Started by Priya in 2000 as the vegetable garden of Siddhartha Farm, Buddha Garden has grown to be an independent farm growing a wide range of organic food.
The vegetable garden continues to be the focus of much of our work and includes ten raised beds with drip irrigation and two large yards with sprinkler systems. Here, according to the season, we grow a wide range of both European and Indian vegetables. We have three yards where we grow various sorts of fruit – papayas, passion fruit, bananas and pineapples. We also have a cashew plantation and a wood lot as well as a small number of chickens that supply us with organic eggs. Recently we created what we call ‘the chinna (Tamil for ‘small’) field’ where plan to grow rice for ourselves. For the last year we have been improving the soil with compost and growing peanuts.
From the very beginning volunteers have been an important part of Buddha Garden as we have no regular paid labour. The farm has several places where volunteers can stay and many come from all over the world to experience the work of organic farming and how it feels to live lightly on the land. Two years ago Priya was joined by Somasundaram (a retired professor of Education) and Vivek who is carrying out a PhD in Agricultural Studies at the University of Lucknow. As a result our educational activities have become more important and we now have links with British, French and American universities from where students come for an internship or to either carry out research. For three years we had an apprenticeship program for two groups of seven young men from the local villages who came to learn about organic farming. We had mixed success with this program and in the light of this have decided that in the future we would like to spread our net more widely to reach a larger number of people. We have many ideas about how best to spread the word about growing healthy food which includes:
Short courses for those interested in growing some of their own food. Our first course is scheduled in February for a group of young women from the Rajiv Gandhi Home for the Handicapped in Puducherry. They visited Buddha Garden some months ago and as a result were inspired to create a roof garden. Now they want to learn how to make it more successful. We want to offer similar courses at minimal cost to others who would like to grow their own organic food.
Translating our manual about how to grow organic food into Tamil; A lot of people are interested in the English version of our manual. We have written a simplified version, which we would like to have translated into Tamil and then printed for local distribution. We plan to include lots of pictures so those unable to read and write can still get the message.
Creating a farm walk; We would like to set up a farm walk with information boards at various strategic points describing what we do. This would be for the increasing numbers of individuals and groups coming to Buddha Garden to look around and find out about organic farming. The information boards will need to be tough enough to stand up to the climate (hot sun in some months and heavy rain in others) as well as being designed so that the information can easily be updated.
Like everywhere in the world farms in Auroville struggle financially and Buddha Garden is no exception. Our educational programs cannot be supported from the farm and we have to seek funds elsewhere.
If you would like to support our work then you could consider either making a one time donation or becoming a ‘Buddha Garden Friend’ by giving us a small amount each month. The latter would be particularly useful as it would provide us with a regular income throughout the year.