Thiruvalla: Churches often have vast property which could be put to use for farming or drawing solar power. The CSI Church at Thukalassery in Pathanamthitta district today has a vegetable farm that yields plentiful crop of long beans. The cultivation of lady’s finger, tomato, chilli and spinach are in the preliminary stages. It is the priest here who developed the backyard garden and tends to it.
The morning routine of Rev. Dr Sabu K Cherian is clearly chalked out. First the vicar visits his vegetable garden and then the church. From 6 am to 9 am, Dr Sabu will be at the garden. He harvests the long beans, if they are ripe, and distribute them among the families of the diocese. On some days the long beans bounty could be 23 kg. Many parishioners are treading the path of Dr Sabu and have started a vegetable garden of their own.
Dr Sabu, who took charge as the vicar of the church a year ago, started cultivating long beans after clearing the wild vegetation on the vacant land between the church and the parsonage in January. After 12 weeks, a mulching sheet was put up as a cover and pipes for irrigation were installed. This meant that the soil had a uniform temperature and watering should be done only for 10 minutes. Three grams of manure would be used for each plant, and 400 kg of long beans were harvested in four months’ time.
Dr Sabu is able to harvest long beans daily because of the uniqueness of the farming techniques followed by him. If there is any problem with the plants, he will treat them in his own way. Even when Dr Sabu lost 50 kg of long beans to ear-head bugs (chazhi), he never used chemical fertilizers to eradicate them. Dr Sabu used the potent effect of weaver ants (neer) to counter the menace of aphis (munja) in long beans.
The priest is now planning to grow bitter gourd as the long bean season is over.
His parsonage got the CSI church’s green building award. The church’s compound is replete with coconut trees, plantain trees and tapioca plants, and there are plans to cultivate turmeric on a small patch of vacant land.
The Christian Agency for Rural Development, Thelliyoor, and the local Krishi Vigyan Kendra are providing the requisite knowhow for the cultivation of vegetables. The vegetable saplings are also sold at Rs 5 each.