Into the soul of natural farming

This responsible urban farmer, Sathish Kumar, propagates the use of natural fertilizers and pesticides

Did you know 99 per cent of food crops grown are not organic? Or that cabbages and cauliflowers contain the maximum amount of pesticides?

“Natural farming is not difficult, but most farmers today do not have access to the right lessons in sustainable processes. Over the decades inorganic farming has become the norm,” says corporate professional-turned-urban farmer T Sathish Kumar.

Today, Sathish has turned around nearly 250 homes in the city with kitchen gardens, terrace gardens and balcony gardens where everything has been grown the natural way. Sathish, 41, a BBM graduate from Mysore, founded ‘Soil to Soul’ nine years ago, and has helped around 25 farms develop over 300 acres of farmland in and around the city. “It is a combination of goshalas, timber area and fruit and vegetable canopies under one umbrella of sustainable farming,” he says.

Getting a green thumb

  • * Sathish says a combination of ginger, garlic, chilli, neem oil, and tobacco leaves makes for an effective natural plant spray
  • * The best ratio for terrace garden pots is 60 % red soil, 25 %cocopeat and 15 % cow manure. After three months, goat manure can be used with Jeevaamruta and Panchaghavya.
  • * Beginners can try their hand growing basic vegetables as tomato, chilli, ladies finger and radish; greens like palak, amaranth, dil, sabakki, coriander and mint; fruits as guava, papaya and lemon

What sets Sathish apart from being just another green consultant is his extended services towards maintaining, both home gardens and farmlands. “Maintenance is challenging, it is an ongoing process that requires a hawk’s eye attention to detail,” he says.

“Hardly five to six % of what is grown today is actually organic. The expression has only commercial connotations. It is better we use the term ‘natural farming’ as every step we at ‘Soil to Soul’ take is nature-friendly, sustainable and backed by native wisdom,” according to Sathish.

Talking about the lopsided farming practices that gained momentum post-Independence, Sathish says there was a sudden import of urea and other common inorganic fertilizers from the UK and USA that contained nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) which were essentially micro-nutrients in chemical form. “It was like using steroids; there was a sudden spurt in yield and everyone accepted the overthrow of natural farming methods that had comparatively low yields. Hybrid varieties of paddy and genetically-modified seeds were introduced, eventually poisoning the natural soil,” he explains.

Natural soil, he says, has micro-organisms that break down additional nutrients (like cow dung) into a consumable format that is fed through the roots. “Each time you use chemicals, the micro-organisms die a gradual death, and over the years nothing grows. Natural farmers concentrate on improving these micro-organisms,” says Sathish.

How it all began

  • Sathish Kumar, who founded Quest Technosoft, a call centre in Bengaluru, was tired of the corporate life which left him with no time for his family. He quit to “smell the flowers” in 2011. Hailing from a family that always cared for ‘safe food,’ he decided on working towards a green cause. “It wasn’t a completely new area for me as my family owned a farmland at KR Nagar, near Mysore. I would visit every weekend with my father who grew all types of vegetables,” says Sathish, whose passion for farming was kindled during his childhood.

According to Sathish, soil-sustainable growth boosters are a combination of natural fertilizers and pesticides (natural NKP) made from the dung and urine of the indigenous cow breed. Jeevaamruta, is of medicianal value when the dung and urine is mixed with gram flour, jaggery, and a spoonful of soil that contains one crore micro-organisms. Panchaghavya, the traditional mixture used in rituals, is made from five cow products – milk, butter, ghee, dung and urine – is a growth promoter that controls the spread of fungus and virus. “It can be further mixed with jaggery and sugarcane and is considered mother of natural plant medicine,” he says, adding that Neem Asthra made with crushed neem leaves is also used with cow dung and urine to fight seasonal afflictions.

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