A go-to-guide to start organic farming in India

The concept of organic farming is not new to the soils of India. In fact, the farmlands across the country have flourished with naturally-cultivated produce and fertile & healthy soil, since ancient times.

It is safe to say that awareness of sustainable farming practices and chemical-free food has led to the revival of organic farming in the recent past. But what exactly does organic farming mean? Is it achievable by a common man? Is it possible for an individual to transition into an organic farmer in a cosmopolitan city like Hyderabad?

We’ve curated a detailed plan to explain the benefits, procedures and the types of organic farming and how you can kickstart your journey to connect back to the basics.

What is organic farming?

Imagine that you have a plate of fresh produce in front of you. The skin of the tomatoes is glistening, there’s a refreshing crunch to the red chillis, the potatoes are large and brown with no signs of green alkaline residue. Now imagine that they were carefully cultivated using eco-friendly practices, right in your backyard. Doesn’t that sound too good to be true?

Organic farming is an agricultural technique used to cultivate plants and rear animals in the most natural way possible. Using biological inputs and significantly reducing the amount of synthetic substances of all kinds, including growth hormones— it results in reduced pollution and soil degradation.

In other words, organic farming empowers you to celebrate food, nature and health in the safest way possible.

In India, more importantly in Hyderabad, organic farming is being practised for a varied set of reasons, of which the pursuit of passion and happiness can be one while the other route is a commercially-viable career.

Irrespective of the path that you’re in, here’s a step-by-step procedure that is designed to help you.

1.Learn the basics of organic farming

People often see the same things quite differently. This statement holds true in the case of organic farming too.

What one organic farmer thinks is right, believes in and practises might not suit the requirements and goals of another organic farmer. Oftentimes, hastily implementing the word-of-mouth advice can be counterproductive.

Hence we advise you to put your heart and mind into the research that you need to carry out before you execute anything.

Engage in conversations with the experts, enthusiasts and already-existing organic farmers in Hyderabad and all across India.

You can keep up to date with the latest trends in organic farming, the benefits of it and also its importance with the help of OFAI [Organic Farming Association of India] — India’s biggest network of organic farmers.

While the theoretical research might help, witnessing the practices and the effort that goes into creating, managing and sustaining a farm throws a completely different light on the concept of organic farming. This allows you to uncover any potential pitfalls and effective ways to resolve them.

NPOF – the National Project on Organic Farming is, in fact, a great platform for all the organic farmers in Hyderabad to connect with a diverse set of like-minded individuals pan India.

NPOF provides technological support, financial assistance to individuals who are passionate about farming in an ecologically safe method. It also promotes and produces quality organic and biological inputs required for farming.

Enroling in such groups and organisations takes you closer to the bigger picture of organic farming and the extent of its progress across Hyderabad and the country.

2.Decide the site for your organic farm

One of the most critical factors of organic farming, apart from investment, passion and purpose, is the location of your farm.

The temperature, soil fertility, humidity and water resources factor in heavily while picking the site.

If you consider organic farming as a weekend routine, you could begin in your backyard or terrace. A lot of working professionals across Hyderabad have started pursuing this passion of theirs on a small scale with controlled agricultural methods that are less labour-intensive.

If you reside in a gated community or a society where this vision is shared among many like-minded individuals, a plot inside your community can be allocated to create mini-farms at a greater frequency.

This enables your living space to transform into a green, fruitful and eco-friendly ecosystem for yourself, your children and the animals that you care for.

If you are planning to transform your hobby into a career then more detailed planning and a large-scale investment pave the way for an organic farm, spread across a vast landscape.

Conscious consumers all across India have started adopting organic farming practices in large groups as a stepping stone to a safer and healthier future for us and the environment that we live in.

You can either produce organic food or support the farmers financially to help them step out of the world of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Community Supported Agriculture [CSA] is an agricultural model that connects the consumers with the sources of food. Through awareness and financial stability, the farming community is empowered to cultivate healthier and safer food for the present and future generations, effectively.

3.Understand the needs of your farm’s soil

Soil, the foundation of your farm, is far more critical than you think. Its appearance, health and balance are what decides the outcome of your farm.

So it naturally becomes important to understand when and how to cultivate and treat your soil to create the best possible environment for your crops to survive and thrive.

Irrespective of the type of the soil, it is home to billions of helpful microorganisms like bacteria, algae and mold.

If handled correctly, these organisms stay happy, thriving and ideally-balanced to transform dirt into living and nourishing soil that can cater to the needs of your crops in the most optimal manner.

When to cultivate?

As already known, not prepping the soil to its capacity can be challenging for the earth to provide a beneficial room for the farm to thrive. In the same way, overworking the soil can do more harm than the other way round.

Stay aware of the time to carry out the most appropriate step in your agricultural process.

1.Spring (February to April)

This season is suitable for cultivating and preparing the soil for new plantings. Due to a moderate level of moisture in the soil, it doesn’t disrupt the ecosystems of microorganisms.

2.Fall (October to November)

Mulching, layering the organic matter on top of the soil, is suitable for this season. This allows you to shield your soil from the upcoming cold weather.

Remember to not dig the soil as it can kill the array of essential microorganisms and disturb the balance deep within the soil.

Diagnose the soil’s health:

The type of soil should be enough to dictate when to cultivate it. While it can be a bit overwhelming to understand as you begin, it does get easier as you equip yourself with the know-how of organic farming.

1. Clay/dense soil

Dense soil retains a lot of water which could cause trouble to the newer plantings with a risk of drowning.

To utilise the potential of such moisture-rich soils, choose the seasons of fall and summer that do not further amplify the water content in the soil.

2. Loose/sandy soil

Due to lower water retention, sandy soil can benefit from the springtime cultivation that adds the right amount of moisture to your crops.

This further propels enrichment of the microorganisms and moisture retention, creating a suitable ecosystem for the farm to thrive.

What crops to grow?

1. Deep-rooted crops

As the name suggests, vegetables and fruits with deep roots are drought-resistant and can survive with very little water.

Such root systems can draw a high amount of water from deep within, enabling the crops to survive with a limited supply of external water. The best suitable season for such crops is winter and springtime.

You can start off with – tomatoes, pulses, melons, coarse cereals

2. Shallow-rooted crops

Known for a higher dependency of water supply, crops like the corn, cabbage, cauliflower and mustard require continuous hydration. So if the water supply is an issue in your area, step away from them especially during summer and fall seasons.

Monsoon season can amplify their growth, however, taking the pressure off the additional water sources.

4. Safeguard your farm with organic manure

While kick-starting your organic farm is great, protecting its health is equally important. Fertilisers that are organically prepared help enrich your farm’s soil and protect it from outside threats and infections too.

From maintaining the Carbon:Nitrogen ratio to improving the texture & structure of the soil, organic manures boost the overall health of your soil whose benefits pass onto the crops grown as well.

1. Green manure

Uprooted or sown crop parts that wither down can serve as mulch for your crop. To do so, you can grow a cover crop in the first phase that can be employed during mulching.

Green manure helps in promoting a better soil structure and the fertility of the soil. They supply organic matter, an additional amount of Nitrogen, especially if it is a legume crop.

It is also known to correct erosion and leaching. Choose plants like Sunnhemp, Indigo, Cowpea, etc as the cover crop for your green manure.

2.Compost

Fresh residues from the farm and household residues can be piled up, moistened and turned occasionally to aerate and decompose gradually by bringing down the Carbon:Nitrogen ratio.

The residues can be all or any of these:

  • Crop straws
  • Leaves
  • Paddy husk
  • Groundnut husk
  • Sugarcane trash
  • Bagasse
  • Cattle dung and urine
  • Crop residues
  • Household garbage (biodegradable)
  • Kitchen and vegetable wastes

While all this information can be overwhelming for a beginner in organic farming, it is safe to stay with an extra hint of information rather than being underprepared.

The pointers that we have talked about merely shed a light into the world of organic farming. And as you know, there’s much more to it.

There is a diverse group of farmers, individuals and working professionals in Hyderabad who have taken the first step towards a sustainable tomorrow — equipped with rich knowledge and tested procedures that work for our land.

Connect and collaborate with the already existing networks to reap the benefits of a pool of research that is logical and practical.

InAcres — a group of passionate individuals with an aim to promote integrated sustainable farming and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) — fosters this pursuit of creating eco-friendly ecosystems in Hyderabad.

To enable this, we have implemented the CSA model in our farms at Shadnagar and Bhuthpur. Our current CSA farm at Bhuthpur is a 100-acre agroforest that helps like-minded individuals and their families to truly celebrate farm life and the benefits of organic produce that is cultivated, enriched and harvested in front of them.

Feel like it’s the right time to pursue your passion for organic farming? Begin the new year with an invaluable investment in the betterment of the environment and good health by joining hands with InAcres. Feel free to get to know us more by clicking here.

Happy organic farming!

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