Reminiscences of a Bygone Organic Era, Cue to a Bright Future

Organic farming


A couple of hundred rubber trees that yielded the precious, liquid white gold, also known as rubber latex; over a hundred coconut trees, three fruit-bearing mango trees, as many jackfruit trees, one each of breadfruit, moringa and cashew trees, several betel nut trees, many papaya trees, assorted other species of trees, including coffee and giant lemon, tapioca plants, yam, elephant foot, sweet potatoes, vegetables such as brinjal, lady’s finger, beans, red spinach, green chilies, passion fruit vines and assorted other herbs, shrubs and trees constituted the small farm I was born into, and brought up in the Kanjirappally village in Kottayam district of Kerala a good seven decades ago. Those memories still remain green and fresh with me. It also happens to be the first-ever organic farm I had the good fortune to watch and draw sustenance from.

“Those days, all across Kerala, there was only one mode of agriculture, and that was organic farming,” recalled my late elder brother, Jacob, some years ago, while discussing the decline of rubber plantations in the State.

I developed a passion for farming early in life, appropriating a tiny piece of land in the family farm to grow my own veggies, pineapples and tapioca. With the advent of inorganic fertilizers a distant possibility, we fully depended on cow dung of two cows (that gave us enough milk all through the year), to manure the plants in the farm. The organic farmer in me travelled along wherever work took me. And so I created a ‘mini’ farm in the central courtyard of our home in Tripoli, Libya, growing spinach, green chillies, bitter gourd and lady’s finger plants.

Back in the Kerala capital to settle down in 1982, we turned the 15 cents of compound surrounding our home into a small replica of the farm in Kanjirappally with everything expect rubber, areca nut and cashew trees. It is all organic here too, with cow dung, vermicompost, bone meal, Neem oil cake and green leaves.

The cement concrete revolution in Kerala that banished the environment-friendly pyramid-like dwellings and put up concrete edifices in their place came in handy since the vast terraces of the houses provided enough space for grow bags to rear vegetables of all kinds.

Somewhere on the way, Kerala’s organic farm culture was derailed, replacing it with chemical fertilizers and insecticides. The State has finally realised its decades-long folly, and intense efforts are underway to promote and ensure the success of organic farming in school yards, on office premises, in revenue land and households. Hopefully, we can turn the clock back, and beat the onslaught of pollution for a greener, healthier tomorrow.

Organic farming, sustainability and self sufficiency go hand-in-hand. A big salute to all organic farmers. May their tribe grow and multiply five-fold, 10-fold, a 100-fold. We have to return to our organic roots, feed them with, and draw from them the rich bounties Mother Nature provides. That is the only way to ensure the survival of Planet Earth and its inhabitants.