Meet Auroville: Krishna from Solitude Farm

Krishna discovered Auroville through the eyes of his teacher Karthik, at the J. Krishnamurti School in England. It was there that he realized that living close to nature, growing your own food and living in community would become his spiritual aim. He became conscious that one did not have to pursue a Masters Degree to live this very valid and feasible learning experience. Honoring Mother Nature would become the essential seed that moved him to Auroville and in the processes, embraced the soil and roots of Tamil culture. This would become his yoga and way of life.

Solitude was inspired by the work done by Johnny in Fertile, natural farming practices and methods of Masanobu Fukuoaka and the vision of creating it within the context of “A Dream” written by the Mother in 1954. The underlying message being that everything is possible when you can recognize that Mother Nature is really quite extraordinary. She has so much to offer and this reverence or devotional quality is the breath which moved their work.

In the early 90’s, starting up a project in Auroville was not very linear and bureaucratic. If you had a plan, an idea, you just did it. It was pretty straightforward. In 1993, Krishna, Gemma and Muni started Solitude Farm. Building a hut, a kitchen, milking a cow were not familiar skills. It was an idea that evolved over time. You had to learn by doing. Krishna stayed on the farm as it grew with the help of volunteers and a permanent resident community. This non interventional way of farming which again, has its roots in honoring Mother Nature, developed organically on the farm. Today, Solitude has a great little restaurant which serves only local food grown in the bio-region. The composition of the ingredients is a mixture between local Tamil culinary tradition embraced by creative travelling chefs. The Green Papaya Coconut Soup is an exquisite example (for more details click here).

The important message is that local foods have very specific characteristics. One of them being that if they grow in abundance they are easy to grow, making them economically viable and non-exclusive. Drumstick spinach for example is considered one of the best foods in the world and it is said that it was eaten locally by kings as well as beggars. Eating locally grown produce is a great way to consider the environmental impact we are having on our planet.

Our mainstream agriculture has moved from growing local crops towards monoculture. These single crop fields require more pesticides to yield greater profit. This has a huge ecological cost. Solitude Farm is exploring alternatives to this industrialization of agriculture which has a large impact on our planet.

It may be that if we look back at what great civilizations have done, local solutions may re-emerge. Krishna says that “the Indian culture and in particular the ancient Tamil culture, with its awe inspiring temples, Ayurveda and Siddha tradition, Tamil – a classical language still in use today, Bharatnatyam, Karnatic music, the Nadi palm leaves are all part of a culture whose people had a direct relationship with their food source. Today, we are disconnected from our food source and thus disconnected from these  local traditions”.

The food grown in Solitude actually represents a “Renaissance” of well-being for our community, an example which can be replicated all over the world. When one goes in the fields of Solitude Farm one starts to see that every single plant has its benefits. He continues, “If we start being strategic and assume we can control nature, without considering the environmental impact of our choices, it will continue to lead us to empty water taps. It has led us to the global crisis that we have on the planet today which is now expressing itself on every single level; nutritional, medicinal, economic, social, cultural and even educational. We need to teach this non-intrusive method of agriculture for future generations to survive.”

Solitude tries to do just that through educational workshops and awareness campaigns which expresses itself every year through the Lively Up Your Earth (LUYE) eco-music festival. There are farm tours every Saturday starting at 11:30, Wednesday permaculture workshops from 9:30-12:30 and more intensive weekend workshops where everyone can learn to make their own garden and bring local food to their daily plate.

Apart from the restaurant and workshops one can sign up for a weekly basket of fresh veggies and fruits of the farm. Krishna proudly brought out this week’s harvest. It included drumstick spinach, spring onions, plantain, bottle gourd, drumsticks, cucumber, green papaya, snake gourd, lady fingers (okra), chicken spinach, a juice kit (includes sour sop, hibiscus and blue flowers) and a salad kit (potalaka), chilies and rosella. This basket is an Ayurvedic treasure chest!

In order to grow in abundance, it is just as crucial to understand the soil as divine matter. Krishna explains that there are millions of microorganisms, molds, bacteria, insects, earthworms, fungi, small animals, which are part of the mycelium, the communication network under the earth. The intelligence in the soil and the fertility of the soil are real and physical. It's the life in the soil that feeds us. Today, Solitude can produce over 150 edible plants regularly throughout the year. These sustain a restaurant, residents, weekly food baskets and local products for sale on just 6 acres of land.

Krishna stated that if we want to address the environmental crisis and the water crisis in the region, we need to consider moving away from supporting unsustainable farming and distribution methods. These methods include pumping water out of the aquifer at alarming rates and consuming non renewable resources in the process. What would happen if we decided, as a collective effort, to eat more locally grown food? Krishna dreams of a culinary revolution that brings local farm produce to plate in our homes, office cantinas and community kitchens! If everyone would grow locally in their garden, in their neighbor’s garden and eat from the land, a change could happen. Krishna says that “this is what we want to inspire and promote, so that we may all live off of local abundance”.