Here is my list of learning from the visit to the three Auroville farms as part of the Food Forest Workshop I conducted on the first weekend of 2018. We visited Buddha Garden, Pebble Garden, and Siddhartha Farm.
Install Drip Irrigation: I was earlier pussyfooting on this because of the cost. Now, I strongly feel its worth the investment. All the three farms had drip installed and they were flourishing. Its no wonder they are able to run the farm with such minimal labor.
– Volunteer: I have decided to stay and volunteer for three days at Buddha Gardens. An immersive practical experience would be helpful to learn the finer aspects. They key things I intend to learn are 1) Do’s and Dont’s in drip irrigation setup. 2) Mulching and Composting best practices 3) Best practices in fruit trees maintenance.
– Neem Pesticide: This is an important lesson I learned from Herbert at Siddhartha Farms. He recommended collecting neem seeds, crushing it into powder, soaking it in water overnight and spraying it on the saplings. Pests are a big problem at our farm and this is something I intend to put into action right away.
– Ponds: In all the three farms we visited, ponds were a standard feature. I intend to dig two small ponds near the food forest region.
– Storytelling: I really liked how Priya of Buddha Garden had put up descriptions and key learnings in all parts of the farm. This is useful for visitors to do self-tours of the farm and still learn without a guide. This is not my priority right now but I foresee doing something like this in 3 years time.
– Compost Toilet: Definitely building one. Bernard of Pebble Garden mentioned the importance of urine and humanure. Besides, we need more toilets at Vaksana Farms to reduce the rush when large groups come to stay at the farmhouse.
– Outdoor Bathrooms: I’m sure the folks who took bath in the open and shivered at 5 AM will support this decision!! 🙂 Currently, we only have one indoor bathroom. The place clearly requires a few more outdoor ones.
– Raised Beds: While my entire focus will be on ensuring the survival of the fruit saplings, I plan to invest and build raised vegetable garden beds in 2019. I saw how well this was done at Buddha Gardens and Siddhartha Farms.
– Light Roofing: I’ve been wracking my brain on what roofing material to use for the second farmhouse I intend to build. Certainly concrete was out because of the cost. Asbestos is out because it is carcinogenic. Steel sheets are out because of the heat and noise during rains. Thatched roof is out because of the high maintenance and low longevity. Mangalore tiles are nice. The light roofing material at Buddha Gardens offered an interesting alternative. I will investigate more on the pros and cons but right now this looks like a good option.
I intend to organize one more Food Forest Workshop in a few months. By that time, I would have visited a few Food Forests in New Zealand and attended a few more permaculture courses to arm myself with more practical knowledge.