Today I introduce to you a prominent person – Mr Thampi Thomas – who gave up his legal profession in order to pursue his interest in agriculture. He was the classmate of Justice K. S. Radhakrishnan, formerly judge of the Supreme Court and son of the famous C. K. Sivasankara Panicker, and also worked under C. K. Sivasankara Panicker. Mr Thomas took his L. L. M. degree in Administrative Law from Cochin University, from where he went to Harvard to do research. But following his father’s death, he came back and took up farming. Even today he is involved in the subject he was trained in, gives legal advice free of charge to people who seek him out, and helps them in drafting their complaints.

What attracted me to his farming methods is the methodical neatness of work, that is done scientifically and with the finesse of a management expert. He follows the principles of organic farming. You can see it in his management of crops and the sale of his produce. At the same time, he uses the resources of our traditional wisdom, consulting our traditional almanac for getting rid of aphids from his paddy fields. For these reasons, I felt interviewing him would be beneficial for all of us. Let us learn more from what he has to say.

Sir, there is a reason behind my coming to you. When we talk to people who have taken B. Sc. and M. Sc. degrees in agriculture, they admit they turned to the subject because they did not get admission for MBBS. You took your L. L. M. degree in Administrative Law, practised under a well-known lawyer, did a course in law at the Harvard University, and finally turned to agriculture. What was the one factor that attracted you to this field?

After completing my L. L. M., I did research on Natural law. That led me to Nature cure and Natural hygiene. I have been at a sanatorium run by a person in Thiruvananthapuram. I forget his name now. As part of it, I turned to farming that was based on food that could be made without the use of pesticides and fungicides. This place was developed by my father. During my childhood, he practised organic farming methods. No chemicals were used. Paddy cultivation was done using cow dung and ash. All these areas you see now were paddy fields. We had only paddy fields and coconut gardens, and very little rubber cultivation. The rest of the areas were left untouched for making green manure and dry leaves required for paddy cultivation. All the land you saw on the way to this place was designated for that purpose. Rubber cultivation came later. When I returned after my L. L. M., it was full-scale chemical farming. I wondered whether we could go back to the earlier method of cultivating healthy food products. That was the time when the old generation of workers and their children were still working here. They said it was not possible here. But I wanted to do it on an experimental basis. I decided on the specifications for the crops. Thereafter, I have not shifted from organic methods. Earlier, I used to introduce fertilizers unnecessarily.

It requires some courage to follow this method in paddy cultivation. Paddy farming faces threat from rice bugs [Leptocorisa acuta] and worms. How did you overcome it?

When we start paddy cultivation, birds are the main pests. We sow seeds in dry fields, not in water- logged fields. As a result, the first to arrive are pigeons. We drive them off manually. This takes place during the first five days after sowing. By the time the sprouts come, this attack subsides. So, if we sow earlier, by the time the pigeons arrive, the sprouts would have grown up a bit. As we start irrigation, that problem gets solved completely. The next pest to arrive are sparrows, locally known as ‘kunjattakkili’. They come in huge flocks, sit on the stalks, and eat the grains when they are ripe. If you clap your hands to drive them off, they take off in a thick cloud. Then come the parrots in great numbers and bite off the corn stalks. They eat one or two, go to another plant and bite off the stalk. These are the major pests. They have to be drive away manually. It is a full-time job.

How do you fight rice bugs?

I have not faced problems from stem borer worms [Syrpophaga incertulas]. There are insects who eat the leaves, on a small scale. But I do not pay much attention to them. Rice bugs are the main pests. However, if we observe the moon cycle, we will be able to manage their numbers. After the full moon phase, the moon rises late. If the crops are raised during the dark phase, the number of rice bugs will be less.

In other words, the ear of the corn should appear after the full moon.

The corn spikes should become firm before the new moon. After that, rice bugs will increase and begin to attack.

Sir, you follow this method because it is effective, isn’t it?

I raise a variety of paddy named “Jyothi”. After the seeds are sown in water, we know when the ear of corn will appear.

The farming calendar should be in sync with the lunar calendar. Actually speaking, your research work turned beneficial. Besides these, you have created a forest ambience by cultivating dragon fruit, mangosteen, nutmeg and so on, allowing each plant to get plenty of space and sunlight. Was it like this in the beginning? Or was it planned? Did you cultivate mangosteen earlier too?

No, I introduced mangosteen here. It grows well in shade. So is the case with nutmeg. I love mangosteen. That is why I procured them from several places and brought them here. My main requirement is to grow fruits. So, I introduced a variety of them. I happened to see a TV episode on someone cultivating dragon fruit in Thiruvananthapuram. I took down the name of the cultivator and his number. He sent me a few cuttings through courier. I experimented with them just to check how it would thrive. The plant produced fruit in the very first year. After that happened, I expanded its cultivation. It is largely pest-free, and the plants will live for nearly 25 years.

Although I have planted nearly 20 stems, none of them have fruited during the last two years. The plants have grown well though.

Are they full-fledged trees now?


Do you irrigate them copiously?

No. I had gone to the sub-jail for planting trees. I saw them grown on raised ground. So, I followed the model. This was one-and-a-half years back. Since then, they have grown. Perhaps the fruiting time is only about to start.

It is time for the flowers to appear. A lot of watering is not required. Maybe, only once a week. They look good.

Some varieties may be slow bloomers. Is it bright green?

Indeed. How much time does mangosteen take?

Six years. Thereafter, they will begin to produce fruits. It takes 10 years to grow into full maturity. Sir, you have done good mulching here. Usually, people don’t do such thick mulching close to the house because they fear it will attract snakes.

Mulching involves a bit of composting. It is a way of adding fertilizers. As more and more dry leaves fall on the top, the leaves at the bottom decay and become part of the soil. That is a kind of composting process. When I attended a workshop, a Brazilian lady told me that when there is rain accompanied by thunder, two tons of nitrogen get introduced into one hectare of soil. We don’t need more nitrogen than that. Excess of it goes with run-off. If we able to keep it in, we will be able to contain that much in our soil.

Here, you have done everything possible to consciously retain water at various points, haven’t you?

Yes. These days, we get very heavy rains.

Sir, this pond is full. All the water falling into those fields is prevented from flowing away. You direct it towards this pond. Has there been any positive change after you implemented this rain water harvesting system? Or, did you have such a good pond earlier as well?

The secret of the water level here lies in the canals of Periyar. There is a high-level canal passing through this area. That leads to a water body named Indiranchira. There is a connection that spreads over half an acre. Once the water enters that canal, we get charged here. The reason is that the bed rock here is hard laterite which is highly porous. Didn’t you see the holes?

You see that near the river.

The upper layer can be broken only by blasting the rocks. It is harder than granite.

These are as strong as the rocks you see on the sea shore. They are generally seen in Kannur. I didn’t imagine I would see them at such a low level.

At a depth of one foot, they will break because they are soft at that point.

What other organic fertilizers do you use, sir? There are small crops.

For raising vegetables, I use goat pellets and chicken poop. I use it more in the form of slurry, after fermentation. Besides, I use what is popular now – fertilizers produced by a company called Tropical Agro. Their seals proclaim that the fertilizers are organic. It carries an IMO certification. Similarly, they have foliar spray and granules. I’ve done paddy cultivation using only foliar spray, doing it every 15 days. NPK. And just when the grains are about to be harvested, I give micronutrients called Megacal. I’ve been getting good result for two years now.

Sir, do you give academic guidance on the legal front?

I draft documents like agreements, I manage outside court settlements on demand, in order to close long-drawn out cases. I’ve settled many cases of that kind. When a man dies, and his widow is cheated of her property, I help out the widows with legal advice. I don’t go to court though.

Sir, my next question is about how you chose an entirely different career and made a success of it. From the commercial point of view, all your produce is organic and you export them.

In most cases, customers come here directly and make purchases. They buy dragon fruit from here. The dragon fruits available in the markets come from overseas. Considering their high perishability, the fruits are harvested before they are fully ripe. Invariably, the fruit will be red on the outside but may not be tasty. I had my first bite of the dragon fruit in Bengaluru, bought from Nilgiris. I did not like its taste. It tasted like coconut medulla, locally called ‘pongu’. So, I thought that was the true taste of the dragon fruit. Actually, when it grows really ripe it is very tasty. That is the case with most fruits.

Sir, you do direct sales here, without any intermediaries.

Besides, I have wholesale business too. A wholesaler from Marad comes here and makes bulk purchase. I inform him and he comes to collect the fruits, if a specific quantity is available. Fruits like dragon fruit, mangosteen and so on. There are nearly 10 other varieties of fruits too. I give them away locally. I grow bananas too.

How many acres does your farm cover, sir?

Four acres in all, of which a plot of 40 cents is set apart for paddy cultivation.

Do you get enough to sustain a family?

I get enough to sell too. We eat rice only once a day.

In reality, Kerala does not need to import rice.

We can grow enough to sustain our population. As for vegetables, from September to this month [May], we grow English vegetables that grow in cold climate. That is followed by our indigenous vegetables like beans, lady’s finger, amaranth, coriander and other essential varieties.

Okay, sir.

There are many people who make a success out of farming. But here is a person who has shown academic brilliance and come to this field. It is indeed a rare feat.

Now I get mangosteen from 4o trees. I have 100 trees at various stages of growth. I get 5 tons of fruit from them. And 3-4 tons of dragon fruit. Star fruit production is also high. It covers the cost. The rest are profitable. I do farm tourism. In pre-COVID times, I used to have a lot of visitors, especially from outside.

After observing Mr Thampi Thomas’s methods, I feel a lot of what I d0 is unscientific. That is because I’m a rough-and-ready farmer. I do farming in the same manner as Mr Ravindran Nair whom I introduced in an earlier episode. But this gentleman follows a systematic method which will do a lot of good for the development of the land and agricultural production. To those who wish to follow this method, he is a role model. I feel happy to have introduced him to you. He belongs to Perumbavoor, stays at Kolanchery. Interested parties may contact him directly, and make efforts to learn farming methods from him.