Kerala teacher takes up organic farming after retirement and grows coconut and pepper
“Rretirement is not the end of life. In fact, it’s a chance to open the doors to the things we love,” says KT Francis, a native of Kozhikode, who retired as a physical education teacher in 2015 to start his journey as a teacher. successful farmer.
The 63-year-old, from a farming family, has always had a fascination with agriculture. More than 120 years ago, Francis’ grandfather reached Maruthomkara from the outskirts of Idukki and bought five acres of land to start farming. After his death, Francis’ father took over the business.
Despite having a full-time job, Francis found time to take up farming. “Farming has never been my hobby. It’s more of a habit that I can’t give up. From the day I remember, I was with my father and other farm workers, helping them and enjoying the harvest,” Francis recalls.
After finding a job, it became difficult for him to manage the land. He rented it out, but the unscientific cultivation of rubber and the declining value of the crops led to huge losses. He had to sell two acres of the property to pay off debts.
But this incident marked a turning point in his life. – he thought of ways to improve farming on the available land, rather than being disappointed at the loss. Soon he took up mixed farming, through which he used the remaining three acres.
“The first task I did soon after my retirement was to cut down the rubber trees, which were in decline. We already had some 120-year-old kuttiadi coconut trees that were known to produce tender and healthy coconuts. I have planted more, along with areca nut, pepper, turmeric, ginger, tapioca, yam and many other vegetables This mixed farming technique has yielded excellent results and I started making hundreds of thousands of dollars out of it.”
The 250 coconut palms on his land yield at least 200 seeds a year, he says. In addition to selling them directly, Francis transforms them into oil and cakes (food for livestock). Francis also supplies coconuts for seedling production and produces WCT coconut seedlings. He also supplies areca seedlings to Krishi Bhavan and other farmers.
Witnessing his agricultural success, Krishi Bhavan’s employees encouraged him to start a garden nursery to sell Kuttiadi coconut saplings. Today, Kaithakulath Coconut Nursery exclusively sells this variety which Francis says is suited to Kerala’s weather conditions. He says Kaithakulath is the only government-accredited nursery in Kerala that only sells this variety of coconuts.
The farmer says that while growing the coconut, it is important to make a hole two meters deep and build a proper bed under the sapling. Francis fills the bed with agricultural waste like dry leaves, branches and coconut husks, which he says contribute to the healthy growth of the plant and help it retain moisture.
Areca nut and pepper are the other two main crops on Francis’ farm. He explains that after two and a half years of planting areca nut seedlings, he plants pepper underneath, which grows fast in the shade of the areca. Since pepper is one of the most expensive spices, Francis makes a lot of income from it, he says.
“As pepper is grown in areca nut trees, one cycle of fertilization is enough for both. Thus, it saves money, space and effort. Mangala, mangala interse cross, mohitnagar and south kanara are the varieties of areca nut that I grow.There are total 1,000 black pepper vines on the farm, including sreekara, subhakara, IISR thevam, panchami, pournami and panniyur 6 bush pepper plants are also planted,” explains the farmer, who harvested eight quintals of pepper last year.
Robusta, honey and more
“Robusta is the star among all types of bananas,” says Francis, who grows the variety extensively. “While the normal variety sells for Rs 300 per stalk, robusta sells for around Rs 1,100. This way, I earn at least Rs 80,000 per year.
Francis also installed beehives on his farm to protect the coconut palms and harvest honey. He bottles it and resells it to his neighbors and friends in the locality. In fact, her home is also a farm-fresh store with coconut oil, fertilizers, honey, organic vegetables and fruits.
Besides all this, his land is also home to three cows, goats, ducks, fish, turkey, and qualis. Some of their cages are placed on the terrace of his house. In this way, not even a small space is left vacant. The meat, milk and eggs of some of these animals are also sold.
The strength of Francis’ farm is the use of organic fertilizers. “To 100 liters of water, I add 10 kg of cow dung and 1 kg of groundnut cake, jaggery and green gram fertilizer to make a homemade mixture that accelerates plant growth. Animal droppings are also used. I have made rainwater pits all over the farm to make sure there is no water shortage even in extreme summers,” he adds.
The farmer shares that he gets income of more than Rs 35 lakhs per year and incurs expenses of Rs 5-8 lakhs. “Coconut seeding is the most profitable business right now,” says the agripreneur.
He received the Kera Kesari award in 2018 for his farming techniques and claims to have also won 13 other awards at national, state and district level. He also has a YouTube channel to share farming tips and information. Sanu Francis, his son, says: “I am in awe of my father’s work and I would like to start farming in 10 years. Now my only job is to monitor his methods and provide technical support. I am happy that he inspires many young people like me.
Interested in buying Kuttiadi coconut seedlings? Contact 9947142849.
Edited by Divya Sethu