When I met organic farmer John Fennessy, who has been cultivating his farm at Sulekunte, Bangalore, for the past three years, I felt I was learning a valuable lesson in life.

Having sold some of the first produce from his four-acre farm ‘Hamsa' at the Flea Market recently held at Jaaga, a proud John shared some very insightful thoughts about life as an organic farmer .“I believe we must, as responsible human beings, promotes sustainability. Rather than being profit-driven, it is imperative to find sustainable alternatives,” he says.

Originally from the U.S., John moved to India with wife Swetha in December 2008. Ask him what is the best way to access organic food and he quips, “Grow your own! It is possible to grow a sustainable garden in the smallest of spaces with the right amount of care.”

They grow almost every variety of crop on the farm. Fodder crops for the cattle (two ‘nati' female cows and two male calves), plants to serve as manure, pulses, fruits (papaya, mango, chickoo), vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, chillies) and even forest trees such as mahogany and teak. “The amount of groundnuts we grow is enough to feed the whole of Bangalore,” he jokes. Their lifestyle embodies minimalistic living — a single-room house with an outdoor kitchen and courtyard, which also has an oven made of bricks where John occasionally bakes bread and pizza!

How did they learn to be so resourceful? “I trained at Auroville, Pondicherry, and learnt several methods of farming. We made huts out of coconut leaves, planted and weeded crops there,” he informs. Similar huts are seen on his farm where volunteers from Auroville and other places live when visiting.

Swetha, a Bangalorean and a landscape architect, helped scientifically design the farm. “We take care to grow crops that complement each other in terms of being natural pesticide repellents and even providing nutrients to the soil,” says Swetha.

Having very little help apart from volunteers and two others on the farm, most of the work is shared between Swetha and John. “Water gets scarce, especially in the dry season. They have now begun using drip irrigation to water the plants. Despite it all, John and his family love living on the farm. “We'll probably start a school too so our daughter does not have to go anywhere else to study,” he jokes. Volunteers interested in working at the farm can contact John at 9739097356.

Keywords: Flea Market


Pottering AroundJanuary 13, 2011