The integrated farm at Centro Madre in Barlovento, Venezuela is great example of how a small self-reliant farm can grow into a sustainable production of many farm products. In the next issue we will look at another small farm coop on the Ananda Girisuta Master Unit in Asheville.
by Didi Ananda Sadhana
Starting in February 2009, a very intense effort has been undertaken to develop a self-reliant, integrated farm at Centro Madre in Barlovento, Venezuela. Our goal is both to create a regular source of income from a wide variety of agricultural products and to educate the local community about the principles and practices of small-scale organic agriculture. Dada Atmapranananda supervised the agricultural project from dawn to dusk with his tireless effort. At each step of the way, we were advised and supported by two agronomists from the agricultural institute of the government (CIARA) in preparation for an inspection to evaluate the progress of our 3-hectare farm. In addition to two paid farm workers, many volunteers came from the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela and the Ananda Marga community to lend a hand to this collective effort. Several benefactors gave us financial donations to buy materials. It was astonishing how hard everyone worked, and the results were very impressive.
CIARA recognizes 12 aspects of an ideal integrated small-scale agricultural project. Half of them we already had, and the other half we started during this period: Vegetables, Floriculture, Medicinal plants, Fruit trees, Compost, Seed Bank and Nursery, Root crops, Apiculture, Pisciculture (fish ponds), Animal husbandry, Food processing (cottage industry) and Training workshops.
Several tons of cow manure was brought from nearby farms and combined with compost to create a very rich organic fertilizer, which we used to fill 5 vegetable beds, each one 10 meters long and one meter wide. We planted them all with 12 different vegetables and built an irrigation system to water half of them. Very delicious tomatoes are now ripening each day.
We also created a special area for herbs and medicinal plants that now has 15 varieties from aloe vera plants to lemongrass. Nine varieties of fruit trees are flourishing, with over 100 trees in total. Our 22 bee hives are starting to produce honey again. As a cottage industry, we dry and package bananas, mangos and tomatoes for sale in local markets.
We created two ponds: one is 12 by 10 meters, the second is 8 by 10 meters, both are one meter deep. We covered the bottom of each pond with manure to encourage the growth of algae, which will provide food to the fish populations, and then pumped water from a small stream that runs adjacent to the back of the farm.
The CIARA inspector came on April 25, 2009 to determine the category of our farm: good, very good or excellent. He rated us as excellent, and said that if there had been a higher category, we would certainly deserve it! In July, he will return to evaluate our progress.
Our project is inspired by the following words of Shrii P.R. Sarkar:
“Self-reliance is the main objective of our farming projects, hence they should be oriented towards production. They should not be dependent on outside resources. An integrated approach to farming should include such areas as agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, sericulture, lac culture, apiculture, dairy farming, animal husbandry, irrigation, pisciculture, pest control, the proper use of fertilizers, cottage industries, energy production, research centres and water conservation. This approach will help make farming projects self-reliant, and should be adopted.”
The climate of Barlovento is very hot and humid, which means that controlling plant diseases and pests organically is very challenging. We invite suggestions and proposals for research and experiments, and volunteers are most welcome.
Our gardens will be more productive if we can install shade netting. We also want to invest in the development of our seed bank, extend the irrigation system, and build a laboratory and food processing kitchen. For this, donations will be gratefully appreciated. Please get in touch with us if you’re interested in helping out.