Vineela (One of the mothers who has cooked for us once every week for some years now!) who has managed to find a lovely source for local vegetables shares the story of a relationship that has brought freshness into our kitchen at Shibumi.
Two years back my mother-in-law and I attended a week long yoga session. This was where I first met Kala aunty. Kala aunty is a 70 year old lady with fully white hair and a beautiful smile. She is a go getter who never shies away from hard word, becomes very passionately involved in any work that she does and always eyes for perfection. Her daughter says she was born with a green thumb. She was always interested in gardening and used to have a beautiful terrace garden with lots of different plants. You will often hear people say that entering her garden was like entering a mini forest.
Much after our first meeting I learnt that Kala aunty was selling organic vegetables that she herself was growing in her farm. Instantly I started buying vegetables from her. During one of our meetings aunty mentioned to me the difficulty she was facing in selling the vegetables from her increasing yield. I told her about Shibumi and how our kitchen was completely into organic foods.
Soon enough Shibumi started buying it’s vegetables and fruits from Kala aunty.
Even though today aunty sells her vegetables to many of her neighbours and friends, she began her experiments in her own home. Having always been conscious about what her family eats aunty started out by buying and using a Kent purifier for fruits and vegetables. Each time she would notice a smell of chlorine and pesticides and the water would become frothy. This was enough to make her shift completely to organically grown produce.
Soon after, her daughter bought a piece of land and aunty started organic farming.
The first few times that aunty tried farming on the land nothing grew. The soil was tested and it was found to be useless for farming. Gradually aunty got it replaced and figured out ways to make It more fertile. For this her daughter brought (and still does every two months) the dung and urine of Naati cows from a farm in Bannerghatta Road. She got manure prepared at the farm using organic materials along with jaggery, besan, cow dung and cow urine called Jeevanmruta. Besides this she also collected daily vegetable and fruit waste from many of her neighbours (including me) and the vegetable vendor to make her own compost. Within a few months the soil became very fertile.
Despite all these efforts things were not easy. In the beginning she lost many plants and seeds. Many small mistakes were made such as putting too much or too little water, putting not enough manure, allowing for pests, etc. She started researching, experimenting, learning from each mistake she made and rectifying it along the way. And for all this she had and still has great support from her family and friends. There is a also a family that stays on the farm to help her with most of the manual work.
Profit has never been aunty’s motive for doing this work. She started with the idea of growing vegetables only for her own house but because of an increasing yield she started distributing them among her friends and neighbours. The neighbours however didn’t like taking her produce free of cost and insisted on paying for the vegetables. Even then she didn’t want to use this money for herself. Instead, every time she accumulated Rs. 10,000 she would give it away to a different charity of her choice such as Akshay patra, or the army, etc.