State Seed Farm in Kochi gears up fro Onam with an assorted seedlings tray and a dance

Lisimol J., assistant director of agriculture at the State Seed Farm (SSF) in Aluva. “Onam is only 60 days away and people can start growing vegetables and flowers to be ready in time for the festival,” says Vadukkoot.

The farm has launched a Thiruvonam Mixed Seedling Tray (cost ₹300), which has 98 cubicles containing the vegetable and fruit plants needed for the festival. For sale at the Eco Shop at metro rail station Aluva, it includes eight types of vegetables (brinjal, bitter gourd, tomato, pumpkin, chilli and okra) and four to five types of flowers (marigold, chrysanthemum, and bachelor’s button). , “It took planning to put it together,” Lisi says, adding that “the response has been tremendous.” She advises buyers to sow immediately, as according to the Malayalam calendar, the Thiruvathira Najathuvella (best time for planting) is over (July 5).

I decided to visit the farm and meet Lisi on an internal road a few kilometers from Desom Junction. Accessible only by boat, the farm is surrounded by the Periyar and its rivulet, Thumbathode. Spread over 13 acres, this land mainly produces seeds for paddy cultivation. It also houses a rice museum and plots for agricultural tourism.

State Seed Farm, Aluva, Kochi

State Seed Farm, Aluva, Kochi

A muddy path leads to a stream with a raft tied to a hook on the ground and an archaic ferry system. A rope stretched across the banks and pulled by travelers takes us across. “It’s a zero-energy journey,” says Lisi, as we disembark in the opposite direction where a unique paddy crop grows on a bamboo frame floating on the water.

“Our specialty is that we produce rare and endangered varieties of traditional rice,” says Lisi. These include the antioxidant-rich bloodroot and allegedly the diet of queens; Golden Najwara rice is mainly used for “Karkidaka Kanji” or fortified rice porridge popular during the monsoon season; Jiva rice which produces about 800 kg of rice from 20 kg of seed; Japan Violet, a traditional variety from Kasaragod, with unique purple foliage; and others such as Vellathondi, Chettadi and improved Pokkali varieties. Another interesting variety is the Kumol Saul from Majuli Island in Assam, “which is prepared simply by soaking in water.”

Seed Farms of Kerala

There are 33 Kerala Government Seed Farms in the state and two—Aluva and Okkal—are in Ernakulam district. The SSF was transferred under the Ernakulam District Panchayat in 1994. Although the farm, on a higher slope than Aluva town, was affected in the 2018 Kerala floods, the water level was marked on the wall of the office.

Since the farm also makes value-added products such as organic growth promoters, insect repellents and flowering agents, buyers are encouraged to plant with a pinch of VAM (vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae), a biofertilizer used in sustainable agriculture. “We recommend them to apply bio-solution when the plant is stable and then make home-made ‘kunjpal’ made from desi cow dung, bone meal, rice bran and coconut cake, and panchagavyam (a mixture of desi cow dung) ‘ weekly. , curd, jaggery, coconut water and banana) “Once the plants flower. This is for higher yields,” she explains.

In 2019, the farm had a kit containing Najwara rice and herbs for the preparation of Karikkadam Kanji, but due to crop failure in the last two seasons due to high winds, they could not do so this year.

A group from Cochin Shipyard transplanting paddy at the State Seed Farm in Aluva, Kochi

A group from Cochin Shipyard planting paddy at the State Seed Farm in Aluva, Kochi Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

farm tourism

With its natural scenic beauty, Farm Farm has become a hot spot of tourism. The vast expanse of green comes before your eyes as you step into the open. The land is divided into blocks, each containing paddy at different stages of development. A flock of ducks peck in the watery mud where paddy grows and indigenous cows graze quietly. Dragonflies, birds and butterflies hover over the paddy fields. “The ducks are sent out into the fields to turn the soil,” Lisi explains.

At the far end where the wide Periyar flows, the Shatabdi Gate was inaugurated in 2019. The walkway to its sides is under an arcade covered with air potato vines. Bright red peppers and plump maroon okra hang from overgrown plants that line the “ready to seed” aisle. The indigo plant is green and its leaves are used in the oil made here to dye hair.

Till last year, due to rain, there was a hindrance in drying the harvested paddy and extracted seeds. So the farm invested in a solar dyre and a polycarbonate hothouse, which they now also use to dry vegetables and powder them in affiliated mills.

In May, a group from the Cochin Shipyard celebrated a field day on the campus. “We told them about organic sustainable farming. They planted paddy in the whole block and while sowing they all sang and danced. Farm boosts everyone’s enthusiasm. It’s a perfect vacation,” says Lisi, adding that since last year she has had about 30 groups for farm visits.

Boat is the only way to reach the State Seed Farm in Aluva

The only way to reach the State Seed Farm in Aluva is by boat. Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

dance for onam

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dance for onam

For the first time, 12 women workers at the farm are practicing dance for Onam. “When I joined six years ago, they were not motivated; There were many misunderstandings. Today they are all friends and will perform a dance for the first time as a troupe. “We’re all practicing every day,” says Lisi.

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