Volunteering at Annapurna

Name: Pavithra
Organisation: Annapurna 

Annapurna farm is the largest certified organic farm in Auroville. The lands purchase for Annapurna started in 1960s and the farming started in 1980s. The total acreage is 135 out of which 55 acres are used for cultivating and the rest for firewood crops and regeneration fodders. The main produce of Annapurna is grains and dairy products and has IMO certificate to ensure the quality of its products since 2005, the farm look into the Auroville’s needs and serves according to it. The current steward of the farm is Mr. Tomas.

Day 1: Yummy paneer and yogurt

On my first day of volunteering at Annapurna, Tomas asked me to help with Sangeetha akka who looks after the dairy section at Annapurna. So she asked me to help her in washing and sterilising the bottles for yogurt. Siva is the person who goes into Auroville taking all the Annapurna’s products and delivers them to the places like New pour tous, Foodlink, etc. He also looks out for the next day’s demand. So according to his call from Auroville that day we had to prepare 14 bottles of yogurt and paneer. So, we started to boil about 25 liters of milk for about 45 minutes, in meanwhile we washed 20 bottles for the yogurt and sterilized them for 20 minutes. By then the milk which was kept for cooling reached 40 degree, Sangeetha akka added a small bowl of curd into the milk and I stirred for proper resolve of curd into the milk. Once the process was satisfying I filled 14 bottles and placed them to a container which was filled with hot water for the fermentation process. I learnt that when the bottles are kept in hot water, the fermentation process happens in about 3 hours.

The second preparation was paneer, for that we boiled 15 liters of milk and on the other side 2 liters of curd for about 40 minutes. When the milk reached 55 degree I added the boiled curd to the milk and Sangeetha akka stirred the milk till the water got separated. Later the clotted milk was filtered with a clean white cloth, which was tied up tightly using a bowl and was left to rest for a day. I was happy in doing this at Annapurna as the yogurt and paneer will serve at least 10-15 families.

Day 2: Millet's processing

Today I moved into millet processing. I saw two women cleaning varagu so I joined them; we had 49 kg of varagu for cleaning. They said that it was dried under the sun the previous day. Kasthuri amma showed me how to clean varagu, it was hand cleaning where we had to remove stones and other semi processed millets.  At the same time raw rice was under process. After cleaning varagu I went to the raw rice processing. First the paddy was gradually filled in a machine which separates the husks and then into another machine which polished the rice. This was really a learning day for me, learnt the full processing of raw rice.

Day 3: Kuthama and Kasthuri amma with their super weapon muram

I saw Kasthuri amma cleaning the raw rice in a traditional way. I sat and watched her hands playing with the rice. She was really amazing; she did different things with the muram. Later she taught me how to separate the chaff using muram. I learnt how to do winnowing. Trust me it’s not at all easy. One could easily get their degrees, but to get this art it is really very hard. The whole day I struggled a lot to get this but enjoyed doing it.

Day 4: Exploring Annapurna

Tomas explained us about the Annapurna’s tagging system for other Auroville’s farms products which comes for processing and storage. He gave us the map of Annapurna and asked to explore on our own. We understood that on approximate 30 acres are used for growing dryland crops like rice, sesame, Rosella and millets, out of which 14 acres are under rice cultivation. A total of 20-25 acres are under firewood crops and regeneration fodder and a guava orchard of 0.5 acres. They have also created a series of water catchment ponds which is used for irrigation. During our exploration we noticed the cattle’s caretakers making a temporary solar electric fence for the cow’s grassing. After exploring I went to the paddy field and stepped into it for weeding. Agriculture is not at all easy; farmers are spending lots of energy and are under the sun for months to give us rice, but we are just wasting them in few minutes.

Day 5: It is my fifth day at Annapurna, today I helped in processing the varagu with Kasthuri amma, Velu anna and Shanthi akka.

Step 1: Here in this machine- the stones and other chaffs are separated from the unprocessed varagu.  

Step 2: This is the main process, where the husks gets separated inside the machine. On the top of the machine the varagu gets filled, later it gradually undergoes for the separation process and finally it is collected with the separated husks and goes to the third process where the husks fully flies off.

Step 3: I was bit amazed, because in those days people wait for the wind to do this process, but here look what Kasthuri amma is doing.

unfortunately I could not witness the end process as everyone had to go for lunch. So, the next day which was my last day of volunteering at Annapurna, I saw the fully processed varagu on the table waiting for hand cleaning process. That was my work for the final day, so I sat down and started to clean varagu; looked out for semi processed varugu and other chaffs. Thanks Annapurna and team, you taught me a lot and made me have a different learning experience.Thank you so much!!!

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