One of the oldest farms, Sidhartha farm is a 12.5-acre farm led by Herbert. Siddhartha farm’s aspiration is to produce healthy food that is needed for the Auroville community. Basing their production on sustainable practices like crop rotation, non hybridized seeds and organic composting, the team at Siddhartha believes that quality food is available for the community. Herbert has been working for a few decades in the farming sector to make this vision a reality. Herbert is supported by his family; namely Suhasini, Selvi and Satya in the management and development of the farm. The farm also provides employment opportunities to villagers living close to the farm.
The vision is to provide food that the Auroville community needs with a focus on rice, vegetables, fruits and dairy. The farm does this rooted in organic farming principles and ensures that the land does not degenerate in this process. Collaboration with the other farms and the community organisation is strongly valued by the Siddhartha farm team.
In 1983, Herbert began to be involved in forestry and green work of Auroville. He soon had aspirations to grow food for the community. After farming on a tract of land for a few years, in 1996, he moved to another land that is part of the current Siddhartha farm operations. Another Aurovillian named Priya soon began to work adjacent to the Siddharta farmland for whom Herbert had transferred some of the lands that he had previously stewarded. The new farm came to be called Buddha Garden. In the years that followed, Herbert received more land adjacent to Irumbai water tank for rice cultivation. Capitalizing on the water availability, he passionately began to grow rice there.
The land near Buddha garden had to be worked on for a long time to make it suitable for vegetable growing owing to the high levels of pebbles and gravels. Therefore the focus was on planting fruit trees, poultry and hardy crops. Owing to the abundance of harvested rainwater in the Irumbai land, it is being used to cultivate paddy for 6 months during the year. Capitalising on harvested rainwater, little groundwater is being pumped to grow crops. The land has been used for paddy cultivation for a long time.
The farm employs sustainable organic farming principles. The regenerative farming principle ensures that the nutrients go back to the soil. It ensures that the soil does not get depleted. Crop rotation, green manure cultivation, rigorous mulching, crop complementarity and organic composting are some methods through which the soil is regenerated at the farm. Composts are made using the traditional ‘panchakavyam’ formula which helps to improve the fertility levels in the soil.
In the rice growing portion of Siddhartha farm, water catchment ponds and irrigation systems are being explored. This would help the farm become more ecologically sustainable with water consumption. The animals are given care and space to graze freely on the land. The farm is also growing green fodder in the farm to provide better nutrition to the cows and reduce dependence on concentrates purchased from the market.
Rich Diversity in Produce
The farm grows a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Lots of green leafy vegetables, herbs and non-local vegetables are cultivated in the cool season. The farm also cultivates plenty of tropical fruits like bananas & papayas among other fruits. The farm produces a significant amount of rice, millets, peanuts, sugarcane and sesame. There is a small poultry and the size of the organic dairy is being expanded to provide more organic milk to the community.
The processed products of Siddhartha farm are well appreciated by the community. The farm makes and distributes roasted cashews, jaggery, nut butters, cold pressed sesame oil among others. The premium on the price of processed goods also has helped the farm to be more financially sustainable over the years.
Buy Farms & Produce from Siddhartha:https://www.auroville.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=siddhartha+farm
Financial investments are needed to keep Siddhartha farm productive and operationally efficient. Investments need to be made for machinery, tractors, roads, fencing, irrigation, bunds, water catchments ponds, energy infrastructure etc. Grain farming is especially challenging because it requires large upfront investments while the financial returns only come in several months' time. There is also an element of risk such as crop damage due to pests and unfavourable weather conditions. Given that Auroville farms are placed to produce food for Auroville, Siddhartha farm could benefit by receiving more development assistance from the community. This would enable Sidhartha farm to focus on producing more food for the community. At the moment, the farm is dependent upon its food processing activities and timber for generating additional income needed to keep the farm self-reliant.
Managing costs of small-scale, mixed-crop organic farms are generally challenging. Siddhartha farm team, having positioned themselves to primarily grow food for Auroville, have to rely on revenue from selling their produce to Auroville. Being committed to providing fair wages and employing sustainable ecological practices, the costs end up being usually higher than conventional farms that focus on ‘economy of scale’ to bring their costs down. In this context, competing with market prices can be challenging, especially when you don't get commitment from Auroville's consumer base. Pricing is often a barrier and a consideration while producing a crop. On this note, the farm team believes that awareness of sustainably grown organic produce is important.
The farm team observes a shift in people’s food consumption behaviour post-COVID pandemic. The team also observes the need for better collaboration with peer farmers and Auroville working groups as the way forward for the future.
Ecological challenges are closely linked with economic difficulties. In 2021, the cows at Siddhartha farm got affected with ‘foot and mouth disease due to which few animals died. In the past, some rice crops had been damaged by pests. These cases, typical in organic farming, led to financial losses for the farm.
Managing workforce and skilled human resources are also something that is being addressed at Siddhartha farm. During the rice cultivation season, seasonal workers are being employed at the farm. Finding skilled and motivated workers can be challenging. Often they demand higher wages compared to the contributions they make to the farm. It was also noted by the farm managers that fewer people are interested in farm-related work these days.
The farm is also open to having visiting volunteers who usually come to Auroville farms to explore ecologically sustainable organic farming. It was mentioned by the team that a lot of time is often required to give them an orientation. The farm prefers long term serious volunteers who would like to engage in the long term. However, there is no volunteer accommodation on the farm at the moment. Contact us for more details.
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