On January 4th 2014, we organized our first organic farm day. Three scientists from the Palampur University’s Organic Agriculture Department, and three of their staff, came to demonstrate various composting techniques on our land. At our request, Palampur University has agreed to “adopt” our project. Thus, they will visit regularly to provide free trainings to our staff, and anyone else interested in attending.
We hope that as awareness of this project increases, more and more local residents will take advantage of these trainings. Between the University staff, our farm staff, our house staff, curious neighbors and interested friends, over 20 people took part in the days activities. Participants went home inspired to implement these easy procedures in their local gardens & farm plots.
It all began about a month ago when Spero and Mata Sharon (local resident/farm staff), began constructing a three chambered, mud brick, Vermi Compost pit. The posts are made of locally harvested bamboo. In the next few days, a corrugated metal roof will go up top, to protect the mud brick construction, and the compost, from heavy monsoon rains.
Yesterday, a more simple and economical Vermi Compost was built. They began by choosing a shaded, flat area of land, about 10′ x 5′. The area was marked off with stones. Then, 3-5″ of fresh green material was placed inside. The leaves are of the Eupatorium plant, which is poisonous to eat. It is high in nitrogen, a natural insect repellent and readily available in our area.
It is better if your first layer is a slowly decomposing green matter, like sugar cane or bamboo. Unfortunately, we did not know that in advance. They watered the green matter thoroughly, then added 3-5″ of manure on top. 1kg of worms, and their eggs, were sprinkled on top of the manure, and thoroughly watered. Then, another 3-5″ of manure were spread on top of that. More water was added before beginning the next layer of green material. They said that you could continue to layer up in this way, but it should not exceed 2.5′ in height. In the end, they covered the entire pile, sides and top with a 5″ layer of fresh, green material, like frosting on a cake.
At a later date, a shed will have to built over this compost to protect it from heavy monsoon rains. Temperature and moisture will have to be monitored and controlled. After 30-40 days the compost pile will have to be turned, and then piled back up. After 3-4 months, depending upon the weather, the compost will be complete.
Next we learned how to make a Vermi Wash. It is nutrient, microbe and hormone rich. You can use it on your soil and seeds, to prevent fungal disease. In the same way that eating fermented foods and pro-biotics improves your digestion, the foundation of human health, this wash creates a rich and diverse soil environment, which disease can not flourish in. The procedure involves three clay pots, two of which are suspended one on top of the other. The top pot is full of water. A plastic hose is inserted and sealed into a small hole made in the bottom of the pot. A glucose drip, acquired from the local pharmacy, is placed on the hose to make the water drip, rather than run, out.
The second pot contains the compost. It also has a plastic hose inserted and sealed into a small hole made in the bottom of the pot. As the worms turn the manure, soil and dry grass into compost, the water drips down through, leaving a rich tea in the bottom pot. This tea is then diluted 5x in water and used as an preventative anti-fungal spray.
We also learned how to make another fermented brew called Madka Kard (Hindi translation please?). This process involves filling a clay pot 3/4 full with a mixture of fresh manure, lactating cow urine, brown sugar and water. The brown sugar must be thoroughly dissolved into the water before adding the urine and manure. You then dig a hole in the ground, and bury the pot, covered with a clay lid, for 7-10 days. Burying it underground maintains a stable temperature for the fermentation process. The end product is diluted 5x with water and can be sprayed upon seeds, fields before sowing and upon emerging seedlings.
Mata Sharon is a young man from our village, and our farm’s first full time employee. Impressed by the days events, he told us the following story. His family owns about 1 acre of land. Ten years ago, they stopped using traditional farming methods and began using urea, which is a chemical fertilizer often promoted by government officials. Around this time, his family also began using a selective herbicide, in between plantings, and would feed the remaining grass to their cow. Before these two, seemingly small changes, they were harvesting over 2 tons (4000 pounds) of wheat and corn from their fields each year. Now, after 10 years of soil depletion from chemical agriculture, they only get about 500lbs of harvest each year. His family is poor, and the loss of food and income has dramatically reduced their quality of life. The fact that Mata Sharon is employed on our farm, and is beginning to see the wisdom in what we are doing, is our farm’s first success!
Would you like to be our farm project manager? Or, do you know anyone who may be interested? Please help us spread the word about this position. We are looking for someone to join us, in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, for one year. We need an organized and dedicated individual to help oversee our 2 acre organic farm. Applicants must be willing and able to work with local Indian farmers. Excellent communication skills and cultural sensitivity are a must. A strong passion for organic farming is required. This is a volunteer position, however we will provide quality housing and food.
Read more about this project! Contact us at email@example.com