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Posted by Stewart Auyash at 9:46AM   |  9 comments
Kutty's Farm

During a recent stay in Bangalore, India, we visited a farm unlike any we had seen before.  Brought there by our host, Georgekutty (known as “Kutty”), it’s about 50km and 90 minutes outside of the dusty, busy, noisy streets of Bangalore near Kolar.

The farm has no edible crops, no sowed fields, and no silos. At least not yet. What it does have is Kutty’s vision and passion, which is more than enough as it turns out.  It has been his dream to develop an organic farm that would be used for educational and nutritional purposes. After many years, by which time most of us would have grabbed onto new dreams, Kutty found some land, raised the funds, and started this non-profit community venture. 

To the uninitiated like me, it looks more like a rocky desert than a farm.  I wondered how anything would grow in this soil. There were a few trees, bushes, bamboo, and lots of rocks and boulders. But as we walked around, Kutty showed us what I was not seeing. He showed us all the saplings and seedlings that he planted and explained how they will be used. The trees and bushes there were planned to assist with irrigation and preventing erosion. The rock formations were placed there by design to create a funnel-like system to collect rainwater. He pointed out the cozy and functional building with red clay or thatched roofs that had been designed by architects to encourage interaction, a sense a space, and cool cover on hot sunny days. After a few hours of showing us the embodiment of his vision, the place came alive.

Last summer, Kutty said, a group of  20 students from the US had spent a summer there helping on the farm.  They lived in the small dormitory buildings sleeping in cots, preparing their own food, and learning about sustainable ideas, politics, and organic farming from professors (who stayed at hotels in Bangalore) who were selected for the openness to the knowledge that these opportunities can convey.

Kutty seemed especially proud of small trees he called “Neem trees.”  These, he said, have medicinal  and antibacterial qualities and are very common in India.  However, a few years earlier, WR Grace, a large chemical company, had applied for and received a patent from the European Patent Office for a pesticide derived from the Neem trees in India. Pharmaceutical companies were also interested in patenting the Neem tree’s other natural substances.

Concern grew from all over India that the Neem tree would be “owned” by major corporations.  Vandana Shiva and others have labeled this an example of “biopiracy”.  To the surprise of many, the European Patent Office listened to the protests and revoked the patent that had already been awarded to WR Grace. This was an enormous (though perhaps temporary) victory for farmers and those opposed to biopiracy.  But as a result of these events, Kutty, among others, refers to the Neem tree as the Freedom Tree. It is, he said, an emblem of freedom from corporate dominance of our natural resources that belong to everyone.

As Kutty remarks below in his comment, the Free Tree Commune was inspired by Corinne Kumar, the founding director of the Center for Informal Education and Development. If you would like a copy of the brochure, please email me at auyash@ithaca.edu.

 


9 Comments

Thanks for the fantastic write ups. It was really very nice to have you all here in Bangalore. After reading you both I am also happy to have taken you to the rocky terrains where the dreams flower. You visited us at the height of summer when the rocks, the grass, the plants and the trees were yearning for rain. Yet you arrived on the dawn of a very important day - The World Water Day(March 22nd) to talk to us on Water, to screen and discuss films on water."Water is magic"! It rained at the free tree and now the whole place is like a green carpet. I wish you could be here...
There are a few factual corrections to be made to your texts.Free Tree Commune was inspired by Corinne Kumar, the founder director of CIEDS Collective. Me drift and dream along. I am attaching the brochure on Free Tree Commune in response to Ayuash and your write up on Free Tree. It would be nice if you publish this letter and the brochure on the blog
Kutty

"Uninitiated" is a word that can be used to describe the lives of many and thus it struck me with importance within this post. It is the uninitiated experience is common experience and presumably anyone would take an arid land as no site for an organic farm. What, most likely, captivates the majority of the readers in this post is that we are all wonderfully tricked by a stereotype. How could lush green farming come from desert like conditions?

To be more aware, a person must learn to dig deeper, see what others do not, change the focal point. As a film studies student I have learned that a person can be either a spectator or a person who is engaged with all that the experience has to offer. A filmmaker can either challenge conventions within a genre through differentiation or they can conform for audience approval. Challenging a view point and engaging in more than just the blatantly visible is an important message.

It is great to know that there are people out there who want to make a difference in the world, even if its as little as developing an organic farm. I think that what you guys are doing is great, creating a farm that manufactures organic produce to be used for nutritional and educational purposes. I found it really interesting how the different aspects of the "soon to be organic farm" such as the saplings and seedlings or the trees and the bushes could function together in creating a lively and productive farm. I wish you guys all the success in this wonderful project of yours.

Blogs such as this make me very happy. I recently attended a workshop presented by the group called EngageMedia, which does work in Pacific Asia with other activist groups, helping them to get their videos, blogs, and other efforts recognized worldwide. This blog seems to be working along the same lines. I find it appalling that major corporations think they have the rights to own a patent on a tree. These villages have so little and rely so heavily on small things such as the neem tree, but corporations dont seem to understand how crucial it is to their every day life. I am quite happy for them that the patent has at least temporarily been denied.

It is wonderful to hear that there are farms such as this - emphasizing organic food and sustainability - located all over the world. My mother is a member of an organic farm in New Jersey, and the fruit and vegetables we get there are better than any processed food you can buy in a store. Not only does organic food taste better, it's also much better for you, and the sustainability practiced at these farms are so much better for the Earth itself. The more individually owned, natural, and organic farms we have, the better our chances for a green, healthy Earth in the future will be.

Thanks for everyone's comments. They remind me that these stories, short as they may be, often help to illuminate a small part of the world that is often forgotten or neglected. I will keep you up to date with the progress being made by Kutty and his farm.

The story of this organic farm really shows what persistence and initiative can do. It seems like this organic farm has really been a hit and has intrigued many students and others all over the world. It's great to see that people really do care about our environment and are doing their part in making this world beautiful and giving it life. The design of the farm sounds extraordinary and I was wondering where I could find more pictures.

Kutty's farm is definitely inspiring and a step in the right direction toward sustainable living. It makes me happy that the corporation did not get control over the neem trees because it is so rare that that is the case. Usually corporations don't care about who they are harming and use their economic power to takeover resources. The cleverness in planning how the irrigation system would work within the plants and the rocks is just the kind of ideas people need to model after in order to work toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

This was a really nice story to read. I enjoy seeing the ambitions of people to create an educational and nutritional organic farm. Also the feeling of empowerment from winning the revokement of the patent for major corporations to dominate natural resources. This is a success story for people's voices being heard when natural resources are being extracted unfairly and should be available for all and not for profit.



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