Only once in a long while do we bump into exceptional characters doing dedicated work in their chosen fields. Geetatai Deshmukh is one such Karmayogini who breathes the mantra of Bhagvad Gita –
Do your job, dedicate it to Nature!
Annadata Movement offered an opportunity to better understand her work in the domain of organic farming.
Geetatai’s childhood was influenced by the Sarvodaya Movement – the call for global peace and universal brotherhood. This inspired her to take up volunteering with Gram Rajya Trust established by Acharya Vinoba Bhave at Uruli Kanchan near Pune. A work that began thirty years ago, she has continued ceaselessly until today. She taught sugar plantation workers’ children for free in a school while working full time with Defence Accounts in Khadki. The early and substantial exposure to farm workers’ lives enabled the visionary thought-leaders like Geetatai to identify the perils of chemical farming and made them turn to the promotion of more organic and natural means of farming.
Geetatai’s work through Gram Rajya Trust could be summed up thus:
1) Generate mass-awareness of organic farming methods.
2) Educate farmers with organic farming techniques.
3) Obtain and provide farmers across Maharashtra with organic seeds.
4) Keep a tab on farmers’ organic farming activities.
5) Organise trustworthy selling channels for the organic produce
Come December 2017, Geetatai’s group of like-minded and motivated individuals have joined hands to organise Annadata Organic Food Festival at the Bhimthadi Jatra in Pune.
There are a total of 1100 farmers’ groups engaged in organic farming across Maharashtra. They undertake farming based on the natural environment of their locations, soil types, and water availability and planning. Cereals, grain, oilseeds, vegetables, sugarcane, and fruits are seasonally grown. Geetatai narrates how all these farmers genuinely toiled while experimenting with organic farming. On occasions, they confronted financial problems and social hurdles. A realistic future of sustainable organic farming has now emerged through all this. Over time, with easier availability of seeds and gradual but definite improvement in soil quality, their yields have begun to grow.
What exactly is Organic Farming?
1) To check the poor quality of farmland. If found degraded, try to increase the fertility of the soil.
2) Proper planning of irrigation.
3) Correcting the crop type, in both kharif and rabi seasons, which basically implies planning mixed-farming, and simultaneous harvesting of grains, fruits and flowers.
4) Proper planning by taking into account the presence of in-ground, over-land and air-borne micro-organisms.
5) Proper covering of the ground that ensure conservation of groundwater and other micro-organisms in the ecosystem by protecting against sunlight.
6) Considering evaporation losses while watering the crops.
7) Avoiding use of a tractor (and other destructive mechanisation) while cultivating the soil. This protects the life of the soil and the crop better receives nutrients from an improved quality of the soil.
8) Farming is necessarily conducted scientifically according to celestial time-mathematics. Every drop of rain in the Rohini and Mriga Nakshatras must drench the land under cultivation.
Spraying acute toxic chemicals in the field as per chemical farming method mainly pollutes air, land and water. On the contrary, purification of air, land and water is done naturally in the organic farming system. Organic production not only enriches the life of the consumer but it also invigorates the entire bio-ecosystem. Organic farmer obeys the laws of nature, trusts the land and maintains ecologically balanced farming. This effort goes to save biodiversity.
Today, humans and many animal species have fallen victims to poisonous foodgrains. Organic farming and the insistence on safe food is clearly the only answer. Organic farming and organic food intake itself, she claims, boosts spirituality and a sense of one-ness with the environment. This, she insists, helps in maintaining intellectual balance of a society so afflicted by stresses of modern living.
Geetatai offered help on how to identify organically grown foods:
1) Fruits/grains/vegetables have thinner peels.
2) Usually fruits and grains are less dense and therefore lighter.
3) Organic vegetables do not shrink as much upon cooking.
4) Every grain/fruit/vegetable will bear its distinct natural aroma.
5) All food items are mostly easier to cut.
6) Fruits and vegetables remain fresh longer even without refrigeration.
7) Organic food preparations turn out to be more sumptuous and filling – Eat less, Eat healthy!
8) Organic vegetables are invariably easier to digest. A balance of tridosha of Vaat-Pitta-Kafa is thereby maintained.
Geetatai propounds the message of a simple and easy-to-achieve natural lifestyle that keeps diseases away!
Author – Priya Phulambrikar