Drive down the Kumily mountain pass, through the vineyards of lower camp and amidst the tamarind trees and vegetable gardens. The journey will take you to the Harvest Fresh Farm, where you will find Solomon's words coming true. You will find the pomegranate garden in blossom, cattle sheds with milching Vechoor cows, mango yards, herbal gardens, watch tower, mud paths, cottages for guests…. this farm spread over 35 acres hides immense treasures.
An organic dream
A mere six years ago, 'Harvest Fresh' was nothing but barren earth, just like the vast stretches of land surrounding it. But, Kurien Jose, hailing from Ernakulam had a dream that seemed impossible for the land that lay amidst the pesticide-soaked vineyards and cabbage gardens – a garden that followed the organic path. A little heaven, like the one created by Dennis, a character from that popular Malayalam movie 'Summer in Bethlehem.' Jose was prompted not by the calculations of loss or profit, but just the thoughts of a future free of poison. With his sons Kurien Jose Jr and Joseph offering to join hands with him, his dream took firm roots in that earth. A beautiful organic garden started to sprout here.
"There was just one neem tree on this soil. All this green cover that we see now was created during the last six years. It's proof enough that the earth will come out with her blessings if we tend to her with kindness," Kurien Jose Jr explained the beginnings of 'Harvest Fresh.'
The land that had a single neem tree now teems with an infinite number of trees. 'Buddha Bamboo' and palm trees spread out their welcoming shade before the guests. More than 800 coconut trees turn the Tamilian soil into the land of Kera trees – Keralam. Pomegranates, oranges, and rose apple and papaya bloom across acres of earth.
The pomegranates are blooming
The vast stretch of pomegranate garden in bloom is one of the most beautiful sights of the farm. The garden stretches across 20 acres of land. The five or six feet tall plants are heavy with shining bright red fruits. "We're cultivating the finest varieties like 'madva' here," said Antony, manager of the Harvest Fresh Farm, sharing the taste of a pomegranate with us. "Since we're using only organic manure, the fruits will not look too attractive from the outside, but they will be sweeter inside," he added. Pomegranates from Harvest Fresh Farm regularly reach the markets of Chennai, Kochi, and Coimbatore, according to Antony. The pomegranate garden also has mango trees grown as intercrop.
Close to the garden of 'blood drops' is the rose apple garden. There are four varieties of the rose apple, known as Chambakka in Malayalam – white, red, rose, and green. The papaya garden, spread across acres and resounding with the songs of birds jostling to have a feast of the ripe fruits is another attraction of the farm. A mere stroll along these pathways can lift your soul. All the saplings for the garden are grown in their own nursery.
The farm's garden cultivates a wide variety of vegetables including drumsticks, tomatoes, and ladies finger along with fruit varieties like orange, musambi, sapota, and passion fruit. The guests are served organic fare fresh from the garden.
Vechur Cow and Mullatha (Annona muricata)
The herbal garden of Harvest Fresh Farm is another beautiful sight as fascinating as the lascivious fruit gardens. The garden grows a large variety of medicinal plants like Lakshmi Taru, Mullatha (Annona muricata), Nagalinga (Couroupita guianensis), Vatham kolli or Nakedstem Dewflower (Murdannia nudiflora ) and tai thambakam. The fruit bearing 'Noni' (Morinda citrifolia) is the latest attraction in the medicinal plant garden. Visitors from many parts of Kerala travel to the farm seeking the 'Noni' fruit which is believed to have the ability to fight cancer. Picturesque pathways are laid out amidst the gardens, dotted with benches inviting the guests to sit down, enjoying the exquisiteness of the surrounding nature.
Harvest Fresh is home to more than just the birds and animals seeking the fruits and flowers and honey. Domestic ducks, hens and swans wander amongst the farm, taking dips in the pond. The poultry is enclosed within a large fenced area surrounded by fruit trees. Visitors are free to step into the enclosure and pet the birds. You just have to be careful of the sharp pecks!
The farm that completely depends upon organic manure rears 14 cows, nine among them being the rare Vechur cows. All the others are local species. The cow dung and urine provide manure for the gardens besides creating the fuel for the kitchen through biogas plants.
Harvest Fresh Farm offers an unending array of experiences for the traveller tired of the ruckus and riot of the city life. The guests are free to wander anywhere among the gardens. They can join in the planting activities and even giving the cows a bath !
"We're trying to recapture at least a small portion of the smell of earth and soil that we've lost," says Kurien Jose. "Our guests can also become a part of this attempt and learn to know the earth a little closer."
There are two watch towers that will help to enjoy the sights of the nearby mountains as well as in the gardens. One is placed in the middle of the pomegranate farm, presenting the guests with enchanting views of the birds coming to peck at the fruits. The second watch tower is close to the herbal garden. You can enjoy rare views of Lower Camp and the nearby mountains from this tower lying in the midst of red wild flowers. This watch tower is also a ‘Sunset Point’ for the guests.
Another highlight of the activities around the farm is bullock cart journeys through the farm and nearby villages. Those who are interested in cycling through the mud paths of the farm can enjoy that also. Guests can pick up cycles of their choice from the shed near the cottages. There are three cottages available for the guests.
Now, don't you feel that strolling through the pomegranate gardens in the early morning dew is not just a wild dream? If you want to enjoy the serene surroundings of nature, the smell of the soil and the song of the birds along with your dear and near, just go to Harvest Fresh. Shady trees and flowering pomegranates and loving hosts await you.