Farming tales Food

A farmer’s best friend

The calendar designed by Prabakaran Murugesan

The calendar designed by Prabakaran Murugesan   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A Tamil calendar aims to acquaint aspiring organic farmers with forgotten traditional techniques

Aadi pattam, thedi vidhai (seeds are best sown in the month of Aadi),” goes an old Tamil adage. “If you follow it, practically, you will get the desired results,” says K Kalimuthu, an organic farmer from Madurai.

“The time is perfect for sowing millets. Last year, I raised two acres of pearl millet and the harvest was bountiful. This time, I have procured seeds of the rare native variety of foxtail millet (senthinai) from a farmer in Kolli Hills.” The 33-year-old adds, “Every seed has a season, depending on the wind, rain and humidity conditions.”

“Season-specific planning is important in organic farming. If you sow during rains, you may lose the crops,” explains 68-year-old Ganesan Nallamuthu. “Crops like keerai are less risky and can be grown through the year. The knowledge of weather and seasons is an asset.”

A farmer’s best friend

To create awareness among aspiring young organic farmers, Chennai-based Prabakaran Murugesan has come up with a comprehensive calendar. Called ‘Tamizhar Velaan Natkaatti’, the 20x30 monthly-sheet in Tamil is colourful, and packed with information on farming techniques and procedures.

Murugesan recalls tending to a one-acre plot of land in his school days, in his native village in the interiors of Ariyalur. “We cultivated multiple crops in that small piece of land, like chillies, onions, radish and groundnut to millets and pulses. By the time chilli plants flowered, we harvested spinach. Along the peripheries of the farm, gongura was sown as a natural pest deterrent. After harvest, the stubs were let to bio-degrade and become natural manure.”

“Raising inter-crops also meant having a variety of farm-fresh food on your plate. Besides rows of cowpea (thattapayaru), we also raised tomatoes. Both were then cooked together to make a tangy cowpea curry.”

A farmer’s best friend

So Murugesan went back to his village and spoke to older farmers, to “relearn the forgotten principles and methods. I realised how traditional farming was not industrial. It was all about food and a self-sustainable economy. There was food that was available only during a particular season. Earlier, drumstick was eaten only in summer. But, today, the market is flooded with the hybrid variety that grows even in peak winter.”

Murugesan put together his learnings firom three years of groundwork n the calendar. “In a village in Karur, I learnt to prepare natural pesticide using panchakavyam. I used it to grow watermelons and the yield was handsome,” beams the ardent follower of G Nammalvar, organic farming pioneer.

Every page in the calendar has a quote by Nammalvar and Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, with details on farming corresponding to that particular Tamil month. “It is a timetable for various farming activities, taking into account climatic conditions and the movement of the sun. For instance, it is best to give the land some ploughing during the hot Chitrai month, so that summer showers help the soil absorb nitrogen from the air.” The calendar also lists out contacts of organic farmers in every district.

“Since a calendar is an essential part of life in small towns and rural areas, I thought this would be an ideal way to disseminate information. It is an oil print on 130 gsm glossy paper, and so far, I have sold around 700 copies,” shares Murugesan.

Priced at ₹100, the calendar, launched this Chitrai, also has a section on dry-land farming techniques and native paddy varieties like pungar and karungar that withstand drought conditions and grow in less water. “The mappillai samba paddy, raised in the arid interiors of Virudhunagar, is one such example,” says Murugesan .

For details, contact 9965869470.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 2:02:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/a-farmers-best-friend/article24581687.ece

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