Ever since he could walk, P Niranjan showed interest in farming while being taken around the farmlands of his maternal and paternal family in Adimali and Kochi, respectively. Agriculture is not an unfamiliar arena for his engineer parents Simi and Prajeesh either, as almost all types of crops including spices, vegetables and fruits are cultivated on their family-owned land. Little Niranjan would help his grandparents in collecting the harvest and always asked his parents for a similar farm near his Kochi home.
Due to space constraints, Niranjan’s parents haven’t been able to make their son’s wish come true. But the 11-year-old has already started realising his dream by putting together a terrace farm where he grows multiple varieties of fruits, veggies and flowers. Additionally, he has also developed his own mix of bio manure which ensures steady growth of the crops.
“I like to be around plants all the time. To take care of them, watch them grow, treat them with manure and plucking the fruits are things that make me happy,” says the class 6 student of Chavara Darsan CMI Public School, Kottuvally.
Simi, Niranjan’s mother, who runs an engineering company in the city, says, “Farming is a part of our daily routine and watching us do it, Niranjan got interested automatically. He used to walk through my family’s farm in Adimali from the age of four and gather the produce. He also spent a lot of time on my husband’s family-owned farm too.”
Niranjan’s activities recently won him an award from the Agriculture department as the Best Student Farmer in Ernakulam district.
Cracking the bio manure formula
Interestingly, Niranjan was enrolled in a school which promotes farming. The wide campus is utilised for farming fruits, vegetables and even paddy. They also won the award for the best institute to conduct vegetable farming in the district. “We have a beautiful garden inside the campus. We also run an eco shop where the produce is sold. The income from the shop is used for further farming activities,” explains Niranjan who is also the secretary of his school’s nature club.
During the first lockdown period, Niranjan was part of a WhatsApp group of ‘child farmers’, where they shared different bio manure ideas. They also encouraged group members to develop their manures which work well for the crops they grow.
Niranjan started experimenting with different mixtures to form a perfect manure formula. Finally, the use of a mix of neem cake, peanut cake, fresh cow dung and fish amino (1 kg of chopped sardine and 1 kg of jaggery placed in an airtight container for 41 days) gave good results from his garden.
His terrace farm now has vegetables like bitter gourd, ivy gourd, ash gourd, brinjal, okra, chilli, tomato, pea, spinach, corn, Chinese potato and pumpkin. Fruits like pomegranate, lemon, custard apple, banana and orange are also cultivated.
The latest addition to his garden are 40 pots of yellow and orange marigolds to be harvested for the Onam festival. Most of the produce is used in the household itself or given to neighbours and friends.
Hearing about the little one’s efforts, SK Shinu, assistant agriculture officer, Krishi Bhavan, Kottuvally visited Niranjan’s terrace garden. He was impressed, to say the least, and suggested the couple nominate Niranjan for the upcoming Mikacha Vidyaarthi Karshakan (Best Student Farmer) award. He grabbed the panchayat level award and came second at the district level.
“No matter what, I want to do more farming. My biggest dream is to farm in a wider space just like my grandparents in our native place. I might get into other professions but farming will continue for sure,” says Niranjan, who desires to get into the software field in future.
He spends 2-3 hours every evening in the garden. Niranjan’s younger sister Gowri Nanda is the former’s, favourite helper. “She is also interested in all the activities just like him,” says their proud mother.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
All photo credits Simi Prajeesh