Varanashi Organic Farms
Varanashi Farms (VF) is a multiple-crop system. From 1981 onwards, this low-level, chemically managed farm, giving poor yields, was converted to a high-level chemical farm with an idea to augment the yield level. However, this shift in the cultivation practice caused increased pest and diseases problems, with profits still remaining low. In 1991, VF completely shifted to organic. The subsequent years saw the slow and steady progress of farm yield and profitability.
Cashew is one of the important crops of Varanashi Farms. Over 30 elite high yielding varieties have been collected and cultivated organically. A well-established nursery recognised by Directorate of Cocoa and Cashew Development Council produces both Cashew nut and Cocoa grafts as well as high yielding plants.
During 2006/07, Dr. Varanashi Krishna Moorthy has several times visited Cambodia under German GTZ funded project to advise farmers on Organic Cashew nut cultivation. Along with Dr. Yadukumar and Shri Shankar Raj, he has authored “Hand Book on Organic Cashew Cultivation”.
Towards organic and sustainable agriculture
In organic farming, the mobilization of enough farmyard manure (the conventional manure) was found difficult. The introduction of coir pith, an agro-industrial by-product for composting by VDRF method has became handy and led to sweeping changes in the manurial practices. Later on, recipes for compost production from different agro-industrial wastes, like coffee husk, tea wastes, cocoa pod waste, saw dust, poultry manure etc. were formulated. Application of balanced compost to VF fields, based on soil testing, improved more than 50 per cent in crop yields. The farm has multiple cropping system growing arecanut, rice, cocoa, coconut, banana, pepper, cashew, vanilla, vegetables etc. An efficient bio-gas unit is located near the cattle shed. The spent slurry is distributed in the farm by a pipeline. A bigger unit producing both electricity and manure is under planning.
Varanashi Farm has also adopted water harvesting measures by providing catch pits, mini check dams, percolation pits and recharging bore wells during the rainy season which greatly enhanced the water availability during summer. By growing timber and firewood trees like teak, jack, acacia, casuarina etc., the farm is now producing excess of timber and firewood after meeting the requirements of the people depending on the farm. Another interesting and eye opening observation is the reduction in the absenteeism of the farm workers due to ill health during recent years as compared to the pre-organic period. The farm workers as well as the owners are healthier not only due to non-exposure to the hazardous chemicals but also due to consumption of self-grown poison-free food. Thus the Varanashi Farm has become a model with multifarious farm activities, which are eco-friendly and economically stable.