KOCHI: In the quaint village named Mangode situated in the Nilgiris, lives P K Kumaran and his family of five. Their mornings are quite productive. From the sprawling five acres of land near their home, Kumaran’s wife Indhira, his son Dhaneesh, daughter-in-law Soumya and six-year-old grandson Dhamik actively picks up lush green tea leaves.
They follow a zero-budget natural farming method formulated by agricultural expert Padmashri Subash Palekar. Kumaran farms using resources available at his premises. Nothing is sourced from outside. The tea is processed at a small unit near their house. Though Kumaran has been a tea farmer for around 33 years now, it was only ten years ago that he went completely sustainable.
“I have been farming since I was young. Apart from tea, I farm vegetables, fruits and other produces. Like the majority of farmers, I was also dependent on chemical fertilisers earlrier. Back in 1995, I attended a training session in Pune conducted by the horticulture department. There, I realised how mindlessly farmers use such chemicals without any knowledge of the side-effcets they induce. Since then, I started using them less. After attending a training session by Padmashri Subash Palekar, I initiated a fully-organic zero budget natural farming, that is completely dependent on cattle manure. Initially, I tried it on a small patch of land. In 2013, I turned fully organic,” says Kumaran.
Five years ago, Kumaran started marketing his tea leaves under the brand P K Natural Farm. Back then, he had to send them to a factory for processing. He grows the leaves through ‘cutting’ method, where the stem is planted in the soil. ATK and 61 leaves are used to form green tea and Orthodox black tea. The organically cultivated tea leaves have a special taste, which is further enriched by the care Kumaran’s family shows while picking them.
“The leaves I pluck are just a week old. Such tender leaves give a good taste. Our tea leaves are special. We work with tender leaves because we are a small establishment that wants to give our customers the best,” he says. The small processing unit is placed close to the farm so the plucked leaves can be brought immediately to the unit. Kumaran says this will affect the taste too. Kumaran gets around 40- 50kg of tea leaves daily. They are not powdered here, just withered and dried. The fresh leaves are kept in a panning machine, and then shifted to a roller to shape. Finally, it is sent to the dryer, and after five hours, the leaves are ready to be packed.
The zero budget natural farming fertilisers are mainly made out of cow dung and cow urine — Jeevamritham, ganajeevamritham, and beejamritham. Kumaran rears Gir breed from Gujrat and Saiwal from Punjab. “Jeevamritham is used more as it will multiply microorganisms in the soil that generate essential minerals that aid the growth of leaves,” he adds. In a 200 litre barrel, cow urine, dung, water, and mung bean powder is mixed. After 70 hours, the component is directed to the farm using a venturi system.
Green tea and black tea are sold at shops across the country and is shipped overseas too. “No matter where the product is sold, the price remains fixed,” says Kumaran, who also has regular customers who buy directly from him.
For 100g: K100