Raising of overall farm income was the main motivation for Dharuman to adopt organic farming some 15 years ago
“For the past three years, my tomato crop has not been infested by a single pest. I have got a healthy and sizable yield. My spinach, too, has flourished,” says Kamraj of Govindapuram village in Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu.
He credits this success to the organic farming methods he follows on advice of fellow cultivator Dharuman. “I have known about the principles of organic farming for a long time and tried to practise them on a small part of my 6 hectare (ha)-land. But I was always confused about the processes, such as preparation of the organic inputs. Dharuman makes all the steps seem simple and effective,” he adds.
A farmer from Palayampudur village in Dharmapuri district, Dharuman advises farmers like Kamraj from across the state on organic farming and its practices, such as preparation and applications of natural fertilisers, pesticides and soil manure, and multi-cropping and crop rotation.
“I try to advise farmers based on the local climate and soil conditions of their regions, so that they see good results,” says Dharuman. “My aim is to show them how beneficial organic farming can be for increasing crop yield as well as income,” he adds.
Raising of overall farm income was the main motivation for Dharuman to adopt organic farming some 15 years ago, he recalls.
“I wanted to reduce the high costs of buying seeds, fertiliser and farm equipment. So, I attended a workshop on organic farming and learnt about how it can reduce the need to depend on outside resources. I began to practise it slowly on my 0.8 ha, on which I grow vegetables,” he says.
“I have tried to adopt methods under different organic farming systems to see what works best, and try to adjust them to suit my farmland and get the best results,” he says.
Apart from making the organic inputs himself, Dharuman also sources local varieties of seeds and uses a small cultivator on his land instead of expensive farm equipment. “This has brought down my farm costs to negligible amounts and I no longer depend on the market,” he says.
As Dharuman saw success, he began to share his learnings with other cultivators and encourage them to promote organic farming. His efforts were recognised by the district agriculture officials.
“We have invited Dharuman to speak to other farmers at agriculture fairs and meetings. His journey is inspiring, and several cultivators take his advice on organic farming,” says V Gunasekaran, deputy director of agriculture for Dharmapuri. Dharuman has also set up a WhatsApp group to connect with farmers in other parts of Tamil Nadu.
“Dharuman’s simple advice definitely helps me see better yield,” says Pazhani, a farmer from Alagamatti village in Dindigul district, who practises organic farming on 0.8 of his 2.02 ha. “While I’m yet to get good income from organic produce at the market, I am encouraged to keep going,” he adds.
“Organic produce typically sells at very high prices in the market. I cannot raise my prices so much, as I want to keep my vegetables affordable,” says Dharuman.
“Right now, I am able to meet demand and sell my organic vegetables at Rs 5-10 more than the normal rates. As my costs are low, overall, my farm income has doubled. But, better marketing support would help me get improved prices,” he says.
This was first published in the 1-15 August, 2023 print edition of Down To Earth
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