PERAMBALUR: Farming has been a part of human civilisation from as far back as 9,500 BCE. But, somewhere in between, people joined the rat race and forgot that organic farming is, actually, the long-established method. Unlike Surulirajan of Esanai village, who decided to cultivate grapes organically in Perambalur.
The 47-year-old took up a challenge to cultivate grapes in the water scarce district. You must be thinking: “Isn’t Tamil Nadu one of India’s top groundwater guzzlers?” Yes, which is why many farmers in drought-hit areas prefer going back to the traditional methods to fight against the lack of water for irrigation. Also, grapes are, apparently, the least waterhungry of all orchard crops.
However, our farmer here is looking at a bigger picture. His main focus is to provide nontoxic food to people. Surulirajan worked as a lorry driver earlier. As the income wasn’t sufficient to make ends meet, he switched to farming 15 years ago. He also cultivates vegetables such as bitter gourd, eggplant, snake gourd and onion on his four-acre land.
“I cultivated vegetables along with my parents for many years. Even though I got enough income from it, I planned to grow a new crop through organic farming. When I had gone to hilly areas while working as a lorry driver, I saw grapes being cultivated. That’s when I got the idea,” he said. Speaking t o TNIE, Surulirajan said that he had spent around `1 lakh for the grapes. He gets two tonne of produce per acre, and sells the grapes at Rs 120 per kg.
People and vendors from various districts, including Perambalur, Ariyalur, Salem, Chidambaram and Tiruchy, visit his field to buy grapes in wholesale and retail. “Since I grow it naturally, people come directly to my field to buy it. I sell an average of over 200 kg of grapes a day,” he added. Well, grape cultivation has been considered as one of the most remunerative farming enterprises in India! Surulirajan further said that he did not have major expenses for maintenance as his wife and three daughters helped him in farming. He also thanked NABARD for teaching him organic farming.
“We can live a healthy life only if we have high immunity food in our diet. My family eats what we produce in our field. We avoid buying from outside,” he added. Surulirajan’s holistic approach of providing non-toxic food to people shows his unyielding tenacity.
THE JOURNEY OF GRAPES
Cultivated grapes are believed to have been introduced into the north of India by the Persian invaders in 1300 CE, from where they were brought to the south (Daulatabad in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra), during the historic event of changing the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad, by the king, Mohammed-bin- Tughlak. Ibn Batuta, a Moorish traveller, who visited Daulatabad in 1430 CE, is reported to have seen flourishing vineyards there. Grape was also introduced in the south, into Salem and Madurai districts of Tamil Nadu, by the Christian missionaries around 1832 CE. From Delhi, Daulatabad, Madurai, Salem and Hyderabad, grape cultivation then spread to different parts of the country
A HELPING HAND
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is a national financial institution run by the Government of India. It has the mandate of promoting sustainable and equitable agriculture, and
rural development through participative financial and non-financial interventions, innovations, technology and institutional development for securing prosperity. The institutuion came into existence on 12 July, 1982