CHENNAI : Passion and strong will are the two elements that make a person achieve success in every initiative they undertake. That is true for 68-year-old PG George — a class 8 drop out, who is not only a successful farmer but also a plant breeder who developed a superior variety of black pepper. An organic farmer at the Zionvalley Organic Farm in Idukki, Kerala, George was awarded the green certificate by the Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK), but his career as a farmer took shape when he was in class 7.
“I was not a good student and also, my family didn’t have the means to get me the required help,” he says. When asked about his dream job by his teacher, he says, “I didn’t have any hesitation in announcing that I want to become a farmer.” George mentions that his teacher encouraged him and said that there is nothing shameful in becoming a farmer since they are the ones who fill everyone’s bellies.
For George, that was the start and after dropping out of school, he got immersed in cultivating his family’s plot of land.As the years passed, he began experimenting with producing newer varieties of pepper and other plants. “Today my farm has over 30 new varieties of black pepper and 26 ethnic vines.” Among those, the Zionmundi vine is the prize-winning variety.
George, who is from a family of traditional Ayurveda practitioners, adds, “I also grow around 250 varieties of medicinal plants besides cardamom, coffee, nutmeg, cocoa and vegetables.”“There was a time when the entire pepper plantations got destroyed after a disease attacked the vines.” Hardy, ethnic varieties like Arayanmundi were the only vines that remained unaffected by disease or natural adversities. George developed Zionmundi from the traditional Arayanmundi.
Another aspect that challenged him while setting up the farm was the adverse climatic conditions of the place. “The place was not suitable for cultivation. The temperature and the soil texture would have destroyed my farming dreams,” he says. But persistence and application of innovative techniques helped him in overcoming the challenges. “My farm has become a major attraction among the student community,” he says. Students visit his farm to learn about the innovative methods employed and the variety of medicinal and cash crops cultivated there.