Small and Slow Solutions
(The article written for Agriculture World, krishijagran.com)
Petrichor was born out of an aspiration to care for the planet which found us on a mission to nurture our community’s growth through ecological education and regenerative systems primarily by natural farming methods and sustainable creative initiatives that meet our practical needs like housing, water, natural energy, clothes, art, craft, medicine, soaps etc. But growing our own food is our first love.
Our vision is to inspire our community of small farmers and producers towards being a viable example of conscious living that strives towards self-sufficiency and economic independence by mainly continuing to grow our own food while preserving our natural habitat and culture.
The fact that we’re ideally located in Gorubathan, between the mountainous foothills and the plains and also advantageously placed beside the River Chel and the fringes of the Neora forest, has caused a pronounced edge effect, a phenomenon that occurs when two or more ecological habitats come into contact resulting in a large and varied bio-diversity. We have been fortunate.
As a Sustainability Education Centre, we provide resources for courses, workshops and overall community development for visitors, volunteer groups, schools and other educational institutions, corporate organizations etc through various programs like the Forest School Program, Natural Building and Bamboo Workshops, Yoga Retreats, Sustainable Handicrafts Workshops, Cooking Classes, Soap Making/ Herbalism and Permaculture Design Workshops.
As a farming community, we practice, promote and teach the regenerative methods of permaculture and natural farming which is a gentle and non-invasive practice. It works harmoniously with nature keeping within its natural limits rather than against it and yet obtains magnificent yields.
Besides rural farmers, we also want to inspire a new generation of ecological, small-scale, young agrarians by showing that farming can be a viable, invigorating, and respected career choice, notwithstanding that it is the need of the hour.
Everywhere around the world, people are beginning to see the severe consequences of industrial agriculture: pesticides, GMOs, disease, agribusiness and inequitable markets to name a few. Along with this cumulative awareness is a rising consumer demand for healthy, local, organic food. Alternative approaches of selling and purchasing food are also gaining ground, visible not only in the burgeoning farmers’ markets but also through community-supported agriculture and community co-ops which is a direct exchange between small scale producers and consumers.
We are currently working on a new project in Siliguri to initiate a community food co-op, food forest and a ‘you pick’ market garden in order to make healthy, seasonal, locally grown, package-free food from around the region easily accessible to people and their families. We also hope for it be common ground for producers and consumers to meet and greet, share seeds and stories. Everyone should know where their food comes from and who grows it, and farmers should also be accountable for their produce. It is also a preservation effort towards our region’s food sovereignty rights, to close the ever-widening gap between local small farmers/producers and consumers by eliminating the middleman, the one who wraps the plastic around our products, puts the preservatives into our food and dips into our savings endlessly. Eventually, we must take the power back.
Besides supporting local organic growers, the co-op will also be a platform for sustainable producers like artists, beekeepers, brewers, weavers, crafters etc. It will also have a zero waste store with plenty of bulk bins of local grains, pulses, spices, fruits, herbs, soaps, bath and beauty products alongside a plant-based restaurant. We also plan to host frequent events focusing on sustainable community health and well-being through yoga, farmer’s markets and permaculture workshops that will mainly focus on encouraging people to start growing their own food and build community.
Farmer poet Wendell Berry intimated that “there is no big solution,” only many small ones, and that we must rebuild the economy from the ground up. We also believe according to a permaculture principle that at the smallest scale, everything is better to manage, occurs in its natural pace, outcome is sustainable and is redirected back into the community where it came from in the first place.
And likewise, we’re not vying to do big things, only small things with heart. Since planting our first seeds in to Petrichor soil in 2013 the stories and awakening that followed have been worth every second. As land stewards, the learning by doing experience has been humbling; gut wrenching and hard at times and extremely healing and satisfying at most times. Yet, all that we do in Petrichor is not set in stone, far from it. We are always looking towards educating ourselves at all given times, reading voraciously, researching and talking to other farmer pioneers who teach us a lot more than we’d ever hope to learn on our own. And yes, substantial knowledge has been borrowed from local, traditional farming practices and indigenous wisdom.
Still we would like to summarize with this. There are many things that nature can teach you and to us the biggest teaching has been that of initiating progress through self-change. Just as wise Fukuoka has said, ‘The healing of the land and the purification of the human spirit is the same thing.’ We cannot go to work on others before we go to work on ourselves first. The change must come from within us if we ever are to make a difference because that’s the most natural pace of things. Without a doubt, we’ve gotten better as farmers but the main transformation has been as human beings. Just like the land we’ve nurtured, we’ve also touched a deep chord within ourselves. We’ve softened, we’ve grown, we’ve mended, right up from scratch too. There is so much to be thankful for.
Today, we’re inching towards an independent whole systems grid for Petrichor Gorubathan, just as we envisioned it back in 2013. We always wanted it to be run mainly by community and volunteers because at its very core, permaculture whole systems design teaches us to design ourselves out of the system. By ensuring that every part of the framework (not just in the garden but in other spheres of our lives too) is mutually beneficial to each other and is supported by each other, one can well be on the way to learn more, do more or even rest.
The key is to use small and slow solutions.