[Editor’s Note: Starting today, we are delighted to begin a weekly series profiling Urban Farmers who grow fresh food in their own backyards and are leading the movement towards homegrown produce, a closer city community and a more sustainable earth.]
If there is one urban gardener who can be given generous credit for the glorious growth of Bangalore’s backyard farmers and organic growers, it is Dr. Vishwanath Kadur – agriculturist, trainer, pioneer, expert and wise old man. Founder of Garden City Farmers Trust, the wildly popular Organic Terrace Gardening FB group, and Bangalore’s urban organic growers congregation, Oota From Your Thota, the ever smiling Dr. Kadur is a walking, talking organic agriculture dictionary.
I caught up with the father of the ‘eat what you grow, grow what you eat’ movement in the city to get a peek into his journey with growing green:
‘Every family had a kitchen garden back then’
“When I was a child, nearly every family in Bangalore had a garden behind their kitchen and so did mine. All our food came from this garden. I still remember my father buying just rice, pulses and few vegetables like onions from outside. Otherwise my diet has been on home-grown ingredients for as long as I remember.” He exclaims, “Rice costed just a few annas and right until the 70s, only a few rupees. Those were different times.” Sipping on delicious filter coffee in the AME Foundation office, I ask him if there is anything one cannot grow on one’s terrace or balcony. “There is not one fruit or vegetable! You can grow everything on your terrace, except for mangoes, because the roots are very long.”
‘Organic Terrace Gardening has gotten very popular in Bangalore today’
The PhD in Agricultural Science and ex-professor from UAS, Bangalore, Kadur says his organic workshops had been running since 1995. The inflection point however came in 2005. “Even though we started these workshops many years ago, it was only in 2005 that I witnessed a difference, and today more than 100 people in Bangalore have their own kitchen gardens. We started noticing the younger generation taking an interest. And that was good news.” Kadur’s well recognised beginner gardening workshops are held every month and cover key areas from starting off to composting and pest control.
You only need about 200 sq feet and veggies to start off gardening in your backyard, he says. Tomatoes, chillies, brinjal, beans and gourds are good starter plants. Greens are the easiest: beans, lady finger, all the gourds which give yield in a matter of a few weeks. They are also the healthiest which make them convenient, easy and nutritious. Kadur’s terrace garden at the AME office holds a compost pit where all the kitchen waste is converted to rich compost. Papaya trees, passion fruit, lots of veggies like ladies finger, brinjal, tomato and many others looked ready for harvest.
“Nowadays people take their car and drive all the way to the park just for a morning walk, whereas with a garden you can take a walk around the terrace, breathe in the air and lower your carbon footprint simultaneously. Gardens act as microclimate stabilisers to houses and give you fresh oxygen.”
‘In my entire life, I have visited the hospital twice’
The Organic Terrace Gardening group on Facebook started in 2011 and today boasts of over 6,000 members from all over the world, out of which 3,000 are from Bangalore. Group members takes a healthy interest in organic gardening, helping beginners start off, experts showcasing harvests etc, posting regular pictures and advice etc. This motivates more people to grow and take up organic gardening at their homes. It also shows what people all over the world are doing and binds these like-minded individuals on a common ground. “People constantly upload their organic produce which acts as encouragement for people to grow healthy vegetables”, says Kadur.
“The health benefits are many – not only is gardening an excellent hobby but an active way of understanding how nature works and why we are responsible for growing our food” he says. “In my entire life I have been admitted to the hospital only twice. What we do not realise is that over a period of time the food we consume food from supermarkets which have chemicals in them and toxins build up in our body. We end up paying the costs of it at a later stage. We can avoid doing that by starting with a few seeds”, says the farmer, who is over 70 years old.
Your favourite garden veggies: I love growing chillies and brinjal; they are easy to grow and harvest within 45 days!
What’s the secret to flourishing gardens? Put your heart into it, it gives you not only pleasure, but fresh and delicious produce.
Gardening inspiration: When I was growing up in Mysore, my family would take me to a local farmer’s land where we would harvest vegetables and bring it back home. It inspired me to want to grow and harvest my own crops. Rachel Carson’s book, ‘Silent Spring’ also made me understand all the chemicals that we end up putting in our body. On a flight back to Bangalore from Delhi in 1995, I saw shining terraces and wondered if we could make Bangalore cooler by growing crops in the city.
On a small balcony, you would grow: Lots of greens like spinach, beans, coriander, curry leaves; herbs – basil, thyme, methi; tomatoes and brinjal grow well in pots. Gourds like bitter gourd the vines add beauty to a small balcony.
Where to start?
Start growing one by one – start with one pot, and grow gradually
Start growing greens like bush beans, bhindi – harvest in 45 days
Keep adding more and more pots, there is no turning back from this once you start
“My vision next is to see the urban poor growing their own food and selling it to city dwellers in Bangalore. For this government support is required”.
For more details on the Organic Kitchen Gardening workshop in Bangalore – contact 080 26699512, email: email@example.com
The Kitchen Gardener is a fortnightly series on urban farmers who grow fresh produce in their backyards leading to growing people, community and a more sustainable earth. From journeys of starting to challenges along the way and practical wisdom, the kitchen gardening series helps you kickstart your own food patch wherever you live.