At Aman Bagh, I farm like what my grandmother did 50 years ago. Not too far back in time really, but light years away from the soil and soul destroying methods of contemporary chemical-industrial agriculture that has led to the loss of India’s millennia-old indigenous farming traditions. We apply the peasants artisanal methods – with knowledge gained from modern science – and appropriate technology to develop healthy soil, produce healthy food, build healthy animals and human beings, while being deeply mindful of the environment we inhabit.
Here is a perspective on Aman Bagh, in someone else’s words – http://www.isayorganic.com/blog/aman-bagh/
Aman Bagh reclaims a time when land was rarely monetized, and was fiercely protected as the foundation of a way of life – what was a peasant without land to till in the village he and his family had lived in for generations? This was a time not too far back when cattle manure was the only manure and there were no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides; when pests were controlled by crop rotation and multi-cropping; when desi methods were used to control those pests that did end up destroying crops; when intercropping and keeping land fallow for intermittent periods kept the soil fertility high. This was a time when cattle were fed wholesome farm produce, and their dung was the most powerful source of manuring the soil to keep it rich, healthy and teeming with hundreds of billions of microorganisms.
Village relationships were close knit and inter-dependent, and the village was a mostly self-sufficient socio-economic unit where man, animal and nature lived in some sort of harmony. Commerce was clearly not the dominant force. Simultaneously, though, village life was unequal in so many ways, feudal, caste ridden, and communal. India’s rural social structure demands a revolution, some of which is underway though too slowly, and too incrementally. Doing away with hand wringing, Aman Bagh establishes relationships that are neither discriminatory nor dominating; and our common humanity binds us to the land through livelihood and mutual dependence. While we re-learn and build on our traditional peasant farming practices, we have eliminated barriers of caste and community.
The artisanal nature of our farm is some part nostalgia for a decade of childhood summers force-spent in the village, and partly a result of a new respect for our farming traditions followed and refined over thousands of years. Life in the village was subsistence, and the ‘market’ was not the defining paradigm it has become today. Rural India has given up the rhythms of our well-established traditions, and has not mindfully developed new ones to take their place. Aman Bagh, we think, retains a balance.
“Artificial Manures lead inevitably to artificial nutrition, artificial food, artificial animals, and finally to artificial men and women”
An Agricultural Testament. Sir Albert Howard (1873-1947). Howard was in India from 1905 to 1931, and was also President of the Indian Science Congress in 1926.
Aman Bagh is about 2 hectares – 5.5 acres – (80% of India’s peasant tilled farms are this size or smaller), on soil that has been pesticide and chemical fertilizer free for ever. The location is spectacular, in an undiscovered valley surrounded by the low hills of the Aravali range just 14 kilometer from Gurgaon, and is especially bountiful from the onset of monsoon till the start of summer. The ancient Mangar Bani, a rare 200 hectare forest of indigenous Dhau trees, is 10 minutes away; as are the Dhauj rocks. Our land is undulating and is on multiple levels, ideal for ploughing by bullocks: and we have mostly retired the tractor in favor of our own hali.
Our mud-gobar walled and thatched roof one room home, the adjoining cow shed, the gobar shed and the room for the farm hands on the farm are as authentically 50 -year rustic as current local construction capability allowed.
Aman Bagh provides employment to peasants and the landless from nearby villages, and has a happy combination of religions and castes working together re-discovering and experimenting our artisanal farming methods. We look after our farm hands by providing them better wages, annual health and accident insurance, family sickness assistance, meals, cycles for commuting, an annual bonus, and clothes. They are part of the Aman Bagh family, and we share a relationship of mutual trust. We believe the systemic costs of a community based on trust are far lower than a system based on mistrust.
They want to practice the artisanal methods their parents and ancestors did, and are willing to unlearn what they now know to be harmful. Aman Bagh demonstrates that these traditional practices can deliver productivity comparable to chemical farming, without any of the downsides. We also learn from farmers across India and the globe via organic farmers conferences, YouTube, Vimeo, books on the Internet.
“I decided that I could not do better than watch the operations of these peasants, and acquire their traditional knowledge as rapidly as possible. For the time being, therefore, I regarded them as my professors of agriculture. ” An Agricultural Testament, Sir Albert Howard
We rear desi cows (Nagori, Hariana, Sahiwal) who lead a peaceful life under the shade of Bargad & Jamun trees; and feed on local and neighboring farm produce. Desi cow milk and ghee is rejuvenating for people of all ages (when consumed with moderation) and a source of health that modern medicine has discovered only now; the ghee we produce is extracted by hand from wholesome dahi set in baked mud utensils.
Limited quantities of our produce – ghee, mustard oil, wheat and other whole cereal flour and some lentils – are available for sale at Delhi based on-line retailer I Say Organic.
Our grains, lentils, oils and vegetables are grown from desi seeds (many sourced from Navdanya) and are free of chemical pesticide and fertilizer. Our bio-pesticides are Neem oil based, and we also use other natural pesticides based on garlic, ginger, chilies and cow urine; our bio-fertilizers (Panchgavya and Amrit) are created from cow dung, urine, milk, ghee and curd; and our gobar gas plant provides a steady source of organic manure and methane gas for all our cooking.
Our free ranging desi hens – Punjab Brown – add to the ecology and ambience; and are often chased around silly by our desi village stray dog (named – what else – टाईगर).
We have planted 1,500 plus trees – a rich biodiversity of fruit, flowering and shade. Not all are local to the Aravali ranges, some of the flowering and shade trees have adapted to Delhi and its environs over the past century while fruit like Guava and Citrus are a more recent commercial import that do well in our sandy and quick drying soil – and extremes of hot and cold. Of our ~350 fruit trees, 250 are citrus (नींम्बू, चकोतरा, किन्नू); 45 Guava (अमरूद); 45 Mango, 15 Anaar, 5 Shahtoot, 5 Anjeer, Jamun, शरीफा, कटहल, बेल, बेर, केला, पपीता । In addition to fruit, we have over 1,150 trees of Shisham, Kikar, Neem, Jamun, Papri, Semal, Khatta, Bargad, Goolar, Sagwan & Dhau and more, all local to our ecology – that grow in groves; along the farm periphery; as well as randomly on the farmland; dry, sandy soil varieties like ronjh, jhinjheri, kareel, barna, bistendu, kankera, kadam, pilu and urban flowering varieties like kachnar, amaltash, gulmohar, jacaranda, alistonia, casuarina, maulseri.
Aman Bagh has an extensive network of drip & sprinkler irrigation to balance the groundwater wells, and we have a water harvesting borewell. We use appropriate technology and machines (automated feed cutting machine, curd churning motor) where we can to reduce the drudgery in repetitive labor. There is no romance in hard labor, though there is much good health.
The scores of species of birds, peacocks, butterflies, earthworms, squirrels, bees, rabbit, hedgehog and jackal have visibly multiplied since we commenced farming in 2011; drawn by the food and trees they see in abundance. The peace and serenity of Aman Bagh is broken by the occasional chirping of birds, the call of peacocks, crowing of the rooster, the mooing of the cows and the sounds of a village home at work and in repose. Or then the occasional rumbling of the tractor on the adjoining village road, reminding us it is indeed 2018.