Mahesh Anna of Ammanaghatta Village, Tumkur District, Karnataka
My encounter with natural farming dates back to 15 years ago when I was frequently facing a lot of health issues especially related to the Digestive system. I had tried all sorts of medicines but they all provided only temporary relief. That was when I decided to pay a visit to the local doctor in my village who practiced Naturopathy.
“We are Nature. Nature is Us.” His words echo in my ears to date! He has his unique way of treatment where he used strictly natural remedies, during my treatment. I learned a lot about how the body and nature are synonymous. I saw how just a few days of eating clean and organic food made me feel active and energetic throughout the day.
I thought to myself that if the grains from the conventional chemical practices have destroyed our body so much then what impact they’d have had on the soil and water!
That was when I gave Natural farming a shot! I started investing myself in learning much about the techniques by attending various workshops and seminars including the one that was conducted by Subhash Palekar and also reading books like One Straw Revolution by Fukuoka.
I had made up my mind to switch completely to natural farming!
The initial period was a struggle because there were no set ground rules for it and everything mostly seemed like a hit & trial method. I wouldn’t lie when I say I felt like a mad scientist while experimenting on my crops.
The yield was low initially and a lot of people in my village started mocking me and questioning my practices. This had a great impact on my family and even though they tried being supportive somewhere in the corner of their heart, they also feared for the loss. However, I refused to give up.
When you initially start with agroecology-based methods you do not see the results overnight, but there are certain signs to show that you’re heading in the right direction. For me it was when I saw squirrels and worms making their homes on my farm or when I heard the birds chirping around, I mean this may sound silly to you but trust me when I say that I hadn’t seen such a sight before.
A year later I noticed how the water consumption was a lot lesser when compared to the times before. Soon I started growing a variety of crops like Ragi, Finger millet, Papaya, and Chikkoos.
A lot of people advised me to at least spray weedicides, I however refused to heed their advice and let them grow as the boundaries around my farm. This not just helped in nitrogen fixation in the soil but also helped the plants hold water while maintaining the temperature of the land.
The foliage, twigs, and other plant wastes are recycled as manure to the crops. They also act as fodder to my livestock. This was another interesting observation; when my cows were fed with the produce from my organic farm, the quality of milk and manure they produced was many fold better than before. Not just that, their health also improved significantly.
Today my farm is spread across 10 acres of land and houses crops like – Ragi, Tomato., Mango, Papaya, finger Millet, Ginger, Turmeric, Lemon, Chillies, and a wide variety of green leafy vegetables. All of these are sold in the market as well as used by us at home.
It makes me delighted to see that the same people who questioned me years ago, prefer my crops over others. I have heard them praising the taste of the fruits from my farm sometimes!
Natural farming is not simply a practice, it has been more like a Spiritual Journey for me that has taught me so much about nature, as well as my own body.
First published by National Coalition for Natural Farming in their newsletter in the series Celebrating Our Champion Farmers on 25 Aug. 2021