Here's a farm that believes organic is the route to health. It depends entirely on native breeds of cows for manure and pesticides
Going organic? Well, the best way to do it might be to go gobar. For the last several months, an intriguing cow-centric farming project — the ‘Bharatiya Vedic Krishi Parampara' (Indian Vedic Agricultural Traditions) — has been unfolding just outside the city, in Kayerampedu village, near Guduvancheri. The initiative of Manjulika Jhaver, cultural activist and founder director of Parampara, a city-based NGO which works to revive forgotten traditions, the farm relies solely on the cow for its various requirements.
Here, all the manure used is cow dung — collected, dried and sieved — from the cows on the farm; and the pesticides used for the crops is cow urine mixed with herbal extracts. Even the floor cleaning fluids for the indoor spaces comprise distilled cow urine mixed with herbal extracts, a formulation that looks crystal clear and is amazingly devoid of odour.
“That's why the cow is worshipped. It is the only creature with the capacity to replenish and rejuvenate the land with its rich, fertilizing dung; nurture life on earth through the milk it yields; and keep pests at bay through the chemical formulation of its urine,” says Jhaver.
Replenishing the earth
“I can see the effect of the gobar on my plants,” says K. Geetha, one of the many city folk who now source gobar from this farm. “Cow dung has been proven by various institutions such as the National Agro Foundation to be a potent source of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium), making it a rich fertilizer. The insecticidal properties of gomuthra (cow urine) have also been established,” informs Prof. M. V. Vishwanathan, a former CSIR scientist, who now works on the farm. “Traditional wisdom works. In the villages and smaller towns, bovine traditions remain entrenched even today such as sprinkling dung (gobar) mixed with water outside the house and go-ark (distilled cow urine) during a house-warming ceremony,” says Vishwanathan.
Apparently, going organic is not expensive, as cow dung is cheaper than other organic manures and there is the milk yield too. The farm is also particular about sticking to Indian breeds. “Native cows provide more manure, live longer, are less prone to disease, need less feed, and are more productive in the long run than the Jersey cows which are being brought into the country now,” informs Jhaver. For instance, the Gir (native breed of milch cow) holds the world record for yielding the most milk per day. And then using bulls for ploughing, protects soil inhabitants such as earthworms and other friends of the farmer, whereas tractors simply destroy them.
“Like a seer, the cow does not take much from life, but gives so much. This is why Indian philosophy made cow protection sacrosanct. If you strike a blow against cows, you aim a blow against earth's fertility,” says Jhaver, who believes that all wealthy people should take to cow-centric agriculture at some point in their lives, to nurture the earth for future generations. “Life is not about perpetual career or wealth upgrades, but about harmony,” she says.
The good life
The positive atmosphere that pervades a farm is better experienced than described. The cows here are not tethered, or confined to concrete enclosures. They are allowed to graze benignly under the watchful eye of a cowherd, nibble on the medicinal herbs that grow sporadically in the area, bask in the sunlight, and even listen to music blaring from a loudspeaker placed high atop a tree. And yes, the verdant crops on the farm did withstand the ravages of the recent cyclone which uprooted crops in the surrounding farms. Well, here's a farm that's a throwback to the Nature-revering and eco-sensitive practices of bygone times. Or perhaps, it is a leap ahead.