What we grow
Our farm is an exploration of growing food that is often indigenous to these lands and that has adapted to these particular conditions over time. It is an intelligent growing and use of traditional wild greens and vegetables integrated with a careful cultivation of crops that require more hands-on care.
We have adapted our growing and handling of our harvest over time owing to the increased needs from the café, the sporadic and inadequate monsoons. These conditions have pushed us to explore what grows abundant in dry, hot conditions and use these crops largely ignored in the industrial food market.
We grow and utilize increasingly less monetarily valued items in the commercial market such as 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, pearl millet and more. We also grow traditional, seasonal semi dry-land rice such as poovam sambar, some varieties of red and black rice. Many of these varieties are extremely high in nutrition but are increasingly less valued in a market that values homogeneity.
Natural Food Processing:
We use many of the traditional methods of utilizing surplus crops. We make flour from crops such as finger millet, plantain and tapioca that is used in the café. We dehydrate food such as sweet potato and local fruits like jackfruit that are abundant in a small seasonal period and 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.
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.
We play on the farm with different techniques inspired by non-intervention, by growing natural, organic food without ploughing, tilling, weeding, fertilizers and pesticides.
We are creating a haven of abundance, growing over 90 edible species of plants across the year. This is a reflection of our belief that bio-diversity is the key to a healthy land, and therefore the people. This bio-diversity is partly in our harmonious relationship with edible weeds, whose presence we respect and utilise in our café, and also through a practise of responsible crop rotations.
We use techniques in organic agriculture like 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 soil ecology 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.
In Solitude Farm, we use many basic ideas of Permaculture, including stacking of 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) program.
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 very minimal 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.