“Every day, we supply around 10 to 15 kg of vegetables to the ‘Akshayakalpa’ kitchen. The staff working here also buy it. We give more preference to quality and so we grade vegetables according to their quality,” said Shivaprasad, farm supervisor.

“The production of vegetables is a little less in summer. However, it is plenty in the rainy season. Some vegetables are used for producing seeds. Earlier, the excess vegetables would be dumped into the compost pit. But now, we are trying to dry it (dehydration method) under the sun. However, we are yet to achieve total success in this,” he said.

A WhatsApp group named ‘Akshayakalpa Organic Group’ has been formed to help customers buy the organic vegetables and milk produced here. Most of the members of this group are from Tiptur. The list of vegetables available is put up on the group. The vegetables are then supplied based on the demand from customers.

First, the vegetables are harvested and then grading is done. After that, the vegetables are packed in paper covers. In the evening, it is delivered to the customers at their doorstep. Price of every vegetable is fixed on a daily basis and customers do not worry about price fluctuation.

“While we used to get vegetables from the market, we would first wash the
vegetables using tamarind juice and then put it in the ozoniser. Now, the vegetables purchased from Akshayakalpa can be used by just washing them with water. Also, the vegetables are fresh when compared to the vegetables sold in other shops. Their shelf life is more. We buy vegetables from the market only when we do not get it here,” said Soumya Kiran of Tiptur, a regular customer of Akshaykalpa vegetables.

An ongoing experiment

Presently, there is a lot of demand for organic vegetables but the supply is quite less. To address this issue, Akshayakalpa is encouraging farmers to take up cultivation of organic vegetables. They also document the sowing process, pest management, weed management, use of compost and other data. So far, they haven’t made any profit from this venture. Once a method of cultivation is established and profit is gained, the method will be shared with others, these entrepreneurs say.

“This is just an attempt to grow more vegetables in an organic way on a small piece of land. Those farmers who are convinced about this method of farming can adopt it as per their convenience. Ultimately, the objective is to prove that organic vegetable cultivation is possible on a large scale,” said Prakash, extension officer of the farm. 

(Translated by Divyashri Mudakavi)

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