K. A. Martin

Reinhold Harry’s 6.4-acre farm on the Kumili-Kottayam route is attracting farmers keen on clean farming

KUMILY: The hand-written signpost that leads us to Harry’s farm is a little reminder about a movement that has world-wide following, widespread admirers and yet so few practitioners.

Follow the telephone cable, says the direction, as one steps into the foot-wide track that rolls up and down a hillock on the Kumili-Kottayam route, past little swamps, through dense green foliage and the relentless gurgle of flowing water.

The telephone cables are the only signs of human intervention as one is struck by the variety of plant growth, spiders, butterflies and birds that make Harry’s farm their home.

Rotting leaves under coffee plants, pepper vines vying for space in what looks like a democracy of plants and vanilla vines quietly clawing their way up through wild growths makes this green republic stand out.

Creating this was not easy. It took him about 12 years to get the farm to this stage, says Reinhold Harry, who chucked chemistry to take up farming. His business card describes him as a manufacturer and distributor of Stevia products and certified organic spices.

He stumbled upon agriculture by accident, beginning with bee farming in Germany in the late 1980s. He found what the universities were teaching about agriculture sure routes to destruction of the natural world.

But following his call was not easy. Initially it was so difficult to get information on sustaining a farm in the natural way. Information was limited even on the Internet, he says about his efforts to set up the farm that is now a major attraction for farmers who are keen to take up agriculture that is ecologically clean.

It is to Harry’s credit that organic cultivation of cardamom has been shown to be sustainable. Initially it is tough, he says. “I operated in the negative for about 12 years and now I am making a living out of it,” he says about his experiments. About 200 cardamom plants yield enough now to keep these experiments going.

Harry also keeps a number of cows to keep the system ticking. The manure is needed to sustain the growth and the milk is a bonus, he says.

Demand for pepper, vanilla and coffee from his farm has been growing. In fact, he says, he is looking either to expand or to involve other like-minded farmers in organic cultivation of spices and coffee.

Harry also does his bit to spread the message of ecologically clean agriculture. Often he takes curious farmers to his 6.4-acre farm to explain to them how organic cultivation is done. “I share my knowledge for free,” he says.