It has been emphasized by agriculture exponents for many years that ‘Multi cropping and direct selling in the market are to be followed to have profitable agriculture’. There are many farmers who follow the advice thereby doing successful farming. One among them is Ponmuthu, from Kerudamuthur village, next to Palladam, Tiruppur district. Involving his wife, Gomathi, in his endeavour of the natural method of farming, growing vegetables and selling them directly in the market, thereby gaining considerably good income.
It is a barren land till the horizon. There are sporadic windmills generating electricity. Amidst this lies a patch of a vegetable farm owned by Ponmuthu, covering the earth with its green carpet. When we reached the farm, Ponmuthu and Gomathi were busily harvesting the vegetables. ‘We need to load them in the bus, by 7 pm, going to Chennai. Let us complete the harvesting’. They continued plucking the vegetables, while we were curiously watching them. After having completed the task, he approached us to share his story. “Nearly for the past forty years, Bellary (big onion) variety has been grown primarily in this area. There are farmers who became millionaires through a single yield of onion. But Bellary cultivation has descended in these years, due to lack of labourers and drought. Many of the farmers had moved to coconuts. But, we have been continuing it without fail so far.
Along with that, we also grew tomato, brinjal, chilli, radish and beetroot. We used to take those products to Thiruppur vegetable market daily and sell them. Many local vendors selling vegetables in baskets, cartwheels, and shops used to buy from us. Once the vegetables reach the market within half an hour we will be able to sell them in full and come home at the earliest. In those days, we used chemical inputs for growing vegetables. Half of the income we used to get would be given to the fertilizer shops.
As we continued to sustain our livelihood in that way, with the help of my friend, I had an opportunity to participate in one of the training programmes conducted by the ‘Zero budget expert’ Subhash Balekar. Only then I was able to learn fully about the benefits of organic farming. After listening to Balekar, I was convinced to get into organic farming with conviction. As I learnt that we need a country breed of cows for zero budget farming, I toiled to go extra miles to have two country cows for the farm.
Since then I made a full stop for using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. I started using goat manure, farmyard manure, green manure on the farm. Also, I prepared and used Jeevamirtham for the crops. It was a land that had been poured heavily with fertilizers for growing vegetables.
It would require at least three years to convert it to fully organic. So, I decided to use this piece of wasteland, spanning three acres, to clean it up and start zero budget farming immediately. It’s dry scrubby pasture land. There are many in the neighbourhood who opted to offer their piece of land for windmills. But we retained this piece of land.
The land remained fertile as it was once pasture land, therefore it proved suitable to begin natural farming in this land. But there was not a water facility. I dug a bore well at 75 feet as vegetables need a high amount of water. As it would take a longer time to get an electricity connection for the land, I bought a diesel engine to pump out water”. He then took us around the farm.
“We grow vegetables on the basis of crop rotation. In each quarter of an acre, there are tomato, brinjal, chilli, radish, beetroot and carrot, being grown. There are small onions in half an acre and bigger one in another half. Remaining land area is waiting for more planting. The crop variety that reaches the harvesting stage, its seeds will be planted in the piece of land that is prepared and kept ready.
When harvest gets completed in the other end, there will be crops sprouting vegetables at this end. So, there will be vegetable available throughout. As we do not grow a crop continuously at a particular place, there will not be any depletion of soil nutrients.
I used to sell organic vegetables in the same Thiruppur market. I could not get any additional income. It was based on the price decided on that day. When we continued our product being sold in the market as such, one of my friends gave an ad in Facebook. Having come to know about our natural products many started calling us over the phone. Then only we realized the potential of organically grown products. Then we started packing our naturally grown vegetables and send them to other places.
At present, we keep sending vegetables such as tomato, chilli, radish, beetroot, carrot, small and large onions, amounting to about 100 kg to external markets. There are about thirty customers in Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Thiruppur and Bangalore. They would share their requirements over the phone.
Based on the harvest we get on a day, we will take the order and supply them by bus. We have our own van to drop the package at the local bus terminus. That reduces the transport cost as well”. Then he shared about the income and other related details.
“We don’t fix the price based on the market conditions. Whatever the type of vegetable, we fix the price at the rate of Rs 30 per kg. Even if it is sold for Rs 5 or 50 in the market, we strictly give them at Rs 30. As there is a natural quality inbuilt in our vegetables, customers do not negotiate the price with us. They will transfer the money in the bank as soon as the product reaches them. When it is dawn we promptly get Rs 3000 in our account. There is not much expenditure with regard to inputs.
But, as it is a crop rotation method, we need at least four labour forces on an average, every day, to take care of ploughing, weeding out, bund raising, irrigation and harvesting. We spend Rs 1,500 daily, on labour charge, inputs, transport and seeds. The net profit daily will then be Rs 1,500. In a month, on an average, we get Rs 45,000 as profit”.
Then he concluded, “Everyone says that there should be a condition where farmers fix the prices of their produces by themselves. But, we stand as an example of that as we decide the price of our organic products. The number of people who are interested to buy non-poisonous vegetables has been increasing now.
Customers are always ready to pay extra if the product we generate is of good quality. As I keep getting more number of orders, I have taken a piece of neighbouring land in ten acres on lease. I’m going to grow vegetables organically in that piece of land as well”. He happily bid farewell to us, loading the vegetable boxes in his van.
M. Ponmuthu, Mobile: 88831 04200
This is the way to cultivate!
Here is the lesson shared by Ponmuthu with regard to growing vegetables organically. Spread alluvial soil, 10 tractors per acre, in the chosen land. Wet the soil thus spread and crush the soil balls into powder. This is followed by filling goat manure, 10 tons per acre of land. Plough the soil until it becomes coarse and soft. Then, make bunds, allotting spaces according to the number of crops, and then sow the seeds of vegetables chosen for the prepared land.
Keep irrigating the land, wetting and drying it alternately. For every 15 days, pass on 200 litres of Jeevamirtham for an acre of land along with irrigation water. And for every 15 days, spray Panchakavya, 300 ml in 10 litres of water. There will not be a pest problem in the natural method of farming. If at all there are pests, spray neem seed extract on the crops. Do not cultivate in all part of the land. Keep some area as a reserve, keeping it prepared and ready for sowing. Collect the seeds of a crop that reaches maturity and to be harvested soon, and sow them in the reserve area, so that there will be a continuous supply of vegetables throughout the year.
(This article was written in Tamil by G Palanisamy for Pasumai Vikatan issue DT 25/2/19 has been translated in English by V Amalan Stanley).