Spread the Circle of Organic Farming

Most of us are aware of the hubbub in the wake of the disquieting news of DDT being found in human milk. Four decades back when this information first hit out that human breast milk was contaminated with the pesticide DDT, it had created a furore across the world. Strict restrictions on its use lowered DDT concentrations in human milk.

The pesticide DDT was used since 1940s to control typhus and agricultural pests. However the harmful effects led to a strict ban on its use after the 1970’s. But we still remain riddled with concerns over its existence in the environment for causing irreversible health problems. Similarly conventional farming too remains troubled with the continued use of chemicals in agriculture that affect health of people eating chemical laden food.

Several countries are safely transitioning back to organic methods of farming to obtain healthy produce. Organic farming reverts back to traditional approaches in farming to cultivate food without using fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, chemicals or genetically modified organisms. Organic farming ensures crops do not harbor harmful residues of toxic chemicals. It deploys methods of farming that are sustainable and in sync with nature.

HERD Organic Farms undertakes organic farming and we realize that soil fertility improves dramatically as does productivity over time. We have been making use of natural manure that is produced at the farm by organic practices of composting and production of green manure that makes the soil more productive and fertile. Farm manager Anil Khare states: “Soil treated with organic fertilizers hosts billions of useful bacteria that are useful in breaking down plant residues and livestock wastes into useful soil nutrients to improve soil binding.”

We have also discovered that organic farming establishes biodiversity and that our methodologies have ensured development of a resilient bio-diverse landscape. These natural practices have helped in minimizing erosion of agricultural biodiversity and enhanced species richness and abundance. With absolutely no chemical usage in the farms the landscape has become rich with organic flora and fauna like pollinators and pest pillagers!

In fact organic practices have also prevented water contamination. Since we do not allow water to get exposed to any kind of toxins the soil remains rich in organic matter with salubrious moisture content. It is further a matter of deep satisfaction that ground water retention and infiltration is toxic free. Healthy soil acts like a sponge to keep vegetation well moisturized with unsoiled recharged underground water.

Last but not the least organic farming diminishes conventional energy use by minimizing agricultural chemical needs and addresses the issue of emissions and global warming by repossessing carbon in the soil. Good practices like reduced tillage, crop rotation, nitrogen fixing legumes and so on maximize the carbon concentration in soil. We all know that the more organic carbon stored in soil the more mitigation ability of agriculture against climate change.

Organic farming is truly a win-win situation. Aside from it improving soil binding and reducing runoff, the soil remains nutrient rich resulting in increased soil density causing less runoff. Organic farming also boosts bacteria that help plants fix nitrogen and help utilize and convert these nutrients before they get an opportunity to run-off. With so many benefits why then is organic farming taking so much time to be adopted by all. The fact is that many farmers remain apprehensive about adopting it due to high production costs. Add to this the burden of competing with low prices of conventional produce.

HERD Organic Farms contends with this issue but remains resolute to stand for sustainable organic farming. Even though the yield may be low we know that long term profitability and environmental benefits are in store. Upcoming studies portend that desired yields will come in good time. It is for this reason that we need to extend the circle of influence for promoting organic farming and bring conventional farmers into the fold. To this end HERD Foundation remains committed.

 

 

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Soil Health

 

SOIL FACTS – AND WHY SOIL IS IMPORTANT

Soil is the network of interacting living organisms within the earth’s surface layer which support life above ground.

The nutritional value of the food we eat is directly related to the health of the soil in which it grows (or what it eats grows).

Management of agricultural soils should consider the structural, biological and mineral health of the soil (not just N, P, K) to produce nutritionally-dense food.

Soil has varying amounts of organic matter (living and dead organisms), minerals, and nutrients.

An average soil sample is 45% minerals, 25%, 25% air, and 5% organic matter (less in degraded soils).

Carbon is a master variable within the soil that controls many processes, such as development of soil structure, water storage and nutrient cycling.

Soil high in organic carbon content enables better rainfall infiltration & retention – providing greater resilience to drought.

Every gram of soil organic carbon can hold up to 8 grams of water.

Soils are vulnerable to carbon loss through degradation, but regenerative land management practices can build soil and restore soil health.

Soil erosion within conventional agricultural practices can occur at rates up to 100 times greater than the rate of natural soil formation.

Natural processes can take more than 500 years to form 2 centimeters of topsoil.

Soil carbon takes three distinct forms: living carbon, labile carbon and fixed carbon.

– Living carbon takes the form of microbes, fungi, plant roots, nematodes, earth worms etc.

– Labile carbon in the soil comprises decomposing (dead) plant and animal material that is in a state of transition.

– Fixed carbon in the soil consists of stable compounds as humates and glomalins.

…Sequestered Carbon comprises the fixed carbon plus the total living biomass.

Soil stores 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Around 95% of our food is directly or indirectly produced on our soils.

Soil microbes have a symbiotic relationship with plants – plants provide sugars to microbes and microbes make nutrients bio-available for plants.

Living organisms in soil ultimately control water infiltration, mineral density and nutrient cycling.

Fungi and bacteria help break down organic matter in the soil and earthworms digest organic matter, recycle nutrients, and make the surface soil richer.

In a handful of fertile soil, there are more individual organisms than the total number of human beings that have ever existed.

Soil is one of the most complex biological materials on our planet.

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Image Courtesy – Google

World Soil Day 2017 – ‘Caring for the Planet starts from the Ground’

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It was only in 2002 that the International Union of Soil Sciences or IUSS adopted a resolution proposing December 5 as World Soil Day to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of our natural resources. In truth natural soil is a vital contributor to human well being. Recognizing this fact FAO supports the formal establishment of World Soil Day by creating solidarity for Global Soil Partnership. Since 2012 FAO-GSP has been organizing awareness events for this important day.

HERD Organic Farms is diligent in raising awareness about World Soil Day. Soil is an essential resource and a vital part of our natural environment from which our food is produced. Human beings have survived because it is soil that nourished and nurtured generations. Alongside soil continues to provide living spaces for us humans. Importantly soil is critical in maintaining our essential ecosystem. It regulates water, climate and conserves biodiversity as well as enables carbon sequestration.

It is disheartening that in present times soils continue to be under pressure due to human factors. Increasing population and high demand of land-use for needs other than food cultivation remain two debilitating reasons. Industrialization and urbanization are directly responsible for ruining soils. Additionally 33% of global soils suffer from degradation. This is what brings FAO sponsored Global Soil Partnerships into play in order to have policy makers around the world explore opportunities to embrace sustainable development.

A global community of 60,000 soil scientists has been given the responsibility to generate and communicate soil knowledge for the common good of the world. World Soil Day observes the importance of soil as a critical component of our natural systems or growing food and ensuring biodiversity as well as containing climate change. The need is to promote the regenerative landscape for integrated management of soil, water, vegetation and biodiversity.

HERD Organic Farms supports the need for maintaining healthy soils. It is really very important so that we enable sustainable agricultural production which is ultimately good for the environment and human health. The way things are going now soon soil may be a finite natural resource. We dread the day when it may even become non-renewable. It would do well for us all to remember that soil plays an essential role in our wellbeing.

Climate change and desertification are increasingly degrading soil worldwide. Our own environs are getting affected by power-plants and factories that spew forth pollutants that add to further degradation of soil resources. It is time we worked towards mitigating inappropriate technologies to safeguard soils. Also we need to instill safer agri-management practices to replenish soils. With regard to population pressure we may do well by understanding about the carrying capacity of the land.

Soil organic carbon (SOC) forms the basis of soil health, fertility, and food production. A healthy soil with an ideal amount of SOC (the main component of soil organic matter) can provide optimal plant growing conditions, functional nutrient cycling and effective water infiltration and storage. Agricultural soils are among the planet’s largest reservoirs of carbon and hold potential for expanded carbon sequestration, and thus provide a prospective way of mitigating the increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.

World Soil Day 2017 therefore focuses on activities with the aim to communicate messages on the importance of soil quality for food security, healthy ecosystems and human well-being. The first ever Global Soil Organic Carbon map (GSOCmap) is being launched on World Soil Day 2017! The GSOC map is not just a map! It is also a comprehensive process that supports the development and empowerment of national capacities to build their national soil information systems. Please click on the link to open the GSOCmap web application:

http://www.fao.org/world-soil-day/worldwide-events/en/

Ensuring Organic Futures

 

 

Organic Farming is spreading like a revolution not only in our country but in the entire world today. In fact the roots of revival of organic farming can be traced back to India! It was Albert Howard and his wife Gabrielle Howard, both skillful botanists, who founded the Institute of Plant Industry at Indore to improve traditional farming methods in pre-independent India.

Working with local farmers they found they had much to learn from them. And so it was that alongside scientific knowledge they incorporated local traditional methods like crop rotation practices, erosion prevention techniques, and use of composts and manures. Upon return to Britain they carried back these experiences to propagate natural agriculture. Albert Howard is one of the key founders of modern organic agriculture.

Consumer’s today are increasingly getting health cautious regarding their diet. This is an important aspect for transformation of farming practices to benefit the land and the people. Organic food produce having high nutritive value and absence of chemicals, potential carcinogenic and mutagenic properties is preferred over conventional agroproducts cultivated by using insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Realizing the high potential of organic farming techniques for the land and its people, HERD Organic Farms was established in March 2015. HOF is practicing organic farming techniques over the past three years on its 40 acres farmland located at village Chargaon, 60 kms from Nagpur city. The ultimate aim of the enterprise is to extend knowledge of organic cultivation practices to benefit neighboring rural farmers in a bid to spread awareness and increase organic food production. It is also to build a momentum for the demand of organic produce.

With gaining popularity of organic produce and a steady buildup of a consumer base willing to pay a premium price, it is important to extend the cost advantage for the benefit of conventional agriculturists. HOF therefore hopes to develop a farming community that adopts organic farming on a mass scale to target niche markets for organic food produce.

Realizing the need to improve the health of the land and the people, HOF joined hands to become part of organic grower’s fraternity in Nagpur city.  Eventually the plan is to scale up a cooperative of organic farmers to facilitate organic food production and processing for supply to existing markets. It is hoped that with due expansion adjoining rural farmers may be included for propagation of organic farming.

HERD Organic Farms was established to promote a system of farming without use of synthetic fertilizers or chemical sprays. It was envisioned right from the start to maintain soil fertility through livestock compost, green manures, crop rotation, and mulching. Setting up cutting-edge net-shed cultivation alongside open field agriculture, we aim for methods that are sustainable and ecological to ensure long-term fertility and wholesome food for us and for future generations.

We remain committed to organic practices to safeguard human health and the environment. To achieve this we need to change mindsets to introduce the philosophy and practice of organic farming. This is what motivates us to step up awareness for organic produce to create a world that will sustain life. We will continue to maintain the soil health of our unique planet.

In order to go about doing this we need to develop ongoing relationships between ourselves as organic growers and the economic system. One of the major challenges till date is fixing premium pricing for organic produce vis-à-vis chemically laced food. We still need to develop farming systems that produce the necessary quantity and quality of food so that we make it economically viable for all. For in all certainty organic farming is the future.

The Changing Interview Process

There are interesting changes happening within HERD HR unit that is looking to adopt more efficient and quick processes to being more techno-savvy in its working. From processing and filing resumes efficiently to going online through Skype and Facetime to interview prospective candidates – the team is taking on exciting options. They are also exploring all kinds of technical opportunities that may best assist in sourcing employees with the required skills to be able to collate highly effective business teams.

It is management at the top that is at the heart for bringing about these futuristic trends and transformations. Wanting more efficient methods with the idea to do away with traditional interview techniques that focused too much on factors that allowed for delays and postponements, the new-age techniques help in identifying tech friendly and tech-users required in today’s increasingly digital world.

Online interviews are now the staple of many tech-savvy recruiters. Besides saving time, money and resources on personal interviews they allow for instant real-world feel and conditions without the hassle of arranging a formal face to face discussion.  It seems okay to do away with the rigors of regular interviews and adopt the perceivable superficiality of online interviews. One of the best things to happen is that there is a lot less stress for interviewees and the digital barrier makes them free and open to stating their mind

It then appears to be a life-line in this day and age to be able to recruit tech savvy candidates who are more than willing to go through screen interviews to explain their inclinations to be keen for the job profile. For HERD HR it is now increasingly becoming a neat hiring process to scan candidates and be able to adjudge on screen what they do not want to opt for. Yes the declining route certainly becomes easier.

There is naturally many a pitfall between the resume and the real person. And if one is able to discern this while talking online you may gather as much as you would from a face to face consultation and say no to the person without much compunction. While it is true that HERD HR hiring practices have earlier scrutinized qualified candidates and noted them wanting in certain areas as to required credentials, but in online cases it just becomes so much easier to say no.

We are also aware that the digital way may have them in a position to access answers with online information to give all the correct technical responses. Also we may not be able to really comprehend the culture fit talking to a person online. However the team keeps an open mind on this count to be aware that while they look for people who fit in with what the culture is but it is also a good idea to keep ourselves open to new prospects and new perspectives.

With varied business units under the belt, HERD Group of Companies can very well do with a mix and match of talent recruiting. Online talent scouting and interviews are just another convenient process to scout for a good thing if it comes by. The important thing is to ensure that anyone with the requisite skills and matching credentials will get an equal if not quicker shot at being taken in through this hiring process. This will not only be good for the person it will be good for the company and the business too.

The HERD HR team is quite accustomed by now to this recruiting procedure and recruiters too are more open to it than in-person interviews. With advances in modern technology our HR professionals make the process easier and more efficient and fortunately they do not dilute the human element. Video interviews do away with travel costs and allow for scheduling at everyone’s convenience.

The convenience provided by this technology is readily being acknowledged and spurring the team to adopt it more extensively. It is especially great for far flung and even out-station candidates. It allows for visibility into a candidate’s qualifications, presence, and skills in a more convenient atmosphere for the recruiter. In a world of greater connectivity it is just the thing to happen more and more now.

Roselle – Our Very Own Humble Ambadi

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Images – Courtesy Wikipedia

Roselle, botanical name Hibiscus sabdariffa, better known as Ambadi or Gongura in India, is a species of Hibiscus that is said to have originated from West Africa. This annual or perennial herb is a woody shrub like plant that may grow up to 2–2.5 meters in height.  The leaves are three lobed, long, and arranged alternately on the stems. It was cultivated for the production of bast fiber, but now increasingly its leaves and flowers are a culinary delight in most parts of the world.

Ambadi is cultivated for a wide variety of uses and we are told there are actually very many other uses of the plant, besides being grown for culinary purposes. It is primarily grown for use in recipes because of its sharp, tangy taste. Besides, it also offers a number of health benefits. Known by other names like common sorrel, spinach dock, and narrow-leaved dock, even the roots stretching deep into the ground offer medicinal uses.

Red flowers blooming on the plant appear very attractive. The flowers are 8–10 cm in diameter and have a stout fleshy calyx at the base and take about six months to mature. The red calyces of the plant are also used as food colorings, besides being used in varied recipes. The green leaves are used like a tangy version of spinach and recipes from all corners abide.

In our parts the Ambadi leaves are mixed with green chillies, salt, and some garlic to prepare chutney which is served with traditional Jowar or Bajra roti. So also a dry vegetable is prepared from Ambadi leaves. Another recipe has the leaves steamed with lentils and cooked with dal. Another unique dish is prepared by mixing fried leaves with spices and made into a gongura pacchadi, the most famous dish of Andhra cuisine.

Best of all is the cool drink or sharbat made from flowers of Ambadi. It is prepared by boiling dried petals of the flowers infused in hot water for 8 to 10 minutes or until the water turns red. To this is added sugar and the drink is served chilled. The drink is one of the most inexpensive beverages common during summer time. It is very popular in rural areas of Maharashtra.

The health benefits of Ambadi include its ability to boost eyesight, slow the aging process, reduce certain skin infections, strengthen the immune system, improve digestion, build strong bones, increase circulation, increase energy levels, help prevent cancer, lower blood pressure, increase appetite, protect against diabetes, strengthen heart health, and improve the kidney health.

HERD Organic Farms is growing organic Ambadi. Given below is the nutritional value of Ambadi:

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz) / Energy 205 kJ (49 kcal) / Carbohydrates 11.31 g / Fat 0.64 g / Protein 0.96 g

Vitamins – Vitamin A equiv. (2%) 14 mg / Thiamine (B1) (1%) 0.011 mg / Riboflavin (B2)      (2%) 0.028 mg / Niacin (B3) (2%) 0.31 mg / Vitamin C (14%) 12 mg

Minerals – Calcium (22%) 215 mg / Iron  (11%) 1.48 mg / Magnesium  (14%) 51 mg / Phosphorus (5%) 37 mg / Potassium (4%) 208 mg / Sodium 6 mg

Monsoon Plans – HERD Organic Farms

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June to September, when hopefully the monsoons would be in full vigor, HERD Organic Farms will make certain activities a priority work-area for the team working on it. This is going to be important if we are to take full advantage of nature’s bountiful downpours. Along with the rest of the farming fraternity we will be welcoming the annual rainy season that makes the land lush and allows natural underground waterways to get replenished thereby raising the water levels. This is why we have drawn up an action plan to be followed and implemented for the immediate future.

Soon heavy showers will be inundating the 42 acres of land located close to the periphery of the Pench National Park. The aim this season is two-fold: one to make the land commercially more viable, and two, to make the landscape attractive and beautiful. Even though we are working with progressive farming methodologies that include drip irrigation, protective farming, and other innovative farm management techniques, Indian farming will always be dependent on the Monsoons to revive the land.

We were already working on a water management system with an eye towards the leaner months when during dry summertime water can be in critical short supply. This is why the mission earlier had been to construct a dug well, that would channelize water wherever needed, through pipe ways to distribute it for irrigating crops. Hopefully the well would be recharged and brimming for the months to come as would the natural aquifers underground making the land good for cultivation.

This crucial quarter will have us undertaking a plantation drive alongside the peripheries of the farmland and also take on avenue plantation to make the inner walkways comfortable to go about.  The plan is to plant trees and shrubs that will demarcate the boundaries of the land. So plants of Teakwood, Neem, and Gulmohar will be spaced out to mark the defining edge. Saplings of Bougainvillea, Karwanda or cranberries and plants needed for Dashparni would be planted along the boundary hedge.

Avenue plantation will make use of trees like Ashoka, Bottle-brush, and Glyricedia to make the pathways look eye-catching and attractive. Also the lakeside will be having a multitude of Bamboo varieties around it making it beautiful and useful at the same time. We will see the saplings taking root and flourishing this monsoon season and by the end of the monsoons the landscape would have changed for the better.

For farm cultivation the plan is to grow vegetables like brinjals, tomatoes and cucumbers. In time we will also start experimenting with English vegetables like red capsicum, yellow capsicum, broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Importantly this season we will also start sweet lime and orange trees plantations with assistance from Regional Citrus Center in Nagpur. We would be implanting mother-plants of these citrus species to create orchards for long term cultivation.

We look forward to this time of the year when nature assists in facilitating the growth and development of foliage, turning the entire rural side into a riot of colors in various shades of green. HERD Organic Farm too will flourish and grow under careful supervision to create a prearranged and well- thought landscape that goes hand in hand with organic farming and cultivation.  We look ahead to a propitious monsoon that will augur well for the purposes.