SULTHAN BATHERY: At a time when many farmers in the state are abandoning agriculture owing to poor yield and low income, Sooraj C S, a Plus-Two student hailing from Mathamangalam, near here, is scripting a success story with his experiments in zero budget farming.
The 17-year-old, who recently won the Karshaka Jyothi Award for the best student farmer, instituted by the state government, is now busy promoting ‘healthy eating habits’ through his Facebook page by highlighting the harmful effects of pesticides. His farmland also serves as a knowledge hub for aspiring farmers.
“There is no need to glorify a person who grows vegetables or fruits for his own consumption. It says a lot about our society’s misconceptions about agriculture. Each individual can make a difference by developing the habit of cultivating and eating organic foods,” Sooraj says with an air of maturity unusual in one so young.
Inspired by Subhash Palekar, a promoter of the concept of zero budget natural farming, Sooraj started farming as a hobby at the age of 15, but it has now become a full-fledged passion for him.
“During the summer vacation two years ago, I attended a seminar on zero budget farming, held in Sulthan Bathery. Subhash Palekar was the main speaker at the programme. The event helped me shape a new perspective on farming techniques. Following that, I took a pledge not to use chemical fertilisers and pesticides,” says Sooraj, a Plus Two student of Government Vocational Higher Secondary School, Ambalavayal.
He cultivates a wide range of vegetables, including cabbage, bittergourd, eggplant, tomato, capsicum, beans, green chilli, different types of yams, bananas, carrot, beetroot, and potato on his pleasingly congested four acres of farmland on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. There are also about 50 varieties of fruits such as rambutan, passion fruit, mangosteen and orange, besides about 60 types of medicinal plants in his field.
Last year, when he had a bumper crop of cabbage, he gave a major chunk of the produce to friends and neighbours, and then sold the rest of the vegetables in the local market.