A resident of Bengaluru’s Sanjay Nagar, 73-year-old Anusuya Sharma is reportedly the city’s oldest urban farmer.
A champion of sustainable living, Anusuya’s terrace farm is a perfect example of reuse and recycle principles. The farm has over 400 pots made of tyres, gunny bags and thermocol pots.
Anusuya was born in Karnataka’s Mandya district and grew up in a home surrounded by plants.
“When I got married, I moved to Bombay. There were no plants in peoples’ homes and barely any space to live. I still nurtured a few plants on the balcony of our rented home. After 13 years, we moved to Hyderabad and the situation there was the opposite of Bombay. Almost every home there had a kitchen garden. I brought a few pots and began cultivating plants,” said Anusuya.
Anusuya and her family moved to Bengaluru in 1987 and it was at the city’s famous Lalbagh that the veteran farmer learned the intricacies of urban agriculture.
“I joined a course at Lalbagh. It was a 10-day program and was conducted from the 4th to 14th of every month. I had always cultivated plants but I never knew that crops could be cultivated in pots. Also, a lot of buildings came up and houses did not have space for a yard or a kitchen garden anymore. That’s when I converted my terrace into a farm,” Anusuya recalls.
Anusuya started growing ornamental and medicinal plants initially and later included vegetable cultivation as well. She and her daughter had attended a workshop on cultivating medicinal plants conducted in the city’s Huli Mavu area.
“At that time, I had no idea that seasonal crops can be grown and the produce stored for a year. I just grew flowering plants, medicinal plants and some vegetables as I was really fascinated with the idea of growing crops and utilizing it for everyday activities,” she added.
Apart from medicinal and flowering plants, she now grows green leafy vegetables and root vegetables, herbs and seasonal plants like lemongrass and ginger.
Anusuya then started pursuing workshops on worm culture and compost-making but in 1995, things took a new turn for her when she attended a terrace gardening workshop held by Dr Vishwanath Kudur.
“We were in the first batch and I had gone along with my daughter to attend the workshop. I had over 50 pots on my terrace by then. It was there that I learnt that terrace gardening could be a full-fledged way of cultivating crops for sustainable living. Since then, my passion for it only grew and I have never looked back,” Anusuya recalls.
Anusuya has given importance to plant symbiosis and crop rotation, which helps proper nurturing of plants. Plants in her garden are grown in such a way that vegetables can be harvested regularly. “The fresh chemical-free vegetables grown at home reduces my family’s carbon foot print, a core issue in global warming,” Anusuya says.
She also uses kitchen waste for compost as it helps retain the moisture of the soil moisture and thus reduces water requirement. She also has rainwater harvesting and a water recycling system in place. “One bout of rainfall helps me water my plants for around 15 days. My house is always cool. We do not need any fan or air conditioner. In our home, we use the fan for only 10 of the hottest days in the year,” Anusuya adds.
Just like Anusuya, Dr Kudur’s “Oota from my thota” workshops have inspired many Bengalureans to pursue urban agriculture. His organization, Garden City Farmers conducts workshops for urban farming twice every month.
Dr Kudur, who owned a factory that manufactured bacterial fertilisers, was also concerned about the growing changes the city was experiencing with fast-paced urbanization.