We had been planning to visit Narayan Reddy's farm for weeks ever since Laksh (Agastya Foundation) told us about the ecological ways with which this 82 year old farmer grows food and takes care of his farm soil. Before requesting him to visit his farm in Srinivaspura we read about him and saw his interviews online to arm ourselves with information around natural farming. Here are links to some nice information around him: The short video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BqUXLsWkL4&t=206s and the newspaper article about him: http://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/views/a-farmer-called-narayana-reddy/articleshow/59223419.cms?
When Roshni called him to request for a visit, he was excited to know that school kids were growing Ragi but said we had sowed too early! ("Now is the season" and then he said kindly, "I hope god will help you"! Words of faith that will come to reassure us many times later.
With this reassurance and with a bit of excitement we were all looking forward to meeting this wise old tatha! Vasantha and Jalaja took pictures of our farm with them to show him. We decided we will not coerce all kids to attend- only those who wanted to. Over 25 kids from 3 classes signed up. Two parents asked to join and they did. School teachers (Roshni, Jalaja, Vasantha, Sreeja, Reena, Madhu) and Sumathi and I - we all got ready on Saturday morning for the ride. It was a beautiful Bangalore morning - the harsh sun had gone down and it had rained the night before. With help from Googlemaps and phone calls back and forth, we managed to reach his farm in the bus arranged by the school.
We disembarked on the main road and walked on a kaccha path - just a short walk fbut very rejuvenating after sitting in the city traffic for an hour or so.
Narayan Reddy's farm greeted us with moos , baas, and quacks. The cattle shed right up in front yard and ducklings and goats were very nonchalant to this little group of visitors. perhaps used to many visitors!
He offered the kids the visitor rooms on the farm for a wash and asked them to gather around him under a shady tree. We saw avacados around us and were very tempted but sat still quietly to listen to him (under his instructions- wow, a rare experience for Poorna kids!!!). He spoke for about 45 minutes in Kannada and English and he basically told us the following:
1. Grow your own food and eat local as much as possible
2. Don't listen to the agriculture experts sitting in universities. Observe nature closely and learn from nature.
3. Keep your soil covered. Use tree cover to protect upto 72 nutrients (not only NPK!) that the soil has.
4. Don't till the soil deep. Tractors spoil 50 years of free labour that the earthworm has done for your farm. Many hands went up to ask about insects as soon as he relaxed his hold on a monologue and the Boochi talk by kids and questions came tumbling out. Seena's experience with kids had definitely piqued their interest about the whole food chain and role of insects in the soil!
5. An acre should have atleast 120 fruit trees! Trees bring rain and make the soil fertile. (Oh no! We all thought about our barren Ragi farm as he spoke!)
6. Each gram of healthy soil can accommodate one million microorganisms. Our whole effort should be to make the top soil healthy.
7. Multi crop! Don't go after mono cropping. In his farm later when we walked around, we saw fruit trees, cotton, chikoo, avacado, coconut, sitaphal, ramphal, pepper, cattle feed, hulisappu, guavas, all growing in harmony with each other.
After that he took us for a walk in his farm and like a gentle ajoba/ grandfather/tatha/ he allowed the kids to pick on the guavas and encouraged us to pluck huli sappu. We all had our laps full of this and came back to a simple lunch. Narayan Reddy himself served a piece or two of jackfruit to each kid and I heard him say to kids who had protested, It is good for you,don't say no to good healthy things .
As the day ended and we walked back, we saw the adjacent fields getting ready for sowing,The farm labour was spreading urea and tilling their land with tractors. What a pity. to not use the wealth of information on ecological farming next door !
Here is the day in pictures: