Taking Up Organic Farming at 13, Kerala Student Now Grows 50+ Fruits & Veggies!
Sooraj, remembers how his mother would pick tomatoes and chillies from their kitchen garden, wash off the soil and use them to make delicious curry. As a child, he took up small tasks to help her in the garden, and observing how she dug the ground, sowed seeds, tended to the plants and plucked the vegetables when the time came. This home-garden inspired Sooraj, a BSc Agriculture student to take up organic farming and also help other farmers in Kerala give up chemicals used in agricultural practices
“When I was in class eight, I planted some tomatoes and cowpea in our kitchen garden. I grew up watching my mother work in the garden and so, the techniques of cultivating it came naturally to me. These first seeds that I had sown gave a wonderful yield and that really inspired me to continue,” he tells The Better India (TBI).
Soon, he turned this tiny kitchen garden into a venture campaigning for organic farming. Taking his knowledge beyond the observations he had made as a child, Sooraj, in his final year at the College of Horticulture, Kerala Agricultural University, researched various methods of farming. He also undertook training under Subash Palekar’s Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). ZBNF is a technique of farming that requires no production cost. Relying on natural resources such as land and water available in a particular area, ZBNF technique helps grow organic crops.
No wonder he was awarded with the Karshaka Jyothi Award for the best student farmer in Kerala. The award is a state government initiative to promote agriculture among young people.
Sooraj formed “Project Earthworm”, a farmer’s group where he got together with organic farmers like him to conserve over 100 varieties of rice, tubers and other crops while also marketing the need to shift from chemical farming. “Many people think that using fertilisers is an easy solution to get a good yield. In fact, they’re conditioned to believe so. But that isn’t true. We have a lot of eco-friendly alternatives”. Further he tells “Plants mainly need micronutrients to grow. Plants also need potassium and phosphorus, but these can be absorbed only in a soluble form. To facilitate this, we can introduce microorganisms to the soil, instead of using chemical fertilisers.”
Tomatoes grown at Sooraj’s Farm