C-SOF/JVK – Organic farm by ICCOA – Part 2

 

Bambi has grown into a shy and gentle adolescent. She was 6 days old and definitely bolder, when I first met her a little over 2 years ago but today though she is older, she has a demure aura and does not even look up to greet me. However, I am pleased to know that the people at the farm have retained the name that I bestowed upon her when I first met her.

To catch up with the history of this calf turned young cow and other interesting tales, you will have to read my earlier blog on ICCOA’s model organic farm called C-SOF/JVK and then you can proceed onto this narrative which is the continuation of where we left off in January 2020.

My story had paused when the entire world had been interrupted by the dreaded Covid but today finally we are back on track to resume where we left off … and hopefully this state of affairs will remain unmarred so that we can continue enjoying the joys of this serene and refreshing farm called C-SOF/JVK, which stands for Center for Sustainable & Organic Farming and loosely translates to Jaivik Vigyan Kendra in hindi.

C-SOF/JVK is the initiative of the reputed International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA), which is India’s leading networking organization in organic agriculture and while my earlier blog focuses on the farm being an exemplary model to demonstrate organic farming practices and also supply organic produce to consumers, this story will go on to describe the newly established training center, guest house and related facilities and the hands-on activities that trainees as well as visitors from the city will experience when they visit for a day trip or even overnight stays. This was Work in Progress when I visited earlier and this time I had the pleasure of experiencing the completed facility.

So join me at the C-SOF/JVK farm, as I make my way deep within the verdant countryside of the village of Kolatti which lies in the Denkanikottai taluk of the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu, India .

A quick recap –

While I have urged you to familiarize yourself with the earlier story, I know there will still be a sizable percentage of lazy readers who will not make the effort 🤨and hence I will take you through a quick summary of what this place is all about.

ICCOA – the International Competence Center for Organic Agriculture, is a registered not-for-profit organization that was formed in 2004 primarily with a mandate to play the role of an interface organization to boost the organic movement in the country and also to be a knowledge center for organic agriculture.

The C-SOF/JVK farm – ICCOA procured the farmland in 2014 and has established this model farm which is intended to serve as a one stop shop to demonstrate their entire organic principles and be a representative organization to showcase the various aspects of Organic agriculture in India.

Apart from agriculturists, it also aims at training urban residents and gardeners to pursue their hobby better and help their farming dream materialize. People are invited to visit and take part in and learn the workable practices being employed.

During my first visit, the place was open for day trips and the infrastructure for the training center and the guest rooms for overnight stays, was under construction.

So this time it was my pleasure to experience the stay and related activities that one can indulge in whilst visiting for a longer duration.

 

 

The place was supposed to be operational in April 2020 but then we all know what happened. Delayed by the first onslaught of covid, the facility finally was open to the public much later in the year. Unfortunately Covid was not done ‘waving’ at us and hence there were a few stops and restarts along the way. I was apparently the first person to visit after the Omicron variant and therefore things were just limping back into place and not functional in the regular manner.

However, the hope is that things will get back on track as intended and all the other staff members will return to undertake their various jobs like housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, demonstrating farm activities, accompanying guests on treks etc. All these tasks currently were single handedly managed by Yuvraj the manager who was spinning like a whirlwind trying to attend to us, including preparing all the meals and showing us around. Hence there were a few hiccups but nothing so major as to disrupt the stay.

It is to be noted that this place is primarily an organic farming training center and NOT a resort. However people can enjoy a peaceful weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the city and choose to just relax in these refreshing environs, even if they do not opt to participate in any of the activities. What they should NOT expect is a fancy, luxury stay with all the trappings of a resort, though the basic facilities are all in place.

If you are really really too lazy to read, then this video gives you a glimpse of what is in store for you at the farm.

Features of the farm –

The Training block, guest rooms, guest cottage, mango trees, intercropped farm lands, paddy fields, fruit trees, poultry shed, cow shed and vermicompost pit, form the key components of the 10.5 acre farm.

The Training center – 

The block comprises of a couple of office rooms and a training hall which can accommodate 30 people. On site sessions are conducted by experts and trained faculty. Upcoming events are usually announced on the website of ICCOA.

Washrooms and a temporary kitchen and dining hall make up the rest of this building. The permanent dining area is currently on the drawing board and seems to be an exciting project very near the guest rooms. The pavilion will be complete with the dining area, open kitchen, barbeque area etc and is slated to be completed in 6 months from now.

The embedded colored glass bottles that I had written about earlier can be seen both inside and outside the building,

The guest rooms –

A total of 24 people can be accommodated on the premises for purposes of training or even a private outing of family and friends.

The main block is very near the training center and consists of 4 rooms on 2 floors.

Every room has cupboards and open shelves for storage of luggage. The rooms are bright and airy and well maintained. There is no television or any other form of entertainment in the rooms. The first floor rooms have an added balcony which offers a very pleasant view of the surroundings.

Each room has an en suite washroom and can accommodate 4 people. Every bathroom has a geyser and other basic infrastructure.

There is a terrace on the topmost floor, which also offers a panoramic view of the premises, the lake in the distance and as an added bonus, it acts as a viewing gallery where one can witness a glorious sunrise and even the moon, when the skies are favorable.

There is another Stand alone farm cottage also available for guests and this can accommodate a few more people.

Tents are also available for extra guests and can be pitched either on the terrace or front lawn.

Food –

As I mentioned earlier, on a regular basis there is dedicated staff to perform various duties like kitchen work, housekeeping, guiding etc. The chef and his team take care of the various meals that the guest would need. However when I visited, Yuvraj the manager was the sole person who was in charge of almost everything, including producing all the meals through the day.

Luckily for us, he is a multi talented person and was able to rustle up quite a hearty and sumptuous spread at all times, starting from breakfast, then lunch, even teatime and finally dinner, in addition to his other duties on the farm.

And I must say that the appetite goes into hyper drive mode while visiting rural areas, most probably because of the fresh air and  calories that we burn by just walking about 😉

We who are usually poor eaters, used to land up promptly at all 4 times of the day with hungry looks and Yuvraj never failed us 😀 Every meal seemed simple but was full of flavor and made very efficiently in very little time.

Wherever possible, they use the vegetables from their own farm or from their farmer groups and there is no usage of artificial colors or additives.

An early morning tea/coffee is provided by 7.30am followed by breakfast at 9am. This usually consists of items like idli, dosa, upma, poori etc

Lunch is served around 1pm and there are both veg and non veg options. The cooking is homestyle and the food is quite delicious and they manage quite a reasonably good spread with rice, rotis, sambhar, rasam, vegetables, papad, curd, salad etc. For the non vegetarians there is a chicken or mutton or fish dish.

One can indicate food preferences and choice of dishes while booking the stay so that the staff can be prepared in advance. The main town of Denkanikottai is 15km away and it is not possible to easily procure ingredients at short notice.

While one might feel so stuffed after the sumptuous lunch and might think that they have had enough food for the day, tea time at 4pm brings about a magical change in the situation and surprises you by making you feel hungry all over again. The sight of bondas, bajjis, pakodas etc sizzling in oil, just enhances that feeling greatly 😀

And likewise at 8pm, there is a miraculous disappearance of that full feeling and one eagerly lands up to see what the dinner plate holds in store. At night, there is usually a biryani or rotis or some North Indian fare and Yuvraj manages to ace that too with his amazing skill. Guests can also request for veg and non veg barbeque.

Activities –

Within the farm – 

The  local staff/guide takes visitors on a tour of the farm during their stay. The 8.5 acres can be covered at a leisurely pace within a couple of hours. The mango trees are omnipresent and intercropped below them are the seasonal crops of vegetables and greens.

There are fruit trees like guavas, chikoos, papayas, jackfruit, litchis, pomegranate, ramphal, custard apple, lime etc and if one is lucky to be there at the right time, they can have the pleasure of eating the ripe fruits straight off the trees, ie whatever the birds have left for us 😏

Mango season is a great time to visit because one can harvest and buy the mangoes and also enjoy mango based cuisine at mealtimes.

The farm provides sufficient entertainment for children and adults who can opt to participate in various activities like making plant beds, seeding, planting, weeding, making compost, driving the tractor, etc. Guests can also plant trees and adopt them and have their name posted next to their adoptee (adopTree).

One can also lend a hand to milk the cows, learn about composting, visit the poultry shed and collect eggs, play with Rocky and Rambo who are the friendly in house Labrador and Rottweiler respectively, feed the ever hungry rabbit who just does not stop eating, taste honey fresh from a hive, shake ripe tamarind off the tree and pucker up as the sour fruit hits the palate and then sort out that very palate with some sweet and overripe Oxheart fruit pulp.

Just strolling around the farm is a soothing activity and one can spend time just hanging out under the trees or gazing at the blue skies.

In the evenings one can request for a bonfire and relax in its warmth.

Outside the farm –

The farm and surroundings play host to several varieties of winged visitors like parrots, herons, egrets, Indian rollers, bee eaters, doves, drongos, peacocks etc.

The staff will arrange an early morning trek into the nearby forest and a temple 5 km away. En route one can see several anthills and also have the pleasure of noticing elephant tracks and photographing overnight elephant dung 😏 Of course in broad daylight and under the guide’s protection, one feels quite brave but it is advisable not to venture on your own.

If you do not have a vehicle you walk around for a couple of kms and visit the nearby fields and lake. You can harvest and buy fresh produce from the fields of their group farmers.

Guests with vehicles can take the guides help and venture further to visit some popular locations like the Shiva temple, a sheep and goat farm and also a mini waterfall which is in action mainly during the rains.

Surrounding places of interest – 

Those who want to venture further, have the option of visiting –

Hogenakkal Falls

Panchapalli Dam

Ayur Reserve Forest

Betrayaswamy Temple

Gavi Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple

A typical day at the farm –

After a hot beverage at 7am, the guide takes you on an early morning trek through the forest which culminates in a temple. The to and fro distance is around 10km and one can opt to return at any point. Lazy people like us did not even make it to 1km but managed to enjoy even that short distance when our guide Srinivas knocked down some ripe woodapples for us.

You then return to the farm for a hearty breakfast after which the guide again accompanies you as he takes you on a jaunt to the surrounding fields and nearby lake. You can visit the neighboring rose garden, pluck water lilies from the lake, walk through the vegetable fields of their farmer groups and harvest fresh produce which can be weighed out and paid for.

If you are lucky, you can also spot and photograph many species of birds.

If you have a vehicle, you can even venture further to view the waterfall which is around 7km from the farm. Children will also enjoy the livestock farms which rear sheep and goats. We did not visit these because we did not have a car at our disposal and even though the guide did offer to take us on motorbikes we were not in a sufficiently adventurous mood to accept 😀

After this trip, you return back to the farm in time for a delicious and hearty meal and though it would be natural to want to hit the bed, you muster all your will power and go on a tour of the farm instead 😎 Our guide for this tour was Yuvraj the Farm Manager.

Well you might just be rewarded by a luscious ripe fruit or two or even a handful of fresh sweet tamarind right off the tree. And then there is always the pleasure of feeding the hungry rabbit who is the only one at the farm who can beat you at the eating game 😀

Speaking of eating, there is more excitement at teatime with some delicious fried snacks being served up along with some hot tea or coffee.

The highlight of the evening is the sunset and one can drive up to the viewpoint where the sun puts on its dramatic show behind the mountains or you can also catch an equally vibrant scene from the terrace of the guest house too. I was so busy focusing on the tea time snacks that I forgot to shoot the sunset this time 😎 So you will have to make do with my earlier picture.

Well after daylight subsides, it is but natural to gravitate towards the dining room for yet another interesting meal. En route, one can enjoy the warmth of a crackling bonfire and maybe a barbeque and then after a relaxed dinner you can finally retire to your room where a hot bath and cozy bed await you.

Social and environmental commitment – 

The commitment to organic farming naturally ensures a respect for the environment there is no usage of chemicals in their premises.

C-SOF/JVK now has around 65 farmers in their group, for whom they have provided consultation, seeds, buy back facility, certification assistance etc and the number will only grow in future.

Locals are employed in the farm labor, thus providing them with livelihood.

Phone and internet connectivity –

Internet is sketchy and purely luck based 😏and Jio is the only one supposedly working well. Those with Jio can be provided with  a dongle. Having said this however, my Vi India (Vodafone) and Airtel both surprisingly managed to work for the most part.

Don’t bank on the internet if you have any important work to do though.

Visitor profile –

Apart from being a training center and hence ideal for agriculturists and people from related fields, this place is also a haven for families and people of all ages who might want to learn about organic farming or who just want to spend a quiet time in natural environs.

So the place is ideal for people of all ages, right from babies to the elderly.

Best time to visit –

Being geographically close to Bangalore, is blessed with moderate weather all year through and is not subject to the typical extreme heat that most of Tamil Nadu experiences. Hence anytime of the year is a good time to visit. Winters can get chilly so it would be a good idea to equip oneself with warm clothing at least during nights and early mornings, during the months of October to March.

What you should carry –

Clean filtered water is provided from the water purifier in the kitchen. There is no mineral water provided. It is better to carry your own reusable bottles and refill them when needed.

The towels and bed linen are simple and functional and for those who are comfortable with their own especially during covid times, should carry what they are used to.

There were no toiletries in the bathroom, so it is better to carry your own.

A good pair of walking shoes is a must because it will make it easier to go around the farm and the trekking trails.

It is quite hot and sunny in the day time especially in summer, so a cap and sunglasses are necessary.

The rooms are protected from insects like mosquitoes etc, by netted windows. So one does not really need any repellant. However, liquid repellant is provided.

Carry reusable shopping bags if you plan on buying any of the produce.

General safety –

The farm lies along the Denkanikottai reserve forest. There are possibilities at times, of encountering elephants and reptiles and insects.  Hence it is advised to be cautious and not venture too far away without the local staff or guide.

Some of the fences may be electrified. So be cautious around them.

Getting there – 

From Google

C-SOF farm is a mere 80 km from the MG Road which is the CBD of Bangalore city and it is barely 35 km from Electronic City. The roads are excellent and one can do the drive in less than 2 hours from MG Road.

The road is good and the journey is very comfortable. Only the last kilometer or so, is mud road. En route there is not much by way of rest rooms or restaurants but some petrol bunks do have some basic washroom facilities.

Distance from Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport – 115km

Bangalore City Railway Station – 85km

Hosur city – 43km

Denkanikottai Town – 15km

My journey – 

We left Bangalore (MG Road) by car around 9am and reached the farm before 11am in a comfortable and uneventful journey.

Likewise, the return journey was done in a similar time frame. We set out after breakfast (who could resist those fluffed up poories?) and reached home before lunch.

Booking and contact – 

Address –

Jaivik Vigyan Kendra (C-SOF/JVK)

Salivaram village, Denkanikottai Taluk,

Krishnagiri District, Tamil Nadu 635107

Mail at – admin@iccoa.org or jvk@iccoa.org 

Phone – Ms Mala Singh/Mr Jaydip Roy

+91 8123032933

More details about them are available on the –

Website of C-SOF at ICCOA

Facebook page of C-SOF

Instagram of ICCOA


For more pictures see My Facebook – C-SOF Farm by ICCOA

Also catch me on My FacebookMy Facebook pageMy Twitter and My Instagram

Please Note – This is a collaboration with C-SOF by ICCOA. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.

Feb 18th – 20th, 2022

 

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1 Response to C-SOF/JVK – Organic farm by ICCOA – Part 2

  1. Dinesh says:

    As always you have a knack of capturing the soul of the place through your beautiful pictures and exhaustive narrative style write up which surely entices the reader to want to make a trip to the place. Loved all the pictures and it goes without saying the food pictures were my favorite but the others too didn’t lag behind by much. All in all through your picture and write up one gets to be virtually a part of this lovely place. Thank you for all the effort you put in clicking those images and then follow it up with such wonderful write up.

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