Organic vegetable cultivation –
At Akshayakalpa, a half acre patch in the premises is used for growing their own organic vegetables which are used in the canteen for the staff meals, used for generating seeds and compost and are also sold in the market.
The original soil has been excavated and then refilled with soil from an organic source.
The garden is under the extremely green thumb of the demure Rathnamma, who manages all the gardening work.
She is assisted by Shivprasad who has a background in organic cultivation. He takes decisions on planning what crops to grow, seeding, sowing harvesting, composting and other related matters.
Both of them took me on a tour of the garden and even harvested some of the vegetables that I wanted to buy.
Being geared towards social enterprise, Akshayakalpa does not intend to stop merely at dairy products. The next step to follow will be a project to exclusively empower the village women. This model of gardening at the plant, will be replicated in individual lands in whatever size of plot that they own.
Detoxifying the soil, providing seeds and hand holding them with relevant know how like composting and eventually buying back the produce, is how they plan to enable and equip the women.
The 20,000 sq ft of land in the premises, has been divided into 12,000 for cultivation and 8,000 as the walking space. Raised bed cultivation has been implemented, which is a form of gardening where the compost enriched soil is filled into rectangles framed by concrete borders and raised to a minimum of 6 inches above the level of the land.
The advantages of this system are that one can avoid using the original soil if not fertile enough, weeds can be reduced by a close planting of vegetables which also helps in conserving moisture and also the erosion of nutrients due to rain and watering, is greatly diminished.
Silver oak and marigold have been planted along the periphery to serve as buffers and Pheromone traps have been installed to catch pests.
The Nadep form of composting is made use of, which generates large quantities of natural compost in a much shorter time. Invented by an Indian farmer and also named after him, this involves constructing a brick enclosure where the various compostable materials are layered into and allowed to decompose.
At the Akshayakalpa Nadep enclosure, the layers are built with their own biomass waste, dung from their cattle, clay soil and carbon. The whey generated at the plant is used for moisture. Thus they effectively waste no waste and everything returns into the system.
The compost forms within 4 months as against the 9 month outcome of the standard composting method. Compost is proportionately applied to the soil according to the weight of the harvest. eg after a 10 kg harvest, 10 kg of compost is used to rejuvenate the soil.
Healthy and intensely fresh in appearance, these vegetables are a pleasure to view. As can be assumed, they are also high in flavor and nutrients. The garden yields bountifully and beets as big as 2.5 kg each, have been harvested.
A wide range of vegetables like brinjal, lady finger, beans, cluster beans, beetroot, chillies, pumpkin, ridge gourd, knolkhol, drumstick etc are grown.
There is also a profusion of greens and herbs like spinach, amaranth, basil, Indian borage, mint, parsley, coriander and curry leaves.
They also have a few fruit trees like mango and jackfruit.
Some of the excess vegetables and herbs like chillies, tomatoes, basil, parsley etc, are sun dried and used in flavoring their cheese. The vegetables are dried without any additions like salt or oil or chemicals.
Mukund the product innovation head, has designed the very efficient drying equipment and their sun dried tomatoes especially, are sweet and taste like candy.
Harvesting is done every evening and the experience of wrenching out fresh carrots and beets from the ground, is indescribable 😀
Impossible to resist, I bought a few of the vegetables which stayed fresh even without being refrigerated, until I reached Bangalore the next day.
The surrounding villages abounds in woodapple trees and I was also given a bagful of these by one of the staff 😀
For more pictures see My Facebook – Akshayakalpa-Part 3-Organic vegetable garden
Apr 2nd-4th, 2018
Pl Note – This assignment has been carried out by me, in collaboration with Akshayakalpa. The information in my narrative is based on the inputs that I received from the team and also from my personal experience.