The season is changing, winter is on its way. With warm days at 25 degrees Centigrade, and cool nights at 12 degrees this is ideal time to plant the crops that have evolved in the alluvial plains of North India over the millennia.
It’s great to be part of this tradition, it makes me feel what we do at Aman Bagh has value beyond what we do today. We preserve, and improve on, the ways of our ancestor peasants to grow healthy food for healthy human beings without chemical or related artificial means.
Agriculturally, we are at the start of the Rabi (derived from the Arabic for ‘spring’) cropping season – following the Kharif (autumn) crops that were planted in June / July. The crops we are planting now are Gehun (wheat), sarson (mustard), kala chana (black gram), kabuli chana (chick pea) and masoor. In addition, the exciting winter vegetables are on their way to fruiting – cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, brinjal, peas, radish of many kinds, onions, garlic, and greens like mustard and methi.
It’s a happy time for food diversity.
All our seeds are desi – that means these were the only ones sown before the ‘green revolution’ commenced in 1966-67. This period changed our seed habits forever – it brought ‘high yielding’ seed varieties that responded more to the application of large quantities of chemical fertilizers (produced – please note – from crude oil) and enhanced irrigation than purely the nature of the seed. Combined with the use of pesticides, output shot up and commercialization of agriculture commenced in India in a sequence that is yet to play out.
As I have 10 cattle – cows, calves, bulls – on the farm, we needed a wheat variety that is tall and hence gives us hay for these animals throughout the year. Post the 1960s, wheat increasingly moved to varieties that were ‘dwarf’ with more grain and less hay as the focus of society moved to increasing surplus for the market from food security for the peasant and his family. Today, only a very few desi wheat varieties are around and only in areas where irrigation is not assured – Madhya Pradesh was one such area with traditional varieties, but MP too has moved ‘forward’ with increased irrigation and fertilization. We use the desi MP-306 seed, from Navdanya (http://www.navdanya.org). This year, like before, we are using seed from the crop that was sown on our land year before. Our intent of being self sufficient in seed inputs is being met.
Mustard was sown on 30 October, the shoots are already breaking through the soil. Chana too was sown. Wheat will be sown in the next 5 days as we are a bit behind from the target sowing date of 10 November – the Arhar crop was planted late by 15 days than it should have been earlier this year, and this delayed its reaping; and hence the 5 days delay in the planting of wheat this season. Farming needs great project planning, with minute focus on planting time and a host of other issues that if not managed well have a cascading effect. I am learning, and that is satisfying.
See you soon at Aman Bagh.