I'm sitting at Vijayawada Airport, having just spent the past four days in Prabhu's village of Kankipadu, Andhra Pradesh, my third year documenting the turmeric harvest.
The rains weren't great this year, but Prabhu was more experienced and prepared, so whilst harvest was still good, it wasn't quite the bumper crop of 2018 – such is agriculture.
I always think I know what I'm getting myself into when I take this trip in third week of every January, but how darn incredible and emotional it is takes me by surprise every time. It's a celebration of what has been grown, and the family that grew it, as much as it is a time to reflect and reconsider what should be grown, a chance to really ask the why and the how of moving forward.
Seeing photos of the harvest, you’d think Vijayawada is some oasis of spice growing lushness. That’s simply not true. The city of Vijayawada is thick with pollution, and has an overwhelming number of open sewers. Piles of plastic being burnt off the side of the road are a common and awful winter sight.
Even outside the city, in Prabhu’s own village, the waterways are clogged with garbage and most farmers are in competition over how much urea/other gnarly chemical fertilizer to use. It is not an organic spice farmer’s paradise. In fact, most days it feels like the state of agriculture and the food industry in India is working directly against Prabhu and his efforts.
But then you spend time with the Kasaraneni family, and you spend a quiet sunset on the farm amidst the marigolds, and it is truly an oasis. My biggest wish for 2019 is that this will be the year that Prabhu gets to be less lonely in his efforts, that he can connect with other young, whip smart, innovative organic farmers across the country and slowly, they can be the change we need – they can convince their stubborn grandfathers and fathers to start listening, to give power to women, stop poisoning their land for bigger and bigger yields, and to stop buying and selling to an unjust market that systematically disadvantages them. Big dreams, but spend an evening on the farm and you’ll believe that it’s possible.
In case you were wondering, our logo is a marigold because as a companion crop to our turmeric, the blooming marigold is a sign that the turmeric in the ground is ready for harvest and fully mature. Pretty beautiful, no?
Thank you for following along and being a part of our community in 2018. We are so excited to grow and bring you lots more farm-direct spices and India + diaspora culture in 2019.