Of late, people have realized the importance of keerai(spinach). Doctors are highlighting the value of keerai in daily consumption from health point. Organic farmers have constantly been increasing the cultivation and harvest of keerai to cash in on the consumers’ behaviour. There is a general awareness that at least one keerai should be one of the dishes on the table on a daily basis. Above all, the farmer gets double the profit in the absence of intermediaries.
Kulasekara Ramanujadasan, alias Sivakumar and Kumudhavalli Ramanujadasayai, alias Jayanthi couple belongs to Devangapuram which is in Mettupalayam –Annur road in Coimbatore. This ideal couple is actively engaged in keerai cultivation which is otherwise hereditary for them.
Devotion to duty:-
The family has 11 acres of land with bore well irrigation facility. While Sivakumar, a B.E.graduate was running his own business of engine spare parts factory, his wife Jayanthi, an MBA post graduate is helping him in managing the factory. Though his father had been taking care of the field operations, he was still following the chemical farming practice. Sivakumar and Jayanthi were devout devotees and they used to hear lot of religious discourses wherein they happened to get necessary awareness of organic farming and its resultant benefit on health aspects. Being further motivated by Pasumai Vikatan magazine, they turned themselves to be full-time farmers subsequently.
Sivakumar confirms that he was influenced by Pasumai Vikatan to enter into agriculture, especially after having subscribed for the same in the Codissia exhibition hall at Coimbatore five years ago. When he revealed his strong intention of shifting to agriculture on a full-time basis, his father’s happiness knew no bounds. However, he was not for shifting to organic farming practice. Hence, Sivakumar had a compromise with him to spare just three acres for complete organic farming on a trial basis.
Jayanthi Sivakumar admitted the fact that the first job that they did after shifting to agriculture was to buy a country cow and then cultivation of keerai. They had certain teething problems which were later overcome by them. Incidentally, Sivakumar’s father had also changed his mind to organic farm practice, following the guidelines given by Pasumai Vikatan from time to time. They have serious plans to include banana, papaya, maravalli etc. in their land.
Nine types of keerais and 400 trusted customers:-
Initially, they were selling the keerais in Coimbatore and Mettupalayam markets involving middlemen as a consequence of which they had to shell out more money towards transportation, commission for middlemen and labour. In due course, they started addressing the selling points directly wherein they were able to avoid incurring the above expenses. Now it is 4 years since they started this direct sale method and the same is successful for them.
They procure Vendhiya keerai, Mulai keerai, Siru keerai, Thandu keerai, Pallakeerai, Manathakkali keerai (Sukkatti), Arai keerai, Pulicha keerai and Agathi keerai, thus totalling nine varieties in three acres of land under rotational system. They arrange for direct marketing and sell 200 keerai bundles daily @ Rs.15/- each irrespective of any type. They sell in this manner for 25 days a month and are able to earn Rs.75,000/- in all. Deducting a sum of Rs.25,000/- towards incidental expenses, they are able to receive a net income of Rs.50,000/- per month.
Sivakumar happily declares that they get more mental satisfaction in doing this. He gets double the satisfaction out of not only earning considerable money by selling to their trusted customers but also creating an awareness on the importance of the harmless keerais every day. Because it is under organic farm practice, the quality of the keerai is superior and they continue to be fresh for 48 hours. They have some export plans also.
Process of cultivation:-
- The earmarked one acre land should be ploughed firmly and garlic should be sown.
- At the time of sprouting, it must again be ploughed with the help of rotavator
- 5 tonne farmyard manure and 4 tonne goat residues should be spread evenly and partition bed should be created
- The age of the single harvest pattern keerai is 25 days and the age of the multiple harvest pattern keerai is 6 months
- The keerai seeds must be mixed with sand and spread in the partition bed
- It can be mixed manually and properly irrigated
- On the 6th day, they will sprout, following which the weeds should be removed
- With seven days gap, two times jeevamirda karaisal should be poured in
- Keerais are prone to insects. Equal quantity of ginger, garlic and green chilli should be mixed and powdered and soaked in in one litre cow’s urine. For every 10 lt. water in 300 ml. Of above karaisal should be sprinkled on the keerais once in 10 days in the early morning and the insects would not attack the plants.
The above process is applicable for vendia keerai, mulai keerai(purple amaranth), siru keerai(tropical amaranth), thandu keerai (foxtail amaranth)etc.
After 25 days, the harvest for the above keerais can be made
In the case of pala keerai, manathakkali(Black night shade), arai keerai (Amaranthus aritis)and pulicha keerai(Hibiscus cannabinus ), the harvest can be done after 30 to 35 days
In the same way with the same gap of 30 to 35 days, repeat harvest can be undertaken for six months
To kill the insects in these keerais, equal quantity of nochchi, pirandai and sottrukattarazhai should be powdered and soaked in cow’s urine for a day; then it must be mixed in the ratio of 10 lt water for 300 ml. karaisal and sprinkled to do away with the insects
Sivakumar/Jayanthi’s marvellous achievement not only lies in successful organic farming practice in respect of keerai cultivation but also in making it 100% self-sustaining for the resources of time, money and energy invested by them in their fields.
(This article written by G Palanisamy in Tamil for Pasumai Vikatan has been reproduced in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)