Go native in your veggie garden
By Rakshnna Pattabiraman | Express News Service | Published: 04th January 2017 01:40 AM |
CHENNAI: In this health-conscious world, amateur gardeners are a growing tribe. And they need natural fertilisers and native seeds. But city stores usually keep hybrid or GM varieties. Enter Hariyalee Farm with 560 varieties of native seeds.
The farm is run by Varun Prabhakar, 28, a mechanical engineer who left his job in the US to do farming in the country. The farm practices Vedic method of farming. He says, “We use bio fertilisers such as Jeeva Amrutha, Gana Jeeva Amrutha and Panja Kavya prepared from fresh cow dung and cow urine and bio pesticides such as neemastra, bhrahmastra, Agni astra to keep the plants pest free”. Native seeds are easier to tend to and they cause no damage to the land.
"The gut of the cow is unique,” says Varun. “We have documented this in the Vedas. The intenstines of the cow has the right concentration of microbes which can be used to fertilise the soil. It is also a great means of pest control." Native seeds also make the farmer independent. "He (or she) can harvest seeds from his crop instead of procuring them each time," says Varun.
He believes that green revolution failed in two ways. Environmentally, it encouraged chemical farming which ruined the soil and water table. Secondly, it increased the concentration of chemicals in the yield. There is also the excess dependence on expensive and hybrid seeds. The Hariyalee Farm has a philosophy that runs contrary to this, and their produce is sold in many restaurants and grocery stores.
Varun was inspired by the efforts of his father Dr. Prabhakar Rao, 60, who spent considerable time to collect native seeds from across the globe and raising awareness about Indianised Vedic farming practices. Rao spent years travelling and collecting the seed varieties.
"I was a practising architect,” says Rao, “and I travelled often. Wherever I went, I spoke to farmers and collected seeds. I brought them back to India and tried and tested them. Of the 560 varieties I tested, 140 were suitable for our country. These varieties should not be allowed to go extinct. We sell them to home gardeners and local farmers who are keen on native varieties."
Rao says that he has worked with 20 lakh farmers in the country. “All of them welcome traditional agricultural practices,” he says. "Most of the farmers have been completely destroyed by chemical farming. They are ready to start chemical-free farming. The soil has deteriorated so much that there is no yield," he says. "We tell farmers to go to the market to sell their produce not to buy any, what Vedic farming can actually do for them." Hariyalee farms also conducts one-day workshops, which is attended by a diverse audience of different age groups and occupations.
"Families bring their children too,” he says, “to see what farming can actually do."
Rao has been involved with the International Seed Savers Exchanging which aims at preserving old varieties. They collect and preserve seeds from everywhere. "Vegetable varieties too disappear every year in the developing countries. But we're not paying attention to it. If any animal species is on the verge extinction, we have NGOs and several organisations raising awareness about it, but what about plants and vegetables?" he asks.
The father and son duo along with Arjun Punukollu, a friend of Varun’s from the US, presently manage farms. Their web portal is hariyaleeseeds.com.