February 5, 2013

A Sunday Morning At A Local Organic Farm

sn’t it funny that despite all our advancements in various fields, sometimes we take a look back in time only to realise that the old ways were better than the new ones in many things? To me, this seems particularly so in matters relating to food – whether it is agricultural practises, chemical fertilizers, or in the food industry, to mention a few.

Organic farming is the new mantra in farming in many parts of India and it seems an odd phenomenon in a country where not so long ago, organic was the only way India farmed! The Green Revolution in the 1970s saw the old agricultural practises give way to modern ones with use of high yielding seeds cultivated over large areas, chemical fertilizers and pesticides which did boost food production and incomes of many farmers. This was however, not without side effects which the farmers themselves noticed much later.
Now there are two sides (or maybe more) to every argument and the matter of organic farming is no different with some wondering if organic farming can feed us all while others argue that organic farming is just not the way to good food production.
The organic farm at Taleigao, Panaji (Goa)
I’m not here to argue about organic farming one way or the other, but it is something that excites me. I think there’s something to be said for fresh vegetables and fruit that haven’t been exposed to synthesized chemicals. Not all of us have land available to us where we can grow something, but I have seen friends and family successfully grow vegetables on their roof gardens or balconies, enough for their personal requirement and sometimes have a bit left over to distribute next door.
It does require a passion for gardening and I know it’s not for everyone Still, I also a feel that if all we’re able to grow, as individuals, are some herbs in pots, it is a way forward.
Some of the organic farming enthusiasts who turned up at the farm
At the best, I’m someone who gardens (if I can call it that) in spurts which is not the way to get the best out of one’s plants. Yet, I dream of seeing my small collection of pots bursting with greenery.  So when I saw a small write-up in the local newspaper saying the owners/ managers of a small organic farm near where I live were opening up their farm to visitors, it seemed a good way to spend my Sunday morning.
I reached the meeting point in front of the Taleigao church where we a group of us were met by one of the managers and we walked down the open fields that were at the side and behind the church. Right in the middle of those fields was a small 800 hectare piece of land of multi-hued greenery that stood out against a background of green paddy fields.

Mustard flowers

This farm, Yogi Farms, is a part of an experimental project, to see which winter crops are best suited to the soil and climatic conditions in Goa. The people managing the farm, Yogita and Karan, do not have a background in agriculture or farming, but they more than make up for this with their interest and passion for organic farming.

Bok Choi/ Pak Choy
Bamboo Spinach
Cauliflower bed

Cauliflower leaves tied together to make an "umbrella" for the cauliflower


Marigold bush that acts as protection against nematodes

Salad greens
A tomato sapling
Cluster beans

Knol Kohl/ Kohlrabi

Not only does the farm grow vegetables which are typical in Goa like red amaranth leaves (tambdi bhaji as it is known here), okra (ladies’ fingers/ bhende), cucumber (taushe), cluster beans (chitki), eggplant/ aubergine (brinjal/ baingan/ vayangi), spring onions, turmeric (haldi), onion and garlic scapes, but also vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, knol-khol (kohlrabi), capsicum/ bell peppers, spinach (paalak) which are typically grown in parts of India that have cooler climates.
They have also successfully raised herbs like rosemary, varieties of basil and mint, sage, etc as well vegetables like bok choi/ pak choy, broccoli, rainbow corn, cherry tomatoes, a variety of lettuce including butter crunch lettuce and arugula on the farm.

They use dried cow dung/ cow pats and panchagavya as fertilizer. Panchagavya is also a good pesticide as it the practise of planting marigolds in between saplings the beds as these are good for controlling pests especially nematodes. Marigolds also fetch a good price in the flower markets locally.
My trip has got me enthused for now about extending my meagre pot collection in which some basil, mint, lemon grass and chillies are fighting to survive. I came back from the farm with some eggplant and tomato saplings which I have planted in a couple of pots. If they survive, I’m planning to go back and pick a little more stuff from the farm that should be able to grow in my pots like some herbs and may some salad greens.