Years ago people mocked his fancy for the greens saying no sane person would give up a cushy bank job for farming. What began as an attempt to protect the flora from destruction, later turned into a passion for collecting different varieties and is now, an academic wonder for all serious students of Ayurveda, Ecology and Botany.
A collection of over 1800 varieties of medicinal plants and 150 fruit varieties is what makes A V Purushothama Kamath different from the lot. Spread over an acre-and-a-half plot, ‘Gurukulam’ in Thammanam houses a wide range of plants, some of which are endangered, some highly medicinal and some precious academic reserves. From exotic varieties like ‘Baraba fruit tree’, ‘Jamaican Star fruit’, ‘Miracle fruit’, ‘Jabuticaba’, ‘Sri Lankan Shimshipa’, ‘Dove orchids’ and Torch gingers to favourites like Olives, seedless jackfruits, mangoes, chaampas and lemons, the farm has greenery in abundance. Mornings at Kamath’s farm here are very different from the neighbourhood, with countless birds, butterflies and squirrels all around.
“We do not remove the coconut trees that are infected with leaf rot. The worms that occupy them are food for these birds and we have 12 coconut trees for this purpose,” says Ashalatha, his wife. His three children, Vinaya, Chitra and Anand too are diligent participants of this pursuit to protect flora and fauna.
The 65-year old horticulturist is particular about undertaking the cleaning, watering and other works on his green patch himself and feels that hired workers will not feel the same love for the plants that he does. The plants at ‘Gurukal’ are untouched by chemical fertilisers of any kind. “We use only vermi-compost and biogas,” he says.
His efforts have been widely appreciated and won him several laurels. Among them are the Krishi Bhavan Karshakottama Award (1995, 1998, 2006) and the Coconut Development Board award for the best farmer are a few of them. He was also chosen as one of the 15 best farmers by the Biodiversity Board last year. “My dream is to convert the farm into a herbal village,” he says. Kamath is also collecting the plants seen in ‘Hortus Malabaricus’, the most comprehensive treatise of medicinal herbs.
He is currently busy writing a book through which he hopes to share his findings and knowledge about the plant world. His articles about five endangered species have already been published in Krishi Bhavan’s journal. He also takes classes for enthusiasts under ATMA, co-ordinated by the Krishi Bhavan.
‘Alungal Farm’, the nursery that has been actively supplying plants to Kamath’s farm is now in demand for the wide varieties of ‘Tulsi’, ‘Nakshatra Trees’ (corresponding to each Malayalam birth star), ‘Lakshmi Taru’ (known for treatment of cancer and arthritis) and aloe vera among others.