Pretty good harvest today, 3.1kg (about 6.5 lb) of ridge gourd from a single plant. This is on a Tilapia powered constant-flood growbed. I cleaned up this growbed recently and planted afresh. This is the first harvest from this plant.
Kids are on their way distributing it to our neighbours 🙂
Fatigue from a few hours of drive through the winding roads of Western Ghat vanished instantly as we stepped out of the car into the serene beauty of Wagamon. I was accompanying a business group that’s scouting for farm land and they were evaluating the feasibility of organic tea farming. We were at a mid size 100+ acre tea estate for meeting with the owner of the estate.
A nicely paved walk way through the tea plantation led us to the estate’s guest house. We stopped a couple of times on the walk way enjoying the cool breeze and the beautiful sight of the tea plantation that is spread across the rolling hills as far as the eyes can see. The sight of the guest house resembled more like an extended cabin of a five star resort.
The owner of the estate, a third or fourth generation tea planter in his late thirties, was standing in front of the guest house with a welcoming smile. We were seated at the drawing room and started chit chatting about the tea estate and their farming practices. In between someone walked into the room with a tray of cups. After the long journey we were all ready for a cup of estate’s special tea, but to our surprise the room was filled with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
“Intriguing that you would serve coffee rather than tea at the guest house of a tea estate!”, I couldn’t resist commenting while trying to hide my curiosity with a smile. The owner said candidly, we don’t drink tea here, we know what goes into it. There was silence in the room for a few seconds. We all knew about the use of pesticides in industrial farming, but his comment just pointed to the intensity of it. I think all our faces must have reflected what was going through in our minds. He quickly cracked a couple of jokes trying to ease the situation, and said coffee is much safer.
In the next few minutes we delved more into the farming process and talked about different pesticides and herbicides that goes into the farm. He said it isn’t viable to farm organically anymore. The labour cost is too high for weed management. It is not possible to produce the current volume using organic methods. Someone asked, wouldn’t the cost of all these pesticides and fertilizers add up to the cost of organic farming? He thought for a moment and said, amount of pesticides used is constantly increasing year by year but switching back to organic method is not easy. Disappointment was evident in his voice.
I would think farmers like him must have grown up running and playing around these tea plants, that they now think are not safe anymore for their children to go near by! What is ironic is that the life of tea plants spans over more than a century and the plants that we see now probably are the same plants that were there a generation ago. It is perplexing to think what really changed in 30-50 years that forced our attitude to change from “caring and nurturing the plants” into “managing and controlling production”. Can we sum it up in one word as “greed”?
After spending a couple of hours at the guest house we said goodbye to the estate owner and walked back to our vehicle. The tea plantation now looked different in light of what we just heard. I felt enormous respect for the mother nature as she continued her beautiful smile while patiently accepting all the poison that we have been dumping on her face.
A couple of months later, I had another tea planter from Wagamon visited my office. He was a retired professor in his mid seventies. He bought his 20+ acre estate a few decades ago while he was working as a college lecturer in Wagamon.
Although he didn’t sound like an organic farming evangelist :-), he definitely was an ethical farmer who was concerned about the current farming practices and its impact on nature.
I sat in front of him with full attention as if a five year old child would sit in front of his grandpa listening to his stories :-). After all, here is a successful farmer who passionately ran a farm for decades, fighting against the temptations and greed. He had very interesting observations on what lured organic farmers into chemical based industrial farming and why was it a trap. I said in my mind, we need more people like you, sir.
All of professor’s children are settled with their own businesses and were too busy to take care of the day to day running of the farm. So he was considering of selling the farm land. The professor was accompanied by one of his sons who was in his early forties and was running a technology related business with branches in a few cities.
While this discussion was in progress, our office attendant came and asked whether our guests prefer tea or coffee. The professor thanked and said he would just like water. I asked, how about green tea? His son, who was silent so far, politely said, we don’t drink tea or coffee. Why is that, I asked. He said, it is hard to drink tea or coffee once you know what is happening in the current tea farming industry. Recalling my earlier tea planter interaction, I asked, isn’t coffee generally safe? The professor looked at me for a second in silence, and said, coffee is even worse. 😦
We continued our discussion for an hour. Before leaving the professor said, well, the picture probably is not as disappointing as it sounds. In the recent times there has been tremendous awareness on the need for change. He said he knew of a non-profit organization that leases and runs tea estates using organic farming practices. I heard that they claim organic farming can actually be more profitable than the current farming practices and their products have good demand in the market. Meeting them is on my agenda for the next Wagamon trip. 🙂
I accompanied the professor and his son to our main door. As I was bidding goodbye to them, my coffee cup was still sitting on the conference room table, cold and untouched.
This incident happened a while ago, but this post was sitting in my drafts half done until I read it again today. I thought I should post it, and hopefully it will bring a smile to your faces 🙂
One morning my wife walked up to me with an empty bucket and asked whether I know what happened to the canvas shoes she had kept inside the bucket.
Our boys have to wear white canvas shoes to school on certain days. They usually bring back the white shoes in brown color after their day long adventures. Their mom keeps the dirty shoes in detergent overnight before she touches it. This morning she found her bucket empty and trying to figure out where the shoes went.
I took up the challenge and started my investigation. I looked around the area where the bucket was kept for clues, and concluded that whoever did this did it professionally without leaving any evidence. 🙂
I expanded my investigation domain and started walking around the house, even took a peak at my neighbour’s backyard. I started suspecting that probably my wife forgot to put the shoes in the bucket to begin with, but I decided to keep that theory to myself for the sake of maintaining family harmony. 🙂
After about an hour of brilliant research I was still clueless. Giving up on investigation and heading to the shoe shop was not an option that my ego would accept. But I had to take a break anyway to feed my fish and do my regular rounds in the farm.
I opened our 1000L fish tank to feed the fish. I couldn’t believe my eyes, two pairs of shoes are floating in the tank. Usual frenzy feeding-time jumping of fish was not to be seen. I wasn’t certain what detergent does to the fish other than making them look nicer. Luckily fish were still active and moving around although they didn’t look too happy about this human attempt to walk on water.
I started interrogating each of my children, from the eldest first, but all were proven to be innocent except my innocent two year old son. As soon as I approached him smell of detergent was evident. As a practical way of rational discussion with a toddler, I picked him up and cuddled him. His T shirt was still slightly wet from the detergent and his cute smile did put an end to my hour long investigation.
You never know what these two year olds are capable of! 🙂
Just found a bunch of beans that are infested by something. I don’t know what is it. Need to find an effective bio pesticide/trap. Yet to do research. I think it will likely end up in a neem oil spray…
So far I managed without using any kind of bio-pesticides in my system. Any time there was an infestation we physically controlled it at the early stage and we were successful. But this one seems to be a bigger challenge. More coming on this…
I pulled a 6 months old eggplant out from the growbed and planted a couple of okra (venda) and green pepper plants today.
We had this plant next to a couple of okra and so was under shade. I think we got about 1kg of eggplant, but not good enough. I’ll try eggplant again in my new growbed that’s being setup.
In my observation eggplant / brinjal / venda does well in aquaponiccs. This was on a constant flood system.