The Kitchen Gardener: ‘My kids now spend more time growing what we eat than watching TV’

From growing one Tulsi plant to farming vegetables and grain on 10,000 sq.ft , Badri’s kitchen gardener story is the journey of a family towards food freedom.


The Kitchen Gardener: From balcony gardening to farming – a family’s journey towards food freedom

Badri in his Groundnut patch

“It started four years ago when we tried growing Tulsi in our balcony. The next plant we planted was sweet potato that we had brought for Sankranti, and it grew profusely. Around that time, we happened to visit a nursery near Doddaaladamara (Big Banyan Tree), outside Bangalore and brought home several plants. Soon, the balcony was overflowing with greens, tomatoes, beans, curry leaves, etc. and we had to look for a bigger place.” Badri and his wife Brindha have come a long way from struggling to grow Tulsi in a pot to growing all their vegetables, and more, on a rented farm in Hosakerehalli.

‘Farming is not for those with computer hands’

Some fruit some grain – papaya, banana, paddy and turmeric

Badri’s green thumb took him to many farms but he could not find any land that was close enough for him to be able to visit frequently. He considered using the terrace of his apartment and the empty plots behind his building, but water was a big issue. One fine day, on his way to work, he was passing by a farm in Hosakerehalli near NICE road, just about a kilometre from his home, and an idea struck him – he would ask the farm owner to rent him a piece of this farm. That is what he did, only to be ridiculed at that farming is “not for people with computer hands”, and was sent away to come back after 3 months.

Go back he did, but after 2 days, this time accompanied by his wife. The farm owner was still not convinced but decided to give it a try after realizing that the couple were quite serious about growing their own vegetables. The owner agreed to rent 2,500 sq. ft of land at a few hundred rupees per month.

‘You have to sow continuously to reap, isn’t it?’

The owner’s family watched curiously as Badri cleaned the patch all by himself, a task that would have cost him Rs. 10,000 if he had given it to labourers who planned to make a quick buck. He channeled the borewell water, already existing on the land, and also the water from the owner’s cow shed. Urine and dung from a dozen cows provided all the nutrition that the plants needed. No other fertilizer or pesticides were used on the farm. If pests went out of control, Badri used preparations made from cow urine, dung, jaggery, etc. that he learnt from an Organic Farming course he attended under Dr.G.Nammalvar in Karur, Tamil Nadu. In addition to attending this course, he read many books, searched on the Internet and subscribed to “Pasumai Vikatan”, a fortnightly magazine on sustainable agriculture.

He sourced his seeds directly from farmers or farmers’ collectives in Trichy. While talking of seeds, Badri gets philosophical and says he makes it a point to sow some seed whenever he visits the farm – “We can’t expect continuous results unless we sow, right?”

‘People value our vegetables but prefer to buy than grow them’

For the last one year since the land was rented, Badri, Brindha and their 2 sons – Roshan and Suraj – have been growing all their vegetables on the farm. At one point, they grew 200 kilos of tomatoes in an area of 500 sq. ft! They have grown enough chillies to be able to store them as dry chillies and powder a few kilos. The brinjal plants yielded 2 to 3 kilos of brinjal every day. “Gourds are being kept and a minimum since we had more than we could handle.” Excess fresh vegetables and greens are given away to neighbours at nominal prices. The vegetables are a big hit, but Badri is disappointed that people are only interested in “buying” fresh vegetables but do not care to think about how and where they come from and join the local food movement. However, the family’s commitment and enthusiasm have enabled them to win the land owner’s confidence. Last month, they extended their 2,500 sq. ft vegetable patch to a 10,000 sq. ft mini-farm.

‘We started growing grains next’

Foxtail millet soaked in rain

Armed with the success of growing vegetables, Badri has now expanded to grains. Fox tail millet has already born fruit while 3 varieties of dry land rice have come up on the mini-farm. Badri got these varieties of rice from the “Save our rice” movement by CREATE (Consumer Research Education Action Training Empowerment), an NGO working for preserving local rice varieties in Tamil Nadu. Mappillai Samba, a 130-day crop, Poongar, a 70-day crop and Atur Kichdi are the varieties that Badri is experimenting with.

‘I am back in shape and my headache is gone’

Apart from the monetary savings and some profits that they have been able to make, the biggest gain for Badri is good health. “My tummy went from round to flat and my headaches are gone and I feel strong and healthy. My kids spend more time in the open, helping me sow and harvest, than sit passively in front of the TV. My elder son especially helps with groundnuts and corn as he can directly see the value of these crops!”

Badri in action

Badri runs an IT services company in Banashankari. Brindha is an MPhil in Mathematics. She has taken over the balcony garden and is also keen about the progress on the farm. Badri works for a couple of hours every morning at his farm, enjoying the chirping of birds and early morning prayers from a temple near-by. Most weekends are spent on the farm with his family. He has a website called Organic Garten  for sharing information on organic farming. He conducts gardening workshops on the last Sunday of every month, in Rajarajeshwarinagar and also provides seeds and gardening equipment at reasonable rates. Anyone interested in getting their hands and legs dirty, can join him on his farm. He can be contacted at badri@organicgarten.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.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lavanya Keshavamurthy is a freelancer. When she is not wandering and is at base camp in Bengaluru, she spends most of her time in her small, urban garden and wonders at the amount of unlearning to be done in the world we live in. She aspires to be a farmer one day. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lavanya Keshavamurthy is a freelancer. When she is not wandering and is at base camp in Bengaluru, she spends most of her time in her small, urban garden and wonders at the amount of unlearning to be done in the world we live in. She aspires to be a farmer one day. more

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  • Nice. Very inspiring to hear of urban gardeners. Quite difficult to pull it off in most Bangalore homes though. Will certainly give it a try on my rooftop.