What We Grow
At Solitude Farm, we use many of the principles of Permaculture, including stacking crops based on physiology and time duration (intercropping), mulching, rotations, groundcovers and green manures. Further, we extend our vision of Permaculture to relationships with our local community by running an Organic Restaurant and running a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programme.
Our farm is an exploration of methods of growing food that are often indigenous to these lands and that have been adapted to local conditions over time. It is an intelligent growing system, using traditional wild greens and vegetables, integrated with the careful cultivation of crops that require more hands-on care.
We have adapted the growth and handling of our harvest over time, in response to increased demand from the café and sporadic and inadequate monsoons. Conditions have pushed us to explore what grows abundantly in dry, hot conditions, hence some of our produce consists of crops largely ignored in the industrial food market.
We grow and utilise items whose value is deceasing in the commercial market, for example banana stem and flower, turkey berry, sweet potato leaves, local greens such as chicken spinach, wild cow spinach, hardy vegetable varieties such as upland ladies fingers, red ladies fingers, a diversity of egg plants, beans, chillies, gourds and many other crops such as tapioca and sweet potato.
We grow traditional dry land millets including foxtail, finger millet, horse tail millet and pearl millet. We also grow traditional, seasonal semi-dry-land rice, such as poovam sambar and some varieties of red and black rice. Despite an extremely high nutritional value, many of these varieties are under-appreciated in a market that values homogeneity.
Natural Food Processing
We use many of the traditional methods of utilising surplus crops. From crops such as finger millet, plantain and tapioca we make flour for use in the café. We dehydrate foods such as sweet potato as well as local fruits like jackfruit. These foods are abundant in a small seasonal period, and we develop a variety of ways to use them.
We also make and sell seasonal jams, pickles and chutneys, thereby ensuring that what we grow is always valued and creatively interacted with. We respect and honour nature’s bounty and are always happy to share this knowledge.
Permaculture: How We Grow
For us, the focus is always on the soil. We consider the organic matter, every leaf, every stick and branch, the green and brown organic matter on the farm as a bio-resource, their value lying in their ability to create a dynamic soil, full of nutrition and life. The restoration and constant refeeding of the soil with this matter through mulching is key to all work on the farm.
On the farm we play with different non-intervention techniques, by growing natural, organic food without ploughing, tilling, weeding, fertilisers and pesticides.
We are creating a haven of abundance, growing over 90 edible species of plants across the year. This reflects our belief that bio-diversity is the key to a healthy land, and therefore to healthy people. The bio-diversity is apparent in our harmonious relationship with edible weeds, whose presence we respect and utilise in our café, and also through the practice of responsible crop rotation.
We use techniques from organic agriculture such as intercropping, growing two or more crops in close proximity, and relay cropping – growing two or more crops on the same field with the planting of the second crop after the first has completed its development. By carefully tuning in to the season, harvest times and other conditions, on a good year, we manage up to four rotations of rice, vegetables, lentils and millets!
By humbly returning the organic matter to the earth and trying to intervene in the smallest ways possible with nature’s perfection, we regenerate the ecology of the soil and honour Mother Earth. Through this bio-diversity we are feeding and enriching a society while simultaneously revitalising the use of traditional crops.
Permaculture is about relationships. Whether it be mulching, housing, livestock, orchards, forests — Permaculture is about how various relationships arise and interact.
Natural Farming is the foundation of Solitude Farm. Krishna met Masanobu Fukuoka in 2003, and since then has been passionately striving to manifest a form of natural farming suitable for Auroville’s bioregion. By using groundcovers and a system of rotations, the farm grows non-tilled, direct-sown rice with minimal effort and no ecological costs. The fields are improving year by year, and we are constantly developing a vision of integrated, intensive, small-scale natural farming.
Experience life and work at Solitude Farm