Does agriculture always mean or involve vast stretches of fields, that too in villages?
A visit to Mr. T.K. Venkataraman’s two ground plot at Akkarai on the East Coast road, just over 15kms from Chennai, will change such an impression.
The plot is near the sea (about 250 feet away from the seashore), sandy in nature and suitable for growing only coconut and casuarina trees. With the area developing as an IT corridor and land prices zooming, his land was sought for a prime price.
“I became interested in converting my land into a regular income generation unit rather than selling it after reading a series of articles on success stories of small farmers.”
Land made ready
Giving details about how the land was made ready, he said, a concrete wall was first constructed around the land and the soil dug up. A plastic sheet was lined inside the pit and a lorry load of clay was dumped on top of the plastic sheet.
Dry paddy straw was placed over the clay and about 150 kg of sawdust was sprinkled over the dried straw.
About five lorry loads of red soil and farm yard manure were applied over the sawdust. About 16 furrows were made, and about 5kg of neem cake and 3 kg of vermicompost was sprinkled over them and raked well.
Vegetable seeds such as those of brinjal and greens were mixed with some farm yard manure and sprinkled over the furrows and watered regularly.
After 2 months, one kg each of Azospirillum, Phosphobacteria,Rhizobium, and 50 kg of vermicompost were mixed together and sprinkled over the germinated seedlings and on the furrows. This practice was followed once every 6 months.
Every week about 2 litres of cow’s urine diluted in about 6 litres of water was sprayed. In addition Panchagavya spray was also done once a month.
For optimum space usage rudimentary pandals (wooden structures) were made between the furrows to grow some vegetables such as double beans.
Onions and tomatoes were grown along the borders of the furrows. "At present I am able to harvest about 10 kgs of all the vegetables and 30 to 50 bundles of greens a week.
The greens are sold for Rs.7 a bundle and the vegetables are sold for Rs. 24 a kg (irrespective of the vegetable grown) to several houses in my neighbourhood. As the crops are organically grown there is a good demand," he said.
According to Mr. Venkataraman, agriculture is quite a profitable venture if done properly.
“If I am able to raise vegetables in this sandy soil, definitely experienced farmers can do much better,” he exclaimed. How is it that we hear about farmers’ suicides and not middlemen committing suicides, he asks?
Farmers must also take the initiative to start their own marketing instead of depending on middlemen.
In fact it is the middlemen who take the lion’s share of the profit and the poor farmers have very little to bargain for.
“If a farmer is able to sell his produce to about 10 people in his neighbourhood, then he is a success. The government should also consider forming special areas for farming in the periphery of major towns.
By doing so farmers will find it easy to take the produce faster to the people in the towns,” he said. The main expense in agriculture is buying chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which take up nearly 80 per cent of the input cost.
Low input cost
“If farmers turn to manufacturing their own organic inputs then the input expenditure can easily be controlled and loss minimized,” he said.
On an average Mr. Venkataraman earns about Rs. 2,000 as gross income per month from his land. After deducting manual labour and maintenance he is able to retain about Rs. 1,100-1,300 as profit.
Mr. T.K. Venkataraman can be reached at No-117-E, 16th cross road, Besant Nagar, Chennai, Tamil Nadu-600090, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 044-24914299 and mobile: 98407-77459.