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Purushottambhai Patel, Gujarat

Purushottambhai Patel is a small farmer who owns 7.5 acres of land in village Shekhadi , near Petlad in the Anand district of Gujarat. Through his vision and hard work he has managed to convert his land into a cornucopia of plenty. He adopted organic farming in 2000 and was certified as organic by Jatan Trust in 2007.  Through multicropping, dairying and direct marketing of his produce to urban consumers he now earns a good income. Three of his sons have chosen to follow in his footsteps and assist him in the farm chores. He lives on the land with his family and as there is good road access to his farm, his customers and admirers visit him frequently.

Coconut and vegetables: Purushottambhai’s land is in two plots—a 3.5 acre plot and a 4 acre plot.  On the 3.5 acre plot he has planted 120 coconut palms on approximately one acre of land and the rest of the plot is devoted to seasonal vegetables and fruits. His coconut palms were planted in 1992 with the palms being brought from a govt. nursery in Bhavanagar district. When he decided to plant coconut palms on his land, the other farmers thought he had gone mad because coconut is not a traditional crop in this area. This was a calculated gamble taken by Purushottambhai but it paid off. Now the coconut palms bear every year irrespective of the vagaries of the monsoon. And as coconut palms live and bear till 100 years of age, the family’s annual income is assured. Purushottambhai plants animal fodder between the coconut palms. This crops fix nitrogen in the soil and adds biomass to the farm.  The success of his organic farm silenced those who had laughed at him earlier; neighbouring farmers come to him for advice and he willingly shares his knowledge of organic farming with them.

The  coconut palms yield an average of 200-250 coconuts per tree annually.  His tender green coconuts sold for coconut water fetch him a price of Rs. 8 each and the ripe coconuts fetch him Rs. 10 each.

All kinds of seasonal vegetables are planted including staples like potatoes and onions. Drip irrigation has been installed for his vegetable plots with a govt. subsidy and this saves him both labour and water. A water melon crop planted over one acre of land fetched him a return of Rs. 62,000.

Rice, wheat and pulses: On his 4 acre plot Purushottambhai plants paddy in the kharif season and wheat in the rabi season. He likes to plant a traditional  variety of paddy called Krishnakamod which has a black husk. This variety gives him more straw he claims. His gets a yield of 13-14 quintals per acre and after being dehusked the unpolished rice is sold at Rs. 70 per kg.

A high yielding variety of wheat called Kudarat, developed by Raghuvanshi, an award winning plant breeder from Uttar Pradesh, is planted during the rabi season. He gets a yield of 12-15 quintals of wheat per acre from this variety and sells it at Rs. 20-22 per kg.
He also plants moong during the summers and bajra during the winters. Several of his customers place advance orders with him for these grains and pulses.

Marketing: Initially, to spread the word about his organic farm, he attended several food festivals  and local fairs organized in Ahmedabad, Baroda and elsewhere. He put up a stall, packed his produce in small quantities and sold it to the visitors at these fairs. Leaflets on his organic methods were also given to visitors to educate them.  Those who liked the taste of his produce contacted him for more supplies. Once the ball was set rolling there was no looking back.

Now organic dealers and suppliers from Ahmedabad and Baroda come to his farm and collect the vegetables for further distribution in the city.  Some regular customers also come to his farm to buy his organic vegetables, and what is left is sold in the local market. As demand for organic produce has gone up in Gujarat in recent years,  his produce gets sold quickly; Purushottambhai has more customers knocking on his door than ever before.

Dairy: At present he has more than 10 cows on his farm. Three are Gir cows and the rest are Sahiwal and other breeds. He gets an average of 40-45 litres of milk from his cows daily which is sold at a good price to the local dairy cooperative and to individual customers. Both green fodder and dry fodder for his cows is made on the farm itself . Since his methods are organic,  his cows are also getting organic feed and are producing organic milk in return.

He has also installed a distillation unit for preparation of GOMUTRA ARK (cow urine distillate) from the urine of his Gir cows. This is regarded as ayurvedic medicine and sells for Rs. 100 per litre.

Organic manures and open pollinated seeds: Purushottambhai makes his own compost and the cows that he keeps provide him with ample dung and urine to make a variety of preparations which he uses on his farm. He also does value addition to his farm produce. For instance he slices and dries his chikoo, and sells it as a snack at good prices.

Purushottambhai makes and saves his own seeds and shares them with other farmers.  The seeds he uses are traditional and heirloom seeds. By using open pollinated seeds he can save them for the next season and also share them with other farmers. He is aware of the fact that the indiscriminate use of expensive hybrid seeds marketed by multinational companies,  has led to a spate of farmer suicides in India in the past decade. Little wonder that he is  a staunch believer in traditional seeds and a passionate seed saver.

Organic certification: His farm has been certified as organic by Jatan Trust, an organization devoted to farmer welfare in Gujarat. A new certificate is issued each year at a nominal cost to farmers like him.

Since he makes his own manures and uses his own seeds, his input costs are low. Purushottambhai is a living example of “small is beautiful”.  Through careful crop selection, water management, application of manures, animal husbandry, he has achieved a self-sustaining organic farm which not only feeds him and his family but also provides organic produce to the local consumers. May his tribe increase!