A Nature Farm outside Hyderabad
This weekend was dedicated to nature and we visited a Nature farm on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Now you may wonder what a nature farm is. A nature farms take the concept of Organic farming one step ahead and let the plants grow as they would have grown in nature with minimum human intervention. So except for planting and harvesting and adding some natural organic manure made from Cow dung, mulch, Cow Urine any other human intervention is a minimum.
Leave aside chemical pesticide a nature farm does not even use chemical fertilizers. A concoction brewed from cow dung & urine (Panchgavyam) with addition of some herbs that grow on farm is considered to be potent enough to increase the immunity of crops, giving a better yield and fighting the pests just like in nature. I saw a real Jugaad to capture some of the pests, a simple Matka (earthen pot) with some sweet liquid was kept on ground and it was attracting bugs, which will drown in the same. No drugs, no chemicals, yet effective. How cool is that? Jai Jugaad! Or should I say the folksy wisdom of our farmers passed from one generation to next.
The first thing I noticed at the farm was a pair of cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis), perched high on a tree, hopping down every few minutes and take a few bugs from the cows. Did I not tell you the farm had some natural pest elimination techniques?
During the walk the plants that we saw there were very healthy with sparkling leaves glowing in October morning. The papayas were huge and the bottle guards I saw could easily substitute for a gada (Mace) for Lord Hanuman. We visited the farm with Ram Babu, one of the partners of Aahaar Kuteer the millet restaurant in Begumpet, where the focus is on minimally processed natural food.
The farm had 36 kinds of mangoes, 40 kinds of herbs, millets, papaya, okra (lady’s finger), Lemons, grapefruit, custard apple, chilies, amaranth grain, etc. Most of the herbs were grown in-between the trees to act as natural pest control as well as optimum utilization of land. Drip irrigation is used to minimize water use.
Let me show off my newly acquired gyan about some of our herbs. (Note to self: Please do it in limit)
Today almost every parent is keen to give all kind of tonics and vitamins to their kids. But if you remember during the time of our grandmothers most of the remedies were either home grown or simply brought from the local Pansari (grocer) and nobody had a need for vitamin pills. So what happened in 2 generations?
Well, we moved from organic, unprocessed foods to everything coming in a packet with chemicals to preserve them. Now the chemicals used to preserve the food destroy the vitamins, there was a need for vitamin pills.
So why not try to go back to unprocessed, natural foods as much as possible?
At the nature farm, we were lucky to spot some of the common herbs there at the farm that is used for common ailments like joint pains, cough, and head ache.
I am sure most of you have sucked on the juicy drumsticks in your sambhar, (A South Indian Broth, made with lentils and assorted herbs and spices) but do you know they are also wonderful for joint pains. The commonly found Ashwagandha plant is one of the best rejuvenating herbs found anywhere.
The Amaranth grain I talked about earlier is considered a super food and was staple for the Aztec warriors. The Spanish Conquistadores were so much worried about the power it gave to the Aztecs that they banned its cultivation. But the plant survived as weed and was again brought to mainstream after research in 70s in US. Today laddus made from Amaranth grains are an integral part of Mid Day Meal scheme in the schools. ( Trivia: Most grains and millets like, wheat, rice, jowar, corn are grasses, but Amaranth is not )
The Nature Walk in the farm was not just walking it was an eye-opening for all of us about our heritage in the form of natural way of living, using our own herbs and spices in our life.
We had nature lovers from 8 years to 80 years of age in our group and everybody was enjoying the beautiful breeze full of oxygen that our city lungs were trying to process.
I was very happy to see Mr. Sen the 80-year-old senior most member of the group, actively participating in the walk and discussion. He especially wanted to check the Amla (Indian Gooseberry or Phyllanthus emblica) trees whose fruits are one of the richest sources of Vitamin C putting the best of pills to shame. The younger lot was very happy to climb trees and pluck some of the fruits.
When was the last time you plucked a fruit from a tree, rubbed it with your T- shirt and inserted your molars in its flesh, releasing the freshest flavors that only a naturally ripened fruit can have?
There were more than 25 cows at the farm and they were looking at us city dwellers with strange eyes daring us to come closer, slightly bending their heads which adorned some of the biggest horns I had ever seen.
While I was busy clicking pictures of cows, aroma of desi Ghee started flirting with my olfactory glands, and we just followed it back to the small house in the center of the farm. Where Ram Babu and his team were making lunch for us using the farm fresh Ghee that was the source of the aroma. The cow milk is also used to produce various milk products in a totally natural way at the farm and was used to make our lunch that left us licking our fingers. But that my friends is another story soon to be written.
I am all for going as natural as possible, with the use of minimum processing of food and am all for eating fresh food without any chemical additives. What do you say?
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