“If a seed is sown in a good soil after culturing and amending it, the return will multiply in thirties, sixties and hundreds. Similarly, a seed of goodness is sown in the heart, it will benefit many and at the same time bring blessings from the God”, says the Bible. It has been my soulful endeavor of serving God by generating good hearts and minds, as well as cultivating land for agriculture”, says Pastor Stephen Jebakumar, Thiruvallur district.
On the Chennai – Kolkatta national highway, turning right immediately after the tollgate near Cholavaram, anyone in the vicinity would guide you to ‘Beula Garden’. Spread in forty acres, there are church, Bible college, hostel at the beginning of the garden and crossing by those buildings the farm welcomes us with its coconut groves, vegetable gardens and paddy fields. We introduced ourselves to Stephen Jebakumar who was busy involving in the farm activities, started to share his experience.
My native is Thambikkottai, near Pattukkottai, Tanjore district. Ours is an agriculture family. Though I am a Hindu by birth, I was bogged down by innumerable problems of my life where Jesus Christ finally rescued and consoled me. I took refuge in Jesus as I found him a source of my consolation and opted to serve God having lured by the teachings of him. I became a pastor through the Christian organization, Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship. A pastor is not a priest but a server of God and also a social worker. I have a wife and children. I serve God with my family.
The founder of the organization is Joshua Daniel. Our office is in Nungambakkam, Chennai. We bought this land spread over 40 acres in 1997 and we moved to this land on the same year. I started living here and began to initiate social services while taking care of agriculture. I continued to carry out cultivation with the knowledge gained through my childhood days and also with the help of my Diploma in agriculture”. He continued his story after the preamble.
“I have been reading Pasumai Vikatan ever since its inception in 2007. I learned from reading it about the harm of using chemicals and pesticides. My wife’s sister died at the age of 38 due to cancer. We realized that it was due to the effects of those chemicals. Not to delay further we switched to organic farming in the year 2013.
To begin with, we cultivated paddy on five acres of land. We could get 7 bags in an acre, with a total of 35 bags on the whole. I felt I had done a mistake. But I wanted to try it again. I added 7 loads of manure for an acre and in total made 35 loads of manure added to the soil. Then I cultivated TKM 13 paddy variety popular in Thiruvallur district. This time there were 25 bags per acre and there were totally 200 bags of paddy from eight acres of land. Half of the yield was procured by the Officers of Agriculture Department considering the good quality of the paddy, keeping them as their model seed. Then only I decided to continue organic farming all through”. Stephen then continued to speak about other crops standing in the farm.
“Right now, there is paddy in 8 acres, coconut in 6 acres, vegetables and summer fruits in 4 acres, mango trees in 4 acres, guava in 2 acres, lemon and sweet lime in half an acre, and there are 2 fish ponds, 10 cattle and 80 sheep. The remaining land holds the buildings for the organization. This is a clayey soil mixed with gravel. This helps in gaining good yield. Manure is the major input. Along with that we use Ponneem insect repellent, fish amino acid, Panchakavya, Azospirillum, Phosphobacteria as well. We cultivate TKM 13 paddy variety and vegetables include brinjal, lady’s finger, tomato, snake gourd, brush gourd, bitter gourd, and various varieties of melons.
Farm work is shared by Manoharan and Xavier. Both of them were alcoholic. They came here to drop the habit of drinking alcohol and later on they succeeded to drop it and got interested in farming and continue to associate with us. Manoharan takes care of irrigation and maintenance activities. Xavier is from Dindigul and an expert in cultivating pandal vegetables. What is seen here is the sole effort by him. And he made similar facilities for many others too”. Followed by this he elaborated on the sales aspects from his farm.
“whatever is cultivated here will be utilized for our own use and the remaining will be sold to the members who attend our prayer service. They like to buy from us as the produces are grown organically and sold at nominal prices. Besides, we sell fruits and vegetables to the vendors who are old and widowed at low prices to support them. We also sell the products to the local agriculture department to be used as model seeds. When we calculate the cultivated products from our farm, we get Rs 2,40,000 from 8 acres of paddy of which the profit will be Rs 1,80,000 after deducting the expenditures to it. We get Rs 2,25,000 from vegetables. The net profit from them will be Rs 1,50,000 after deducting the expenditures.
Besides, we get Rs 3,10,000 from mango, coconut, summer fruits and fish pond after deducting their expenditure. Guava is yet to reach harvest. Sheep are used for food within the organization. In total we get a profit of Rs 6,40,000 from paddy, vegetables, mango and coconut, in a year. We use this money for the improvement of the land. The organization takes care of our accommodation, food and other expenses related to the studies of our children. When we compare the returns with the expense of the farm it is surely low but we continue to work with a sense of service to the society. Surely, the returns will be significant if we try to take care of the farm activities with commercial intent.
Anyone can visit our farm and get trained on organic farming methods. I continue to do organic farming with an intention to prove that we can carry out agriculture without harming our soil and also to the public”. Stephen Jebakumar bid farewell to us with a happy smile.
For contact, Stephen Jebakumar, Mobile: 94444-60445
“One litre of Ponneem is enough for two acres”
The Entomology Research Institute(ERI) - Loyola College, Chennai is the one that developed Ponneem and disseminated about it. Dr Ignacimuthu, Director of the lab, shared with us its details. “Pour one litre of Ponneem insect repellent in a bucket and add to it 350-400 litres of water (those who need lesser volume can mix 100 ml of it with 35 litres of water) and mix it thoroughly. It will change into a formulation resembling buttermilk. It can be filled in sprayer and sprinkled as practiced usually. It does not have any smell. When sprayed on paddy and vegetable crops it will stick on them like a paste. Its smell is detested by insects and worms. This helps the crops being protected as the pests run away from its smell. One litre of Ponneem can serve 2 acres to be sprayed on. Based on the intensity of pests it can be sprayed three times. It costs Rs 500-600 per litre. By using it, at the cost of Rs 2000 per cultivation, farmers will be able to easily protect them crops from pest infestation”.
For contact, Dr innasimuthu, Mobile” 98403-37667
How to spray Ponneem insect repellent?
“Ponneem is a formulation with a mix of Pungan oil and neem oil. We spray it at the rate of 2-4 ml per litre and repeat its spraying based on the intensity of infestation. We usually spray it once in fifteen days. I bought Ponneem, at Loyola college, for Rs 500 per litre”, Stephen said.
We have captured the details of cultivating TKM 13 paddy variety in an acre as described by Stephen Jebakumar.
Month of Aadi (Aug-Sep) is suitable for this variety. Fill and spread seven tractor loads of manure in the chosen space of the land (1.5-ton manure per load). Grow hemp using its seeds and once it flowers, plough it with the soil. Again plough the soil and plant paddy saplings that are kept ready for the purpose. On day three, supply lifesaving water, followed by irrigating the land as and when required.
On day 10, spray 5 kg of Azospirillum and on day 15, spray a mix of Azospirillum and Phosphobacteria biofertilizers. And on day 15 and 30, spray Panchakavya, 300 ml per tank, using 5 tanks. It can be supplied through irrigation water. Weed out the farm on day 20 and 45. Use Ponneem insect repellent against pest attack. It can be harvested when the paddy turns golden yellow, and it can be ensured by checking whether the rice is dense by scraping the husk away. Like Ponni rice variety, TKM 13 also tastes good.
The above method of using hemp as green manure, farm manure and natural inputs are used for vegetable cultivation too. We make saplings from our own nursery in the farm. We irrigate the farm by using mulching sheets, with water supply tubes underneath. We use solar light trap, pheromone trap, yellow card and tin to control pests on vegetables.
(This article written in Tamil by Jayakumar & Balasubramanian for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10/6/18 has been transcreated by V Amalan Stanley)