Three organic farmers from Kerala share their success story with MetroPlus. They are showcasing their products at the organic rice mela that begins in the city today

Organic farming is gaining ground in Kerala. A burgeoning market for organic produce has helped farmers to reap the benefits of organic cultivation. As more people root for organic produce, be it rice or vegetables, organisations such as Thanal are encouraging the trend by collecting organic products from farmers and marketing them. The organic rice fair, which begins today, is one such venture.

For Rajesh Krishnan, a native of the capital city, “being a farmer is the best way to reach out to society”. Rajesh, a Greenpeace activist in Bangalore, owns five acre of land in Wayanad. “ It was after working with Greenpeace that I developed a passion for farming.”

He cultivates rice varieties such as Mullankazhama, Gandakasala, Njavara, Thondi and Kurumutti. For a new farm enthusiast the biggest challenge is always finding land, especially with prices shooting up every day. “And once you identify the land and decide to do organic farming, unless and until you get proper guidance it is never going to be easy,” says Rajesh, who has the Mullankazhama and Thondi grains for sale.

“Mullankazhama’s yield is much less, so it costs more. It is an elite variety and is believed to have been used by the royals and is even called ‘Rajaannam’ (food of the kings). It is very aromatic and was originally used to make biriyani, before Gandakasala replaced it,” he says.

Venkitesh, who also cultivates rice in Wayanad, is bringing the Thondi variety to the sale. A maths teacher, Venkitesh’s family has been into organic farming for many years now. “I started helping my father, A.V.Nanju who is into farming. We cultivate Thondi, Gandakasala, Njavara and Chennellu varieties,” says Venkitesh. He vouches for the taste of these rice varieties, especially Thondi. “You can make excellent rice gruel and uppumaavu using the variety,” he says. Of late, he has started cultivating sesame as well.

Sreeja Arangottukara is an organic farmer who is a theatre activist as well. At Arangottukara, in Thrissur district, she cultivates rice, vegetables, cash crops and other items on nearly 25 acres of land along with members of the Padhasala Trust, which has two divisions, Krishi Padhasala and Kala Padhasala. While the latter is into agriculture, the former holds cultural activities and comes out with plays based on agriculture and nature.

At the organic fair, you get beaten rice (aval) from Sreeja’s farm.

“It was from my father, the late K.V. Neelakantan Namboothiri, that I inherited a liking for agriculture. From 2000 onwards, I have been active in organic farming along with my husband. I chose to do this once I understood the benefits of the organic produce,” says Sreeja, who has won awards from the Sangeetha Natak Akademi and Sahitya Akademi for her writings. She juggles her job with the Commercial Taxes department, farming, theatre activities and of course her family life.

The family cultivates 10 traditional paddy varieties and grows green gram (cherupayar) and black gram (uzhunnu) too. Products sourced from organic farmers from the city and from Chennai, Mysore, Pune and Bangalore are available at the fair.

Shop for vegetables, pulses, millets, different varieties of flour, juices, curry powders, sugar, jaggery and rock salt... The fair is at YMCA Hall. It ends on May 25. Time: 10 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.