Generally, our mind will relish in peace while travelling on the hillsides. There are no words to describe the joy of experiencing particularly the evenings with a drizzling in the hills. We enjoyed such a journey recently in the hill sections of Dindigul district. We had that memorable experience when we had been to meet Thillainathan, an organic farmer in Paachalur, Dindigul district.
As we travelled through the undulating road to Paachalur from Ottanchathiram, there are fresh plantation crops such as cabbage, cauliflower and lemon trees in the hilly gardens of the region. Turning right from Kadaisikkaadu, which is thirty kilometres from Ottanchathiram, there is a sandy road to Chemparankulam. One kilometre going further, there is a farm that welcomes us, the ‘Venpa Nachchiyar Natural Agriculture Farm’.
When we entered the farm, along with the drizzle of rain he Thillainathan welcomed us. He started the dialogue, stating, ‘it will rain for ten minutes and then the sky will be clear. Then again it will drizzle. We need not to worry about it and should continue to do our work’.
“My native is Pammanendhal village, near Kamudhi, Ramanathapuram district. After my studies I was working as a surveyor in the department of land survey. As I was posted in Dindigul district I had settled here itself. Though I hail from a family of agriculture by tradition, I was not able to attend to the agriculture activities as I was into government job. In the meantime, I joined the consumer federation called ‘FEDCOT’. I got acquaintance with ‘paddy’ Jeyaraman. He was serving as a director of the federation in its agriculture division. I learnt about organic farming only through this organization. At that juncture I got an opportunity to meet with Nammalvaar Ayya. I brought him to Ottanchathiram and conducted three programmes on organic farming.
I have three children and all of them have completed engineering degree. One lives abroad and another is in Chennai. One is living with us. I had to undergo bypass surgery as I had a heart attack, five years ago. Then I voluntarily retired from my service and decided to continue living as a farmer, which is a close wish of my heart.
As I was in search of getting a piece of land for that purpose, I got this land. At the beginning I could buy two acres of it. Then gradually I could expand my land area and now I have six acres of land. There is no need to do agriculture in this hilly region. It is enough to sit quietly and you will surely have your mind refreshed. Unpolluted air, herbs, fragrant wild plants will lure you completely. That is why I have chosen this hilly place.
I continuously buy ‘Pasumai Vikatan’ magazine. In fact, it is that magazine that kindled my passion for agriculture. Based on the information stated in the ‘Thandora’ page, I had undergone a few training courses at the Training Centre of Punjab National Bank, Pillayarpatti, Sivagangai district. At present, I too am providing training at the Centre for other farmers”. Sharing the prelude, he took us inside the farm.
The top soil on the land was covered fully with leaves and agriculture wastes as mulches and the foot felt so soft on touching the soil. The whole land looked like a forest filled with coffee plants, jackfruit, Kalyana murungai, climbers of pepper, orange plants, wild trees, hill chili plants, cherries, tippili and chou chou. He plucked a jackfruit from its tree, opened it and offered us its fruits. It was so tasty and we went around the farm relishing the sweet fruits.
“When I bought this land, the coffee plants were one-year-old. There were a few banana plants too. The owner of this land who sold it to us was using chemical fertilizers for agriculture. After I bought it, I had made this a fully organic farm. I have also gained the ‘participatory organic certificate’ from the agriculture department of Tamil Nadu. When I bought the land there were 19 pepper plants which have now grown to over 600. In between the banana plants I have grown Kalyana murungai trees and made the pepper climbers to spread over them. There are coffee and orange plants among them as well. I have not left any place of this land empty. When the farm is densely populated with varied plants and trees the leaves falling on the floor by themselves cover the soil, providing natural mulching. We depend on rain for farming. We have a deep bore well and a well too. We could manage non-rainy seasons with these facilities.
As soon as I decided to opt for organic farming I had bought two cows to the farm. Daily there is a couple who work in the farm, who would take care of the cattle. I used to join with them in the routine farm activities like weeding out, pruning and other agricultural work. I would go home only on Sundays and throughout the weekdays I will remain at the farm. I am so familiar with each and every plant in this farm. I don’t consider whether it rains or shines. I will always remain at the farm. I use my house only for sleeping. All other times I speak to my children in the farm, these plants and trees. I don’t get the kind of happiness of being here from any other source.
When I bought this piece of land there were problems of Aswini insects (Aphids). As per the advice of Poochi Selvam Ayya, I made a repellent mixture using neem seed, vasambu, tobacco, each one kg soaked in cow urine. I diluted the mixture with water and sprayed on the crops. The insects disappeared at once. Every now and then I sprayed this mixture and at present there are no pest insects. Similarly, as per the advice by Professor Somasundaram, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, I treated the coffee plants affected by yellow dot disease. Equal amount of groundnut oil cake, pungan oil cake, iluppai oil cake and neem oil cake to be soaked in cow urine for seven days. Then it can be filtered and spraying the liquid will cure such disease.
After removing the shell of the coffee bean, it can be mixed with Pseudomonas sp to be used as manure for the plants. Besides, I also prepare Panchakavya and use it in the field. I consume 30 ml of Panchakavya every week. After having undergone bypass surgery, I was taking medicines continuously. But after starting to consume Panchakavya I have stopped taking medicines. I think, my ability to go around this hilly region and continue my farming activities is only due to the strength I have gained from consuming Panchakavya. I drink teak by using the herbs available in the farm. And I cook my food and eat it using mud vessels only. This air of herbs and food habits are keeping my body healthy”. Thus concluding he shared the income part of the farming.
“I don’t do farming with commercial intent. I do it simply for my peace of mind. Though I don’t gain in lakhs, I keep getting adequate income to take care of the farm maintenance, salary of the labourers and my own expenses. I gain 500 to 1000 raw bananas every week. Those who work with my son in Chennai buy all those bananas. I sell them at the weekly market at Paachalur every Wednesday. I get an average of Rs 8 per banana. So I get about Rs 4000 every week from selling banana.
Last year I gained Rs 2,50,000 from selling two tons of coffee beans harvested from the farm. And I got Rs 30,000 from the pepper. I could manage the expenditure on farm maintenance and labour salary from the earnings gained from the banana. So, the income generated from coffee and pepper is taken as a net profit. As the yield keeps increasing the income too will increase gradually”. Thus he concluded.
“Though I get adequate income from the farm, what I consider the most important is the joy and peace I gain from living here and doing the farming. The land, my mother, provides enormous happiness and peace that I can’t get from crores and crores of money. That is enough for me. There is a contribution of many souls and organizations such as ‘Pasumai Vikatan’, Professor Somasundaram, Poochi Selvam, Narayanan from Participatory Organic Certification, the Training Centre of Punjab National Bank and other pioneer organic farmers, towards the growth of this farm. I take this opportunity to thank each one of them”. He bid farewell to us overwhelmingly.
(This article written in Tamil by R Kumaresan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10/9/18 has been translated in English by V Amalan Stanley)