One-woman brigade in pursuit of excellence in farming

Sheeja is a native of Guruvayoor. Photo: Special arrangement

K S Sheeja’s ascent as a farmer was an offshoot of a disaster. To be precise, a vehicle accident involving her son, an engineering student in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, had prompted her to the wonder world of farming. Sheeja, who hails from Guruvayoor, was put up at a rented place as part of the treatment of her son. It is there that she came in touch with Patiamma, an exponent of organic farming.

Today, Sheeja is among a handful of organic farmers in Guruvayoor municipal limits. Farming is her passion as well as bread-winner now. Sheeja’s farm is in the Guruvayoor-Pavaratti road, near Thaikkad Krishi Bhavan. She finds space in the front yard of her home, her terrace and the nearby fields, apart from an acre of leased land to indulge in her noble passion.

Venda (Okra),Vazhuthana (Brinjal or Eggplant), Maththan (Pumpkin) Tannimaththan (Watermelon), Vellarí (Cucumber), Kumbalam (Ash gourd), Padavalam (Snake gourd), Beetroot and plantain are grown here. A variety of spinach, peppers, and cauliflower, which are winter flowers, are also the fruits of her labour.

In the backyard of the house, there is a garden full of medicinal plants and fruits including mango, jackfruit, guava, plum, apple, raspberry, mulberry, dragon fruit, blackberry, fig, Brazilian mulberry, and elephant apple. During Vishu, her farm revels in the harvest of Cucumber. She has also rolled wonders with the pepper plants she obtained from Krishi Bhavan. She harvested honey from beehives and collected honeycomb. Additionally, she cultivated mushrooms and participated in organic farming. Sheeja, who is also a Vlogger, shares her experiences and knowledge with the world through her videos.

Preparing the soil
Sheeja’s farm doesn’t use cow dung as a manure. Instead, hen droppings are used. To obtain manure, She also began a chicken farm a year ago. The manure is a mix of ash and hen droppings which are mixed and kept for a week before it is used as manure for saplings that are planted. Since the BV380 and black hen being reared mainly to procure manure also lays eggs, that is another source of income. As the revenue increased from these, Sheeja also expanded her hen farms to cater to the huge demand for eggs.

Hazards for farming
The ever-changing climatic conditions and the havoc created by wild animals are a constant worry for farmers. The farmers in the Guruvayoor municipality are always on alert to prevent attacks by wild animals. Sheeja’s farm has faced frequent attacks from wild boars, destroying the tuber varieties and winter plants. It also damaged the cabbage and cauliflower and hence these are cultivated in the terrace along with tomatoes and golden berry. Fibre separated from the husk of coconut is mixed with phenol and placed in agricultural land to thwart attack by wild boars. But this is not always a deterrent. So fencing with nets is also resorted to to check the attack by wild animals. In farms where mulching sheet rolls are used, the attacks by wild boars are comparatively less.

Finding the market
The vegetables grown on the farms are sold mainly through word spread by WhatsApp groups. Organic vegetables and fruits have usual customers. These are delivered to homes according to order, she said. She also earns an income by selling seeds of Lady's finger, spinach, snake gourd, etc.

The one-acre land in Kandanaserry that she leased is rich with various fruits and vegetables. She also holds experimental farming classes to familiarise students with various farming techniques. If this turns out to be a success, Sheeja intends to expand the experimental farming to more places.

The well in the land is the main source of irrigation. Sheeja also makes it a point to do all the chores alone including sowing, titling, etc. Her dream is to expand her farming to more than two acres– a dream which is not so distant considering her relentless pursuit.
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