A group of farmers in Choornikkara panchayat is blazing a new trail in vegetable marketing using the aesthetic appeal of crop design to woo customers to their farms and selling them fresh, hand-picked produce.
“There is a visual value to vegetable farms, especially when there is a design that augments their natural appeal”, says A. A. John Sherry, agricultural officer, who took the initiative in launching what has been named Green Market.
Crop designing involves changing the very look of the garden. In mixed crop farms, all types of vegetables and fruits are grown intermittently.
The farm in Choornikkara has large swathes under one crop for the single season between September and February.
“It is also easier to manage the garden when there is a large area under one crop,” said Mr. Sherry, explaining how the experiment resulted in the brisk sale of produce from the Pallikkerippadam, on the banks of Choorna rivulet and about a kilometre from the Ernakulam-Aluva stretch of National Highway 47, turning west from Companypady.
“The scenic setting of the village also lured large number of buyers to Choornikkara,” added Mr. Sherry.
The 19 farmers in the five-hectare farm collective also face a serious challenge from water-borne pathogens since the low-lying fields are subjected to varying ground water levels. Sporadic rains this season, for instance, have resulted in water table coming up, delaying field preparations. As a result, cropping will be delayed during the ensuing season as farmers have just started sowing now.
Crop rotation has been adopted to overcome damping off or collar rot in the plants caused by soil-borne pathogens.
But the rainy season is a blessing as silt brought in by floodwaters turns into natural fertilizer for the plants.
The marketing model, meanwhile, is a lifeline for the farmers, who otherwise used to be at the mercy of vegetable-sellers in Aluva market who rely on their own supply arrangements and ignore seasonal supplies from neighbouring farms.
The low-lying field used to be under paddy a long while ago.
Later, the farmers switched to sugar cane and now to vegetables. Ridge gourd, melons, pumpkin, vegetable cowpea, okra, bottle gourd and brinjal are the key vegetables grown.
The Green Market does not rely on centralised sale. Individual farmers sell their produce at the market rate to visiting customers.