By Hand From The Heart is a biannual Makers Market held in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
An agripreuneur based in Coonoor, Suresh Nanjan of Vijayalakshmi Natural Farms talks about biodynamic farming and how he has put that in practice in cultivating tea from his farms. He talks about his brand Teaneer and the joy of being a farmer.
A bit about yourself. Do you have a food background?
I grew up amidst an always buzzing farming activity at our household and farms in our Village Pororai. Schooling use to be typically doing a 5 KM walk to and fro along the hectic schedule in farming help and games with friends whichever is fancy for that season, while making our own hockey sticks and sewing our own footballs. My academic life had its own set of interesting and at times intimidating ups and downs both in terms of my performance and financial health,typical of every farming family in India. With intermittent spikes in my aspirations as well as drifting along with life’s many small vices I managed to complete a post graduate degree in Computers and moved away from village to pursue my dream career as a software engineer at Bangalore.
Having been not exposed to many other things than agriculture and farming naturally my thought process started revolving only around that while my colleagues were all busy getting their visas to the US, though software code really excited me and the corporate world opened up my thought processes to truly global levels, however it could not get me hooked for long. Even before I consciously realised it I was halfway into agripreuneurship along with my sister and brother in making our flagship product Teaneer which was truly a garage/barn based startup.
My corporate experience helped me to hone my skills in marketing along with the relentless support from my brother and cofounder Prabhu who single handedly is managing all our farming operations and production facility. Today here I am narrating my journey and the great plans we have towards making Teaneer a world class brand in specialty teas.
Bio dynamic tea and bio dynamic farming. Please explain.
Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition. Biodynamics was first developed in the early 1920s based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of the Austrian writer, educator and social activist Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), whose philosophy is called “anthroposophy.” Today, the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of successful gardens, farms, vineyards and agricultural operations of all kinds and sizes on all continents, in a wide variety of ecological and economic settings.
Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being produced. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.
Most biodynamic initiatives seek to embody triple bottom line approaches (ecological, social and economic sustainability), taking inspiration from Steiner‟s insights into social and economic life as well as agriculture. Community supported agriculture (CSA), for example, was pioneered by biodynamic farmers, and many biodynamic practitioners work in creative partnerships with other farms and with schools, medical and wellness facilities, restaurants, hotels, homes for social therapy and other organizations. Biodynamics is thus not just a holistic agricultural system but also a potent movement for new thinking and practices in all aspects of life connected to food and agriculture.
We understand you follow the traditional moon calendars to optimize cultivation. Please explain.
Biodynamic agriculture works from two poles – the cosmic and the earthly. Understanding and using the rhythms of the cosmos for sowing and planting in conjunction with the practice of soil fertility, makes organic farming truly work.
As mentioned by Peter Proctor, Renowned Biodynamic Practitioner. The Planting Calendar is about RHYTHMS – Cosmic solar & lunar/moon rhythms and Earth rhythms. It is an aid to our conscious and purposeful participation in these rhythms. These are rhythms that sustain all life on Earth. Biodynamic farmers strive to bring life back into the soil, so that the food produced from this living soil has increased life force/vitality/nutrition, enhancing the quality of human life.
This can be accomplished when the rhythms of our farming activities are aligned with the natural Cosmic and Earth rhythms. Human life, as well as animal and plant life, is strongly dependent on the rhythms of the Earth. As the Earth turns on its axis in the course of 24 hours, we have day and then night. As it travels in the course of 1 year around the sun we have the seasons – hot and cool.
Perhaps the most familiar is the rhythmic movement from New Moon to Full Moon that we witness each month This is only 1 of numerous lunar or moon rhythms that astronomy scientists have mapped and can accurately calculate. The biodynamic farmer works primarily with 6 different moon rhythms that recur every 27-29 days. The Planting Calendar indicates the important days for farming activities during these 6 different rhythmic cycles each month.
Describe a typical day at Teaneer.
A day at Teaneer typically begins and ends with attending to the needs of our 4 legged co founders who are vital in providing us with the inputs for our farms, this team consists of a 4 Bargur breed cattle consisting of a bull and 3 heifers, a Kathiawari Pony , a couple of hen and cocks. Our days work to a large extent is determined by nature, if sunny and bright its the day we make our great handcrafted teas as busy as bees. If nature gets lazy and gets gloomy so do we, confined to our indoor tasks with lot many cups of teaneer literally “until the cows come home”.
Tell us about your products that you propose to showcase at the By Hand, From The Heart.
Teaneer Shining Arrows White Tea
Teaneer Whole Leaf Green Tea
Teaneer Whole Leaf Yellow Tea
Teaneer Whole Leaf Oolong Tea
Teaneer Whole Leaf Black Tea
Teaneer Aged Teas
What’s your favourite Teaneer pick?
Teaneer Shining Arrows White Tea
What’s the best thing about being a farm entrepreneur?
As espoused by the famous success coach Steven Covey, ” The concept behind the Law of the Farm is simple: As in farming, success in life comes from regular disciplined, daily effort. Jesus expressed this life principle in the Bible, when he told us that as we sow, so shall we reap. A farmer cannot expect to reap a bumper crop by being lazy for three months and then “cramming” to catch up. Similarly, the greatest successes in life are built slowly and deliberately through focused, consistent, high-quality efforts on a daily basis.” . Running a farming enterprise and making it successful gives you an immense sense of achievement by living this principle every single day.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten along the way in building your business?
Your dreams are your limits, dare to dream big however make sure to wake up soon enough and make it real.
Your advice for aspiring farmers and food entrepreneurs?
Farming and feeding are noble profession not everyone can do, and this could be the single reason why YOU should do it.
Singara Chennai as I have known it since time immemorial been the land of hope where every street is host to tomorrows leaders and celebrities, its truly a land of dreamers, a land that doesnt deny you your fair chances to make it big irrespective of your caste , creed and status.
Suresh Nanjan of Teaneer – Vijayalakshmi Natural Farms, Coonoor, will be at the By Hand From The Heart: MAKERS MARKET – 18th Edition
Friday – Saturday, 5th – 6th August, 2016
10:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m
Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park
132, T.T.K Road, Alwarpet, Chennai – 600018, Tamil Nadu. India