Monday, October 20, 2008

The planting conundrum of leaves for the table


It is no accident that this blog is meant to be my musings as well as my frustrations as a farmer and here is one close to my heart. I was at the Padukka Pola, (farmers market) about 5 km from the farm today, and the Gotukola bunches were being sold there at Rs30/- each which is the same price I sell mine at for home delivery. In addition to Gotukola, I had the following for sale in this week’s delivery. Mukunuwenna, Thampala, Gus Nivithi, Beheth Sarana, Kathurumurunga, and Kalawampala.

In fact I sell all my various fresh leaves, plucked in the morning, to Colombo homes the same day at this price. Needless to say all my leaves, are grown or grow wild, without the use of Pesticides or Chemical Fertilizer and in the case of grown leaves, have to weed the beds manually. It is most likely that the leaves one buys in the markets, and even the farmers markets have pesticides and chemical fertilizers added.

Many people in Colombo would rather buy my leaves, than buy from the shop, as they do not know the source of the leaves, as there have been various scares of diseases being contracted from uncooked food. I do get complaints from customers from time to time that the prices of my leaves are high, but they should really try and source them elsewhere to realize they really do get value for money. I know how much I struggle to grow this and sometimes wonder if I actually make any profit from so doing, unless I do it in a much larger scale.

It was interesting that the staff of a customer complained that the leaves had been eaten by insects, while the usual ones they buy are perfect. I reminded her that it is possible that the latter have pesticides sprayed, and hence the insects avoid or die on impact! This was not the case with mine.

I can increase the market for my leaves by having a larger selection and more quantity, like having three different types of Gotukola, Kankun, Kohila and Nivithi to name a few notable absentees from my line-up. Then there are some other medicinal leaves that grow easily which I can add. My problem then is the means by which I transport this while keeping the leaves fresh. I cannot do this satisfactorily until I have some sort of refrigerated transport. However that is a hurdle for the future, the current struggle is to get my staff on the same plane with me to get a bigger crop, as I have the land and the water, just the lack of dedication to the project.

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