A Hyderabad woman’s passion for natural farming, coupled with her determination and years of hard work following her recovery from stomach cancer, has finally paid off this year in the form of almost 1 500 kg of mangoes during the first harvest itself. His success against all odds is now an inspiration to many others who love natural farming.
For Parvathy, 55, discovering a stomach tumor in 2016 was like “a speed bump on the highway”. Her husband, Dr Suryanarayana (62), a city radiologist, could not pinpoint the cause of the cancer but thought the real culprits were chemicals, pesticides and insecticides in fruits and vegetables that they consumed.
After a year of treatment and with their only daughter married, the Habsiguda couple decided to follow their dreams to stay engaged. Parvathy, a qualified math tutor, decided to rekindle her interest in farming and her husband joined her in the business. They attended natural farming training programs, participated in seminars and conferences, spoke with experts and learned more from YouTube videos. In his ancestral village Chopakatlapalam in Khammam district of Telangana, about 250 km from Hyderabad, they started raising a fruit farm in unattended land.
“This is our first harvest and we have around 1,500 kg of six to seven varieties of mangoes grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides. Of the 300 saplings planted in 2017, 104 have now borne fruit. The trees are still small. We are sure the yield will be higher next year,” Parvathy told indianexpress.com.
The family decided not to sell their mangoes in the market and posted a notice board outside the house for passers-by to notice. Morning walkers who buy their mangoes come back with compliments on the taste and smell of their naturally grown mangoes. In addition to spreading the word among friends and family via WhatsApp groups, their daughter Usha started a ‘Tathayya Natural Farms’ Instagram page to reach more customers. Customers could either pick up the mangoes themselves or take advantage of pick-up services like Dunzo, Uber Connect, Swiggy Genie, etc.
Born and raised in a village, Parvathy says she has always had an interest in farming. She dabbled in patio gardening and kitchen composting earlier, but after recovering from cancer, the couple decided to try full-fledged farming and do their bit to give back to people. the taste of certain fruits without chemicals. Besides mangoes on three acres, they grow other fruits like guava and sapote on another four acres as well as paddy – all organically.
Mango varieties like Banginapally, Tola Puri, Cheruku Rasam, Chinna Rasam, Himayat, Pandiri Mamidi, Kothapalli Kobbari, Mallika and Rasalu are ready for market. “Not only do they taste incredibly better than what’s available on the market, but they also have a long shelf life,” she says.
Parvathy recalls that she was never allowed to go to the fields as a child and even when she and her husband wanted to start a fruit farm, local farmers discouraged them. “People laughed at us when we talked about natural farming. They said we had a surplus of black money that we were trying to spend. We have proven to many villagers that natural farming can be successful,” she says. Adding to his point, Dr Suryanarayana says he was not worried about possible failure but had used all avenues to find out more in their first attempt at natural farming.
“My father-in-law, who was the principal of the school in our village, had tried a fruit farm on the spot and had to backtrack. People said the land would not bear fruit. We wanted to prove everyone wrong,” he says, adding that they were lucky to find a like-minded farmer, Appa Rao, to run the farm in their absence. The couple come to the village every few weeks and stay for several days supervising the activities.
On their farm, they only use cow dung and cow urine as nutrients for the soil and plants. In case of pest infestation, they spray a mix of Metarhizium or Verticillium fungi or use neem oil. They use rotten curd to fight fungal infestation. And in case they find a new insect or pest, they will share a photo with experts via Whatsapp and get a solution without delay. They have invested up to Rs 15 lakh in the farm.
“The main theme of our agriculture is to make the soil and the plant immune to pests and insects. It takes time because we lose microorganisms in the soil to chemical fertilizers. I would say that natural farming is not lucrative to begin with. There might be losses in the first few years, but success follows,” says Dr Suryanarayana, adding that farmers tend to turn to chemicals at the mere sight of a pest or fungal infestation. . The idea, they say, is to promote natural farming and inspire more farmers to adopt it for a sustainable future.