Bangalore - what was once a ‘garden city’ flourishing under a constant canopy of trees has now become a concrete metropolis bursting at its seams riddled with traffic, pollution, toxic lakes, water shortage and it only seems to get worse with each passing day. While most Bangloreans are to be found reminiscing over the good old days where birds chirping and clean air hadn’t been replaced with honking and carbon infused oxygen, one small group seems to have emerged with hope, a little green shoot growing in between blocks of concrete.
Garden City Farmers is an NGO that aims to teach Bangalore how to “grow what you eat, and eat what you grow!” The organization is the brainchild of Dr. Vishwanath, an entomologist who decided to try his hand at farming back in the early 90’s. The organization conducts workshops that teach people how to make the most use of their terrace spaces to grow fruit and vegetables without the use of any chemicals - the way food should always have been, Dr. Vishwanath states. Each workshop addresses the need for terrace/urban farming, and goes on to explain perpetuation of seeds and their storage, what containers are best suited to which crops, garden plans and designs, composting and overall plant care for your garden. As far as the seeds are concerned, Dr Vishwanath told us that they make their own seeds using an open pollination technique - they do not believe in using hybrid or GMO varieties at all. All the pesticides and fertilizers they use are natural, and made by them.
Upon asking him how he conceived of the idea, he tells us, “When I came back from the states during 89, I joined a movement called the Organic Farming Movement - it was to promote change from chemical agriculture to organic agriculture and how to go about it and how to grow real food, without any contamination or any poison attached to it. We started developing the course for it and started training people and farmers particularly.” During this time, Dr. Vishwanath also started a company of his own that makes natural, bio-fertilizers, and on one of his flights into the Bangalore, he noticed empty terrace space and thought of whether tempertature in the city could be brought down if more people started growing terrace gardens, and so it began!
When they initially started, a lot of people were sceptical about terrace gardens considering Bangalore monsoons. An open terrace was probably not the best set up, and people were hesitant at the thought of spending money to waterproof their area. But today, Dr. Vishwanath notes that builders and engineers are approaching him to assess the viability of a terrace garden in their projects because more and more people are appealing to the idea, and it has become a point of sale for the builders themselves. What’s more is that from an initial participation of mostly retired folk in Bangalore, they have seen the influx of a younger Bangalore who are just as keen to make this lifestyle change for themselves and the community. We can only hope that this is a seed that stays planted for generations to come.
Garden City Farmers conducts monthly workshops in 2 places, one about 15 kms away from Bangalore and one inter-city. The average price for the workshop is INR 1500. For more details, visit their website here.