Society

Greener pastures

Sudeep Jacob and Smitha, owners of Green Tsavorite Photo: Nita Sathyendran

Sudeep Jacob and Smitha, owners of Green Tsavorite Photo: Nita Sathyendran  

Entrepreneurs Sudeep Jacob and his wife, Smitha, on how ‘Green Tsavorite,’ their agri-tourism centre, took root

For years they watched the grass grow beneath their feet. Now, enterprising duo Sudeep Jacob and his wife, Smitha, are enjoying the fruits of their labour. ‘Green Tsavorite,’ the couple’s seven-acre organic farm-cum-home stay, in the rural idyll of Elakamon, Mylavila, near Varkala, has taken root as a go-to destination for those looking to get up close and personal with nature. It’s a model agri-tourism initiative in the district.

Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement

Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement  

“It’s been a test of patience, plenty of toil and hard labour, to nurture our green dream into fruition,” says the city-based Sudeep, a graduate in agricultural engineering. “I’ve always had a passion for agriculture. Both of us are city-born and bred and have no immediate heritage in framing. When we brought the property (initially three acres) back in 2008 it was all fallow land, with just a few trees and a whole lot of undergrowth. All we had was a business plan and a dream of a sustainable future for ourselves, our two children and the greater community,” adds the entrepreneur, who has now swapped his “well-placed job,” in a multi-national in Technopark, for the great outdoors. Smitha, meanwhile, continues to work in IT.

Coffee cultivation at Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement

Coffee cultivation at Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement  

The place itself is an oasis of green and quietude, just over a hour away from the city and, hard to imagine, only around three km from the highway at Paripally (about 7km from Varkala town). The moment you alight from the car, all you can hear is birdsong, interrupted by excited quacks from the resident brace of ducks. Tall trees dot the space; nutmeg, malabathrum (vayana), jackfruit, lucky red seed (manjadi)... “There are some 100 trees in the compound, including 45 fruit-bearing ones that we planted such as mango, starfruit, mangosteen, rambutan, and sapota,” says Sudeep. Cocooned amid them is a small but spacious naalukettu-style retreat, with a litchi tree in the central courtyard, and four bedrooms for rent. There’s also a small thatched shed in a corner of the property, ideal for small gatherings, apart from another shed-cum-kitchen, used as a dining area. “The most challenging part of our agricultural journey, was not waiting for everything to grow, but dodging brickbats from people who were not convinced we were on the right path. It was quite the challenge to keep ourselves motivated,” says Sudeep, as he takes us on a tour, through winding unpaved paths, bordered by well-manicured lawns.

Water conservation pond at Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement

Water conservation pond at Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement  

He designed the landscape himself (and the resort’s cool water-harvesting system too, we later learn, which networks multiple ponds, water channels and the natural stream). “It’s very much a functional landscape, keeping in mind the needs of the guests,” he says.

Banana cultivation at Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement

Banana cultivation at Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement  

Along the way he stops occasionally to point out and to pluck fruits for us to taste and leaves, of the many herbal plants, for us to smell and chew. “We want our guests to have a tactile experience of nature and encourage them to touch, pluck and taste the fruits. Kids who come for a day out here, particularly, find it fascinating,” says the soft-spoken Smitha, handing out plates of homemade cake, papaya and orange juice from mini-oranges, both grown on the farm, when we stop for a breather.

The natural pond at Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement

The natural pond at Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement  

The highlight of the property has to be the picture perfect natural pond, only waist deep and fringed by palms, ferns, shrubs and flowering plants, leaving us longing for a quick dip.“Our guests enjoy swimming and kayaking in the pond. We also have assorted adventure activities such as Burma bridge, rope climbing, a ‘flying fox’ adventure zip line, to name a few. There are also a couple of bicycles and a few kites too, which they can fly in the adjacent paddy fields. They can also pitch tents. Those who want to get down and dirty they can do so in fields and the muddy pond; children who come on school trips love to do this. A lot of our guests also enjoy fishing for vaaral in the stream that runs through one end of the property,” he explains, adding that they only cater to large groups, at the moment.

Kayaking on the stream in Green Tsavorite

Kayaking on the stream in Green Tsavorite  

The couple practices mixed farming on one section of the property. Here are well-tended plots, where all manner of manner of fruits and vegetables, such as ginger, gooseberry, pineapple, pomelo, lololikka, tomato, banana, tapioca, turmeric, peanuts, and sweet potato are grown. They’ve got a small rubber plantation too, between the trees of which Sudeep has planted coffee shrubs! “If it’s harvesting time, guests can pitch in to pluck/dig the veggies out. All the produce is used to make meals for guests,” explains Sudeep. “We actually started off by growing Anne Black orchids and did so for a number of years before our business grew into place,” he adds. We end the tour in their little animal farm. where a kid goat skips around playfully, under the watchful eye of mama goat, a Kadaknath hen (karinkozhi) stands brooding, and a couple of inquisitive cows nudge you for a quick rub on their foreheads.

Peanut cultivation at Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement

Peanut cultivation at Green Tsavorite Photo: Special Arrangement  

What’s in a name?

Green Tsavorite is a rare gemstone, a kind of garnet, that’s found in the bushland of Tanzania. “The gemstone’s precious and unique and we thought it would be an appropriate name for our resort. My mother found the name for us,” says Sudeep.

Log on to www.greentsavorite.com or Contact: 9447462828; 9495832448

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 4:01:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/Greener-pastures/article16095031.ece

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