Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kitchen garden resources centre on ECR

Surabhi, some 100 km from Chennai on the East Coast Road (ECR),  is a kitchen garden resource centre, says Hema Vijay in an article in The Hindu.  It is a resource centre  that combines a mega greenhouse, and farm with organic retail,  a restaurant, and much else. It's a one-stop greens place that provides customers with gardening tips, space-saving props, seeds, saplings, manure, pesticides, and offers for sale organic vegetables and fruits. Apart from what is grown in-house Surabhi's roadside shop  retails  produce grown by  several neighbourhood  villagers. They are not farmers, but  villagers with surplus veg.& fruits grown in their backyards.

Surabhi provides villagers in its vicinity  a marketing outlet  for household produce. A villager with a mango or guava tree in his backyard brings his household surplus to Surabhi, which sells it to car-wallahs on ECR who stop by for 'chai' and a look-around.

The man who makes Surabhi tick is Mr S S Rashakrishnan. A lawyer by training, the 64-year-old has been an IRS official with the customs dept.; and  founder of  a tax consultancy firm. Mr Radhakrishnan says he has now handed over charge to his son, and shifted base from his Beasant Nagar residence,  to manage and live at Surabhi, developed on  farmland  taken on lease from a friend near Kottaikadu village on ECR,

In a phone talk Mr Radhakrishnan said he didn't see Surabhi as a commercial venture,  though, I suspect, the business model he has evolved sustains the upkeep of 12 employees who keep Surabhi up and running as a community service project with socio-economic benefits. Surabhi initiates rural houeholds  into  efficient home gardening practices. Surabhi adds marketing value to their produce that are otherwise not easily marketable.

As for urban areas Mr Radhakrishnan believes kitchen gardening can meet much of the needs of city-dwellers, if only they put to use all available open concrete space in, around, and on top of their houses for growing greens. When I mentioned that the super-mart in our OMR apartments complex, and also the nearby vegetable stalls at Padur and Kelambakkam rely on Koyambedu  Mr Radhakrishnan talked about the potential for container gardening in the emerging high-rise communities on OMR.

Container gardening taken up in people's balcony saves high transporting cost of greens and things from Koyambedu wholesale veg. market.. Greens growing in your balcony enables housewives to use them fresh when needed, and in the quantity that is needed. You save space in the fridge that was earlier taken up by the greens. Salad greens are great to grow in containers, says a farming blog,  listing lettuce, spinach, arugula, mustard leaves, green onions, baby beet leaves, and other leafy greens. culinary herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil, dill, thyme, oregano, mint, chives. Most of the leafy green plants for salads and herbs can be grown  in pots holding 5–10 liters of soil, because they don’t get very big, and their roots are shallow.

Mr Radhakrishnan can be accessed at 9841023448. E-mail -

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