Pune-based Sujata Naphade was born with green fingers. She belongs to an agrarian family, and her mother-in-law is also a farmer. Her family advocates organic farming and growing up; she had always been a part of hour-long debates where the hazardous impact of chemical pesticides on produce was discussed.
Years later, it did not come as a surprise that Sujata decided to stay true to her roots and completed an undergraduate degree in Agriculture. While it is difficult to imagine how the combination of an agricultural degree and city life would work in the long run, Sujata has proved all the naysayers wrong.
Today, this resident of Pune has successfully converted a 3,500 square feet plot into a beautiful garden where she grows various fruits and vegetables, and she does it without using a drop of chemical pesticides or fertilisers. Her organic plot and garden produce enough food to feed three families with over 10-12 people.
The plot originally belonged to her brother-in-law and was merely wasting away, when Sujata approached him and with his due permission decided to convert it into a garden.
“We always wanted to grow plants using organic and natural methods. We have been maintaining a terrace garden for last 6-7 years, but it has a limitation of space. This plot solved the problem of lack of space,” she told The Logical Indian.
Sujata’s garden blooms with different varieties of vegetables and fruits — banana, strawberry, cherry, coconut, cauliflower, cabbage, brinjal, and cherry tomatoes to name a few. Additionally, she also grows herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, chives, lemongrass, and peppermint.
She spends over an hour daily tending and nurturing the vegetation around the plot and spends another 20 minutes looking after the terrace garden.
What makes this process of growing organic food all the more special is the collective effort her family puts in. Her brother’s and brother-in-law’s family also pitch in from time to time.
“We all live close to each other. Everybody enjoys gardening, and hence there are very enthusiastic participants. Since we consume the produce of this garden, it is also a necessity that we all work together to maintain it. My husband and I enjoy the process of looking after the garden. If necessary, we all come together to work on this,” she told The Logical Indian.
While most of their immediate food necessities are fulfilled by the farm, they do visit retail stores and markets to buy onions and ginger. One of the prime reasons for not growing these two crops is also the requirement of artificial fertilisers, which she thoroughly refuses to do on principle.
She recalls how when they first started farming on the plot, the soil was unsuitable and full of weed and small stones. However, instead of using fertilisers, the family decided to better its quality using a compost made of brown leaves and other parts of plants as manure.
She is an ardent follower of award-winning Zero Budget Farming agriculturist, Padma Shri Subhash Palekar. She adopted his method of using ‘Jeevamrutha’ a decoction of cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, buttermilk and any flour, diluted with water to be used once a month to improve the soil quality.
Sujata strives to bring back native varieties of seeds and encourage farmers and other gardening enthusiasts to avoid growing hybrid and genetically modified seeds.
She feels utterly gutted about the lack of local varieties of vegetables and fruits.
“I was trying to find the local variety of sponge gourd but was unsuccessful. So, I have been reusing the seeds of vegetables of my farm for the last 6-7 years. I have also read that if we reuse seeds of the plants for 12 years, we might be able to arrive at the original variety,” she said.
She has also started a seed bank this year and managed to save over 300-400 seeds from a single sponge gourd, and later distributed to other gardening enthusiasts. She firmly believes giving local varieties preference over hybrids is the need of the hour. Helping more and more farmers adopt natural farming, will not only make them self sufficient, but also, reduce the cost of farming remarkably.
While Sujata continues to conduct workshops on natural farming, she aims to reach out to more and more agriculture and gardening enthusiasts and promote organic farming in every way she can. We wish her all the best!