When we bought this land at Vikramasingapuram, I faced buyers remorse and therefore several sleepless nights for several weeks. We were a family who had uprooted our comfortable city life and were planning to set up shop at a town that we had not even visited earlier. When we settled down and started to meet and engage with people around, things started to change. We met Om Prakash a few months into our journey at the farm and we realised that we had so many philosophies and principles in common.
Om Prakash is whom we drew inspiration from when we shifted from hybrid cows to native cows. He bought a couple of adult cows that were being taken for slaughter and that’s how his farm life started. The story is same everywhere – the older generation of farmers are trying to protect all the native cows as much as they can – but the economics is preventing them from working it out. Selling the cows for slaughter to the neighbouring state of Kerala seem to be the only way because native cows don’t produce enough milk to sustain the White Revolution. Om Prakash is playing his part in altering the economics of raising native cows by making value added products from cow dung and cow urine. Some of them are : Cow dung cakes for stove fuel, Ganpati idols, Diyas, Vibhoothi, Sambraani, dish wash powder, tooth powder, Ghana jeevamrutham etc. More on that for a later point of time when we start an online store.
Even though Om Prakash had bought this 2 acre land at Chettipanankaadu in May 2017, he started making daily visits for grazing in 2018 after introducing cows. The cows grounded him to the land, he says. He raises native chickens and ducks in a small fenced area of his land. Because native chickens, ducks and sheep are valued for their eggs and meat, they are protected and propagated by farmers all around. Om Prakash’s focus has been native cows. Along the 4 year journey, he has bought cows and bulls from farmers who have not been able to eke a living out of native cows and were about to abandon them or sell them for meat. Without the efforts of people like him, a lot of genetic diversity among cattle will be lost and we will lose the short-yet-sturdy disease-resistant drought-tolerant breeds of South India. He now has a herd of 13 cows, which includes 2 bulls and 5 calves.
Om Prakash, who is 30 years old, was born and brought up in a village called Sivanthipuram, located between Ambasamudram and Vikramasingapuram. So, when he moved back from the Middle East after working there in Oil & Gas fields for 4 years, he came back to his parents place. His wife Priyanka, his son Prabhanjan and he live with his parents. His farm is 1 kilometre walking distance from our farm, but it takes 4-5 kilometres by motorable To spend more time at the farm, he decided to build a house there.
And this is where he put Noushadya and my endaevour of building an economical house to shame: he constructed a 430 sq ft house with recycled material, locally available material, a lot of his own labour and a little help in about ₹400 per square feet. We had ended up with more than 4 times the cost. He designed the house minimally and made best use of whatever he could lay his hands on : Palmyra rafters of the flat roof and Kadapa for the lintel were from his grandparents’ old now-dismantled house. The house’s walls were built with baked bricks and mud mortar. The roof was built with baked bricks and lime in a vernacular technique called Madras Terrace, as you may recollect from our house. He did most of the laborious work of the house and engaged masons only when the work required bigger teams. He has done a few trials for plasters – there is a technique called pointing that he is experimenting with which requires less material. His family and he are slowly transitioning to a full time life in the farm – they spend a few nights every week to maximize observation and value addition at the farm.
Om Prakash has also been planting a lot of trees over the years. They are a mix of native and exotic trees. They are a mix of fruit, timber and medicinal plants. He had introduced goats to his herd, but they chewed the leaves of several of the young trees that he had planted. So, he had to give that idea up – and will maybe introduce them later when all the trees have grown tall. He sources seeds and saplings from correspondence, sharing and as far as his occasional travels take him. He also grows a variety of vegetables across the seasons in small vegetable patches around the house and the ainimal shed.
Because Om Prakash roots are here, he has been very helpful to us in teaching a lot of local techniques for raising animals. And we don’t know what we would have done without his support! We are very thankful to him and we hope to continue the partnership to bring you our products locally as well as country wide. The community of farmers friends will go a long way in building food resilience slowly and steadily.
In case you want to reach out to him, you can text him on whatsapp or telegram +91 97917 95979