"We (Ashwini, Jalaja, Dipika, Reena) accompanied the Zeta (class 4) children to the farm yesterday. It was a welcome break from the classroom sessions and a relief to have an alternative space, in the absence of Ali’s farm. The sun was gentle and it was a perfect weather to enjoy the day on the Ragi field. The field was green and fresh with the recent rains that attracted a lot of butterflies, insects and birds. The kids were immersed in the field in their own ways-some looking at the spiders, ants, the beetles and the little yellow butterflies and dragon-flies that caught all our attention. A few were on the look-out for their friend the ‘gecko’ on the compound wall.
“The plants have grown really tall - as tall as us!" exclaimed the kids. The two acres of sprawling Ragi field (ours and the neigbouring farmer's included) was a beautiful sight, with blades of green leaves swaying in the quite breeze and so much life!
Mr. Shamanna, the farmer growing Ragi on Radha’s remaining land was present in his field while also lending a hand in the construction work at Radha’s. He enthusiastically came over to our field and spent some time with us. He took great pride in sharing his knowledge about the crop that he has been growing for years. He held the Ragi flowers in his hand and told us that they would be ready in about a month’s time for harvesting He showed us the various varieties of Ragi that have come up in our plot. The little plot of ours have about Four varieties of Ragi growing!!!!
The flowers (or infloresence) with long thin petals are called kadimurukinna Ragi (given by the ‘paramathma’ or God himself, as Shamanna puts it), which is the oldest and the first variety, the second one being Indaf 9, long, thin and straight petals in the inflorecence, the Indaf 5 that is curved inside and slightly longer than Indaf 3 where the inflorecence is more stout and curved. The petals in each inflorecence vary from five to seven depending on the variety. He also pointed to the ones with disease. He then explained the process of harvesting either manually or through machines. With so many enthusiastic young farmers and the limited size of our plot, we will harvest manually. Mr. Shamanna certified that our Ragi is of better quality - thanks to the methods that we’ve adopted( applying Jeevamruta/ composting/ mixed cropping) . It takes effort and planning and maybe that's why organic products are more expensive?
Shamanna also brought to our attention, the several visitors to the field and the fact that they have already tasted our Ragi before us - the rats, the rabbits, the ants and other insects. (He showed the Rabbit's poop in a corner, for proof :) He counted the poop balls and only then declared it to be of the rabbit's ) He says that the ploughing, sowing, reaping the harvest are all very humbling as the nature provides not just the sower his food, but also invites the others to partake in the produce. Translating his words, “only after all these creatures have eaten their fill, then what is left is what we (humans) are entitled to. That’s the way nature works”.
What a beautiful concept of giving and taking!
Shamanna also told us the story of the scare-crow, how the scare-crow takes the role of a son-in-law, who is entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the field. We took a video of him telling us that story.
We thanked Shamanna for his time and did a quick recap of what we learnt .
We then observed a few minutes of ‘Silent time’ for reflection. Amidst giggles and humming, we ended the silent time and went out of the field and sat down on the tar road to do some writing and sketching.
The kids wrote down their observation, drew pictures and also sighted the usual visitor the ‘Gecko lizard’ on the compound wall. We ended the session by guessing the quantity of yield that our plot would produce. We got some very conservative figures of two kilo grams to a highly optimistic figure of 2000 kilograms and a few of them came up with a figure of 50-90 kilograms!!!
Ashwini announced a gift for those whose guesses would be close to the actual figure. The kids are waiting to see if their guess turn out right and are keeping their fingers crossed!