Sunday, November 30, 2008

Agricultural ruins and new beginnings

I’ve spent the last couple weeks visiting local farms, large and small, trying to learn as much as possible about how people farm in these hills. I’ve walked through acres of meticulously weeded and trellised tomatoes, admired neat rows of turmeric, and stopped to watch the beginning of the finger millet harvest. I think the strangest visit was this semi-abandoned cut-flower farm near Kamagiri. Though the shadehouses and hoophouses are now just empty frames, the fruit tree orchards are still thriving; the papayas and bananas are loaded with fruit, and the mangoes and citrus are glossy and bright with fresh growth. Back on the other side of the forest hills, near the bottom of the valley, we visited these farmers who are preparing their fields for an irrigated winter finger millet crop. They’ve already turned the soil and leveled the fields, and started transplant beds of finger millet seedlings. That unmistakable neon green of fresh growth is amazing. These farmers will also be growing winter cash crops in a few of their small field sections—chilies, flowers, and green beans. Several of them are interested in trying out our drip irrigation in a section or two; the sandy soil in this part of the valley makes it difficult to irrigate by the conventional flooded furrow or basin system.

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