Vinod Venugopal was getting a fairly good yield from his one-and-a-half-acre rubber plantation at Malayam in Thiruvananthapuram. But, he wanted to put the land to better use.
“I was looking for a venture that gave me more satisfaction. I didn’t want to sell off the land either. As the soil was fertile, I posted a message on the Facebook page, Where in Trivandrum (WiT), inviting interested individuals for a joint farming initiative,” says Vinod.
Among those responded were Anu Joseph and Philip Chacko, farming enthusiasts and business associates. “Most of those who evinced interest were ready to invest money. That’s not what I wanted. I was looking to associate with those who were ready to invest their time and labour. Anu and Philip were willing,” says Vinod. Thus, the seeds for Farm in Trivandrum (FiT) were sown.
In December 2019, they planted tapioca, over 2,200 stems procured from Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI). “In September, we harvested nearly 10,000 kilograms. Tapioca is mostly used for industrial purposes. But since factories were closed because of the pandemic, we sold the produce to street-side vendors, vegetable shops and hotels directly. Rest was distributed among our family and friends,” Vinod adds.
The group has moved on to cultivating more crops. Harvesting of udankolli molaku (Mali chilli) is currently on. They have also grown ginger, elephant yam, Indian yam, and turmeric. Besides another round of tapioca, the farm now has cashew, pepper, agathi cheera (Hummingbird tree), drumstick, curry leaves and arecanut, among other crops, according to 44-year-old Vinod, who is working in a multinational medical services company.
“Our focus has been on crops that don’t need daily supervision. That’s why we are not keen on cultivating vegetables,” says Philip, 31, whose family runs a farm in Kozhikode.
The team is also looking at nurturing rare plants and has already planted Malaysian citric lemon, a seedless variety of lemon. “We have two labourers who live close to the farm. Since one of them has cows, we get enough cow dung for manure. There has been tremendous support from the Pallichal Krishi Bhavan office as well,” Vinod adds.
Meanwhile, they are open to partnerships with people who have land, own or leased. “We are looking for those who are willing to toil with us. Luckily, a few such people have already gotten in touch with us,” says 31-year-old Anu, who runs an aquaponics farm at Nedumangad. In fact, three properties in the district have already been already identified. The team is looking at a ‘working together’ model that will depend on the nature of the land, resources available and tenure of the partnership.
FiT is also joining hands with farmers to help them sell their produce directly to customers, especially vegetables, eggs and milk within Thiruvananthapuram.
For details, call 9995009911.