When Karthik Ramaraj, a 40-year-old advertising and marketing skilled was in New Zealand for a decade, he got here throughout the e book ‘The One Straw Revolution’ by Masanobu Fukuoka. As he started to get invested within the contents, he gained a way of what farming meant, how the steadiness between earth and man is struck and the way people can hint their roots again to nature.  

Enthused by these points, Karthik determined to spend his Christmas holidays working at a farm in New Zealand, the place he would prune asparagus, assist out within the apple orchards, and primarily observe what life on a farm actually was. 

He turned so keen about this lifestyle that he needed to expertise it first-hand.  

Paddy cultivation at Velanga Orchard
Paddy cultivation at Velanga Orchard, Image credit: Nikita Dawar

“It was a sequence of influences that motivated my transfer again to India in 2009,” he says in dialog with The Higher India

The motive behind this he says is the will to hunt a life nearer to nature and away from the hustle and bustle of town. 

On returning to India, Karthik determined to pursue his dream of getting a farm, and inside the subsequent two months purchased a 50-acre piece of land in Bangarupalem Mandal, Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh.

He was joined by his spouse Nikita Dawar. The Bengaluru couple had massive goals for the land and the transformation they needed to create. 

Mango orchard at Velanga Orchard
Mango orchard at Velanga Orchard, Image credit: Nikita Dawar

In the present day, that very same piece of land is the place Velanga Orchard lies. The identify ‘Velanga’ is an ode to the outdated wooden apple tree on the entrance, as in Tamil ‘velanga’ interprets to wooden apple. Together with inhaling the fantastic thing about nature and the mango timber, friends can discover the farm keep and partake in myriad actions on website itself. 

Bathed in tranquillity

Karthik and Nikita say that Velanga Orchard has by the years seen a trajectory of progress and evolution. 

Recounting once they first set eyes on the property and bought it in 2009, Karthik says it was virtually a barren land with mango timber of their grownup stage. Regardless of this tree cowl, the farm was run extensively on chemical compounds. 

“We determined to vary this and envisioned an area the place nature would flourish organically and one the place individuals might drink in the fantastic thing about all of it,” he says. So the couple put aside 30 acres out of the 50 as cultivable space and made a agency selection to make use of natural fertiliser, cow dung, and many others. for the crops they might develop right here.  

Cottages at Velanga Orchard
Cottages at Velanga Orchard, Image credit: Nikita Dawar

“Along with the mango timber, we planted coconut timber and revived the rising paddy,” says Nikita, including that in 2020 they determined to open up their gates as a farm keep comprising three twin sharing cottages and 4 particular person ones, all geared up with kitchenettes, mini-fridges, induction plates, and primary utensils. 

In the identical 12 months, they started providing residential pottery programs at Nikita’s studio Gradual Pottery on website, the place college students might come and stick with them whereas they learnt completely different ranges of the artwork.

In the present day, because the couple gazes on the house they’ve created, they’re in awe. “Once we bought the land, there was no electrical energy or any amenity and all the pieces needed to be accomplished from scratch. We’ve come a good distance,” says Karthik. 

Rooms at Velanga Orchard
Rooms at Velanga Orchard, Image credit: Nikita Dawar

Life on the farm

All of the efforts that the couple has put in, are in order that friends who go to and college students who’re interning on the pottery studio, get pleasure from their time. 

There may be by no means a dearth of issues to study and discover, says Nikita. 

“There’s a lake which is ideal for kayaking and swimming and the close by hill is a deal with for hikers.”

She provides that being on the sting of a reserve forest means there are numerous trails to stroll alongside and other people may even enterprise on bicycle rides towards the backdrop of the velvet inexperienced of the forest. 

Whereas some love their trip stuffed with journey, some love taking a step again and stress-free. 

Velanga Orchards has one thing for everybody. 

The lake at Velanga Orchard
The lake at Velanga Orchard, Image credit: Nikita Dawar

“There’s a lot to discover within the villages close by, and friends can stroll by them. On the property, we see a number of species of birds and reptiles and one may even spend a day marvelling at them,” says Nikita.  

And naturally, after an extended day of exploring, climbing and journey, there may be good meals to feast on!

What’s distinctive is that not solely can friends gorge on delicacies on the Velanga Orchard but additionally prepare dinner them!

“Our friends get pleasure from this,” says Nikita. “They get a possibility to see how and the place their meals comes from and get a peek into the straightforward but lovely manner nature offers in abundance.” 

She provides that 40 per cent of the meals wants are met with the produce from the orchard, the paddy subject and the vegetable patch and one typically finds the lunch at Velanga having dishes that embody contemporary brinjal, bitter gourd, spinach, tomatoes, chilli, radish, rice, millets, and many others. 

The couple is within the works of beginning a fruit forest which is able to home greater than 20 fruit timber and add to the menu. 

Kayaking at the lake
Kayaking on the lake, Image credit: Nikita Dawar

“Friends can discover the environment, chill out, come go to the pottery studio, and take pleasure in nature, with clear air and clear skies. If friends are thirsty, there may be all the time a glass of freshly juiced toddy obtainable.” Nikita provides that what friends love essentially the most is the old-world attraction related to the farm keep. 

Within the midst of all of this, Karthik says it has been very important for them to maintain the farm keep by incorporating the values of nature. “Most of our buildings and interiors inside the dwelling are constructed with recycled and upcycled materials. As an illustration, the roof tiles are sourced from demolished village homes,” says Karthik, including {that a} main portion of the furnishings too are restored antiques.

The electrical energy wants of the farm keep are fulfilled by the ten photo voltaic panels of 10W every, and Karthik says they purpose to have 100 per cent of the wants taken care of by photo voltaic by 2024. 

Whereas Karthik and Nikita handle the vast majority of the farm keep wants, they’re joined by Ravi, who takes cost of the useful work, and 4 girls from the neighbouring villages, who assist with the cooking and housekeeping

Paddy at Velanga Orchard
Paddy at Velanga Orchard, Image credit: Nikita Dawar

An expertise of a lifetime 

Whereas beginning the farm keep the couple needed to overcome the cultural points within the space. “There have been many individuals within the neighbouring villages who didn’t perceive our objective to construct an area the place nature and people might coexist,” says Nikita. 

She provides that together with this the remoteness of the place made it very difficult to hold out even the smallest of works as labour and materials weren’t obtainable shut by.

In 2013, simply because the couple was getting the farm up and working, there was a extreme drought and so they ran out of water.

“These weeks challenged all the pieces we believed in,” says Karthik. However they by no means stopped going. Nonetheless, local weather change continues to be a problem that they’re navigating. “It typically disrupts the common functioning of the farm and the diploma is unbelievable.” 

Except for the influx of friends that the couple sees on the farm, some college students keep whereas they study pottery at Nikita’s studio. 

Throughout pottery season, which extends from August by November, college students pay Rs 1 lakh and are educated in gradual pottery for a month. This consists of lodging and meals. On the studio, college students are taught the preparation of clay, trimming the clay, making gadgets out of it similar to bottles, teapots, and many others. and even glaze software. 

Trekking at Velanga Orchard
Trekking at Velanga Orchard, Image credit: Nikita Dawar

Namita who has been a scholar since August 2021 says Gradual Pottery and Velanga Orchard are a second dwelling to her. “The one month that we spent studying pottery at Velanga will all the time maintain a particular place in our hearts. After I touched clay for the primary time, I couldn’t have imagined rising at a tempo that will push me to an intermediate degree by the top of the month!”

She provides that Nikita and Karthik have been the right hosts. “Nikita is affected person and Karthik was essentially the most caring, real and beneficiant particular person. If I ever bought the prospect to return and do it over again, I’d do it in a heartbeat!”

Nonetheless, attributable to house crunch, Karthik says they both have the homestay open for friends, or pottery college students. “We will accommodate 10 friends every night time at any cut-off date. For a person, the bundle is Rs 15,000 for 5 days and 5 nights together with meals.” 

The couple sees round 25 friends per thirty days, all pleased to get a break from their each day routines. Nikita says friends love the Orchard as it’s a house for them to unwind and really chill out. “Most of all, it’s a possibility to expertise the solitude and power of a spot with minimal adulteration,” she says.

Edited by Yoshita Rao 

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