Getting started with Natural Farming

MY FIRST story in series of stories to share my experience of building up our “thathana thota” (means ‘Grandfathers Farm’) in Bidadi, Bangalore Rural, in this story I will be writing about farm planning based on natural / permaculture / organic principles & things to prepare / setup before you get started.

Spend couple of days at your farm to just observe the sunrise, sunset, wind direction, soil structure etc., & consider putting down a rough layout of your farm land in a piece of paper, showing any pre-existing structure, borewell, drain area etc.,

Farm layout, existing structure & topography

I’m going to share few things that I’ve done, before getting the hands dirty at ploughing / planting the seeds or saplings. You should add / remove any of the steps as per your farm.

Rainwater harvesting

Water is *the most* essential thing in farming, plan your farm layout in such a way so the maximum water percolates into your farm area, rather than flowing over to stream or other farm. Doing rain water harvesting not only helps you recharge the ground water for your future, it also avoids your precious top soil erosion!

Before & after photos of the rain water harvesting pond, collects water from our farm & adjacent farms

Workers quarters & nursery area

Whether you have always stationed permanent (on farm) workers or temporary works, you should plan for a place for workers to stay… and would be used for keeping the required tools etc.., Also, do plan a small nursery area (for keeping the seedling trays / saplings) for transplantation into the farm. Your first preference should be to bring in the seed (for vegetable growing), let them sprout in the tray & then transplant, for this you will need a semi shaded area, ideally keep this closer to workers quarters so they can water them & look after carefully.

Nursery area, workers quarters & cow shed area being prepared at the farm.

Mulching

Mulching your new saplings, beds etc., is important to ensure every bit of water & early morning due is conserved, this would also help improve the soil quality. In a separate post, we will talk about different mulching techniques. At the planning stage, you should evaluate options of on the farm green or dry leaves mulching available or bringing them from a nearby farm or taking the dry leaves from city to your farm!

Planting layout

Think through different crops that can be grown locally where your is located & decide the ones you (or your family) prefer to grow — based on personal liking or market that you plan to sell. Make sure you at least plan to grow 50% of grocery, vegetables, fruits that your family is going to consume… so you are the “first customer” to your farm produce & can enjoy chemical free food!

Cow (read — desi cow)

Malanad Gidda — Seethamma, along with Kusha

You need to have at least one desi-cow for preparing the required natural manure / pesticides for your farm. Ideally select a local species of desi cow, so it’s well suited for your environment, before you bring them to your farm do plan for the required feed for the cows — purchase hay in short term but do plant some grass / corn for the cow feed.

Tracking your cost

Irrespective, if you are getting into farming for commercial purpose or to fulfil the passion, I would recommend that you track all your expenses.. to help you make a cost — benefit analysis at a later stage & help fine tune the spend / earnings accordingly.

That’s it for now… more in the upcoming stories, hope to be posting a story for every fortnight.

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