TIRUVARUR / NAGAPATTINAM: While Veerasamy talks about how agriculture thrives in Cuba, Saranathan rattles off about value addition in farming and marketing techniques for his dairy products. The first is an MA in political science, while the latter is a cost accountant and MBA graduate. No, these are not the run-of-the-mill city people with white-collar jobs, they are your next generation farmers armed with degrees and not ploughs.
In fact, the plough is now obsolete in the Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Thanjavur districts, replaced by increasingly modern techniques adapted by increasingly educated farmers.
What’s more, more and more sons and daughters of this crop of farmers are taking to agriculture — and implementing what they’ve learnt in college. While Saranathan incorporates several MBA and cost concepts into his profession – the ‘value addition’ at his dairy farm includes selling three dairy products with just one simple small machine – he sells milk, butter and cream (used by bakeries).
Veerasamy’s chest swells with pride as he talks about his son, a third year civil and structural engineering student, operating and repairing his farm machinery, while his daughter, an electrical and electronic engineering graduate, is also an integral part of the nine acres the family owns in Sozhiyankottagam in Panagatankudi village, in Mayiladuthurai taluk.
Asked why she quit her job at a motor company that fetched a decent pay package, Kasturi says farming is what interests her the most — something proved when she simply cannot stop explaining how they make organic fertilisers and pesticides and what crops they grow. Saranathan, too, says he knew he wanted to take up farming right from the start, while Thiruvarasamoorthy informs that his son gave up his `50,000 a month job to come back to his roots.
Kasturi is now pursuing a certificate course in poultry farming through Indira Gandhi National Open University to mix up traditional with modern methods to develop a kozhi pannai (poultry farm) with local varieties. She has also completed short-term field trial courses for manufacturing value added products and vermi compost.
Progressive farmers like Veerasamy and Thiruvarasamoorthy, former panchayat president from Koadangudi, strictly say no to chemical fertilisers, but whip up their own brew. Both farmers open and show off drums full of their homemade concoctions - the smell that invades your nose is overwhelming. While Veerasamy showed us a homemade insecticide consisting of ‘poisonous’ leaves, cow dung, and water, Thiruvarasamoorthy showed off Panchagavya, a natural fertiliser made of five ingredients from a cow - milk, ghee, curd, urine, and manure. To this, the innovative farmer adds rotting fruits - both farmers like to experiment with their recipes and available items. They don’t like to even throw away the remains of fish, which usually go straight to the dustbin in urban areas.
Thiruvarasamoorthy reveals that there is a technique to ‘manufacture’ earthworms in the paddy field. Amritha Karaisa and Jeevamritham, made from cow’s dung, urine, jaggery and other natural ingredients are delivered to the field in parallel with water using sprinklers with a range of 80 feet.
Veerasamy shows a tank where he grows azolla, a water-based Nitrogen-fixing plant, as fertiliser. “This plant has tremendous potential to make some extra money,” he says. Indeed, selling these fertilisers and pesticides could be a beneficial side-business, as Thiruvarasamoorthy, too, reveals. “Fish acid sells for `150 a litre, while Panchagavya sells for `50 a litre,” he says. Without a single penny spent, a tank in Veerasamy’s house is covered in green with azolla.
Veerasamy has not wasted a single inch of land. Rather than concentrating on one or two particular crops, he has planted bitter gourd, spinach, mango and several other lesser known varieties like ‘neer goyya’ (water guava, a Kerala-based variety, that we sink our teeth into and find delicious). Saranathan too, claims that he has made only losses from paddy and sugarcane, and is slowing switching over to other crops like high-intensity mango, grams and pulses.
Veerasamy has now come up with a new initiative - he has ordered about 10 boxes of honeybees from Coimbatore, and plans to start tapping honey soon.
It is indeed sparks like these who keep the spirit of agriculture alive, with their innovation and passion.