“Knowledge, Science, Truth and Non Violence are the four pillars of Spiritual Farming”
There is great joy in having your own home grown garden. Caring for it and nurturing it is as fulfilling as harvesting it. Nothing looks or tastes as good as my own produce. For me, farming is beyond ensuring an organic and unadulterated intake for my family. It is a form of therapy. My plants push me to spend more time outside and this in turn better connects me with nature. I feel more in touch with the elements and their role in helping us thrive and survive. I am more aware of the processes of the Earth. I love feeling the rays of the sun on my back, the drops of rain, the breeze and the soft earth beneath my feet. Nature has held a special place in my heart for a long time now.
A little village in Gujarat holds our ancestral home. All my childhood vacations were spent there with my entire family. We owned cattle and grew our own food. My grandmother was the assigned caretaker and looked after the crops and animals. Back then, the term organic farming was unheard of, and yet all the farming was just that; “ORGANIC” ! That is just how things were done. My grandmother did not use any chemicals, simply because she did not know how to do things differently.
Our fruits were plucked fresh from the trees, the carrots were dug out of the ground. Washing or peeling was never required. Everything we ate was safe, clean and fresh. No chemicals or machines were ever used. We had a very intimate relationship with our produce because we interacted with everything we grew directly. There were no intermediaries.
I grew up in Mumbai. My parents did not have the space to farm. Even my hometown in Gujarat ceased to be the quaint village it once was. It had turned into an urban modern space. We did not have any place to go away to for a healthy break. I missed the farm and our bi-yearly vacations with nature. When my son was born, I desperately wished for him to experience nature the way I had. His vacations however, consisted of family holidays, extra curricular activities and a lot of television. I felt guilty of, in a sense, depriving him of nature. It was unfair that he would never know the feeling of running around in the shade of a tree all day or playing with little calves on a farm. He was deprived of simple joys like plucking fruits and eating them straight off the trees. He would never have that intimate connection with nature.
I wished for a little space, even just a balcony or terrace where I could set up a green patch of my own. I missed being connected with the Earth.
Much later in my life, my father was diagnosed with duodenal cancer. I was shocked! He was someone who had eaten home cooked food all his life. My mother was an excellent cook and they made it a point to eat healthy. This made me wonder as to the cause of his illness. That is where everything changed. An awareness of what we eat was kindled within me. I realised how deep seated and widespread the harm caused by pesticides and fertilisers was. Everything we eat is adulterated to some extent, even the so called ‘healthy’ food items.
I began to read about food and how to maintain the healthiest lifestyle possible in our circumstances.
My reading soon transformed into research. That was when I realised that I wanted to be a farmer. The only problem was, I had no real experience or knowledge of farming. I decided to learn on the job and my journey began with little steps. I bought some land a few hours away from my home in Mumbai.
Me and a bunch of local farmers began to experiment on our own. They were quite skeptical towards natural farming at first. According to them, it was simply easier to use pesticides, and hybrid seeds ensured more yield. I was determined to go organic though, and kept trying and I kept failing.My farmers kept discouraging me from the plan of Organic Farming.
I did not give up. I started to read books, blogs and articles. Essentially anything about organic farming that I could lay my hands on. The hope of discovering that one little thing that could help spurred me on. There was a lot of information available on the internet, but most of it was not relevant to my case as it was written by internationals. Their conditions, soil, weather and environment, were completely different from mine. I felt like I was all alone, with no one to turn to for help.
Isolated and lost, giving up would have been the easiest option, but it seemed to be the hardest thing to do. I began visiting successful organic farms and met people with the knowledge I was after, while simultaneously keeping up my own experimentation. I read a lot of books by Mr. Subhash Palekar. They were inspiring and very helpful. His books introduced me to the concept of “SPIRITUAL FARMING”.
I turned to books again and made a list of the most helpful ones.
These books have changed the way I treat my plants.
1) The Secret Life of Plants, by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird.
2) Secrets of the Soil, by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird.
3) One Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka.
4) ALL the books by Mr. Subhash Palekar. He is a Genius!
After reading and consequential experimentation, I faced another challenge. All the books shared the ideal of no chemicals being used, however, the philosophy and techniques were not the same. I realised that the concept of organic farming would be trickier than how it was on my farm when I was little. The markets sold organic fertilisers and pesticides, but even these would have a negative impact on the soil and crop. Even though they had the word organic, they were still pesticides and would at some level, interfere with nature and change the soil forever.
I came up with my own simple ways of farming. No frills, no complicated recipes, just natural farming. This blog is my way to putting together everything that I have read, learnt and understood.
My aim is to save others from all the obstacles I faced on my journey. I highly suggest reading the books I mentioned above. Even if what you want is one little plant in your living room, these books are a great place to start. Most importantly, they are inspirational. I treat them as my bible to gardening.
This blog is a collection of all the information I sifted through. I have tried most of the methods. Some worked wonders for me while others did not. Land, weather and other environmental conditions play a crucial role in the entire process, therefore, not everything on this blog need necessarily work for you. Depending on your particular conditions, you must decide for yourself through experimentation what works.
There is no sure shot at success. It is a process that requires time. All the methods I have mentioned here are organic and natural according to me. However, it is important that you check with your certification agency if they are valid or not, as the rules may vary from place to place.
Good luck and happy farming!