By Ameet Singh
Pune, 23rd December 2021: It takes these months to make a berry crop successful. This is their season.
There is something about the seasons, it’s not that they come and go. They also bring with them the flavours that we become accustomed to and live by. Calendars time us accordingly and the weather helps us celebrate our lives along with harvests, nature’s bounty.
This is berry season.
We harvest berries every other day. From over 200000 plus saplings planted on our farms.
If the weather turns colder than usual the berries take longer to mature. A few days more.
If the weather turns cloudy or balmy. They mature faster. A few days lesser. In warm weather, we harvest more.
The best of our produce is handpicked each harvest. It’s then packaged for our customers with loving care.
We use cardboard boxes because that allows the berries to breathe.
Some prefer plastic. However, Plastic becomes a heat trap, especially if left alone in sunlight. Berries don’t like the heat.
We don’t use chemical coatings or preservatives. So, moisture is best retained with wild leaves. Yes wild. because, wild plants are never fertilised, sprayed or doctored and yet are the most disease resistant, pest-free, natural biodegradable resource one can use for packaging. Weeds also have their utility if applied innovatively.
Indians have a proclivity towards sweetness. We don’t do sweet. The reason being sweetness is induced by synthetics.
Now, everybody likes sweet stuff. All creatures great and small want a piece of the sweet action. So, post the synthetics & other assorted chemicals that go into making stuff sweeter. There are as many as 3 layers of pesticides sprayed on sweetened berries. How else can we get the ants, pests, insects, monkeys and other assorted creatures to stay away from the berries.
Either that or GMO. I wouldn’t mind farming GMO produce if I was assured it’s not really gonna cross-pollinate with the wild. Which means controlled farming. Dunno, about that. I’m also not too sure that some adventurous scientists aren’t using CRISPR tech to cut and paste animal genes into plants. This is complicated. I’m waiting for the air to clear on this before I take a personal call. After all, we all use canola oil, BT cotton and the covid vaccine is a GMO product.
The more serious concern really, to me is synthetics. When I witness the incredible ingredients that go into making berries bigger and sweeter. As a simple farmer, I’m reckoning that it’s as good as eating plastic. This is not something I would have on my hands. That’s why I simply shun those variants. I ask my customers sometimes – who want really sweet stuff to go elsewhere with folded hands.
I dunno, if it’s some sort of a winning battle. I find being candid pays. I won’t eat plastic.
But synthetics are in use elsewhere in other products too. They deliver fantastic results. Perhaps, that’s the way to go for many. How much can one hold back? After all, farming naturally isn’t easy. I prefer to tread the middle ground on this, albeit quite gingerly. Some chemicals after all are necessary for good results. Soil needs to be manured and fertilised with supplements to enhance its nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
The soluble varieties are what I prefer. Even if you eat that stuff, it passes through you. I would like to think, Urine is urea after all.
For the naysayers, please appreciate that there is only 1% residual nitrogen in biomass and 2% in cow dung and urine which are the traditional methods of fertilisation. Comparatively, you get urea variants with as high as 47% nitrogen. That’s the reason why chemicals have miraculously transformed agrarian practices.
Truth be told. If you take the entire worlds biomass and dung (all animal waste) and try to grow food, you can feed only half the planet. Or, 3.5 billion people. The balance of 3.5 billion odd will simply have no choice but, starvation. The world uses over 100 million tons of nitrogen every year to feed itself. After all, nobody wants to starve.
Problems that chemicals bring to the fore are quite a few. A primary one is excessive use of chemicals resulting in soil salinity, fatigue and fields turning fallow. (This is a conscious mistake). Secondary effects exist, such as residual chemicals on the body of the crop being ingested resulting in disease impact. (This can be corrected by simply soaking fresh produce in saltwater or vinegar solutions). People should do that responsibly. After all, you are, what you eat. Tertiary impacts exist such as waste left behind. It is often invisible to our eyes. For instance, every ton of phosphorus used generates 5 tons of waste. Phosphogypsum. It’s weakly radioactive and mostly useless. One doesn’t know if using it for roads is beneficial either. Never mind, plastic is being recycled into roads. That’s why one has to use these things judiciously and with awareness of one’s actions. Thankfully, today’s generation of farmers is an aware lot. I don’t have to work too hard to make people turn towards becoming residue-free.
Yes, Residue-free. Minimum chemicals. Simple pesticides are all possible. With a little help from the weather, it’s as good as nature intended.
That’s what I do. That’s why maybe, just maybe, I think that I’m one of the best farmers in the world who does his best to grow to produce as responsibly as possible.