In my ongoing quest to understand the local/organic scene in Nepal, a friend of mine handed me a copy of ECS Nepal, a music/arts/events/all cool things in Nepal magazine that happened to feature various organic restaurants, cafes and farms. Granted the edition was from April 2011, I found one article of particular interest.
And so it was that this small act of kindness afforded me the most inspiring visit to Everything Organic Nursery, located in Patalekhet- about a two and a half hour ride southeast of Kathmandu.
Now considering my last farm visit tested all of my physical stamina- E.O.N. was far more accessible. Just one bus from Kathmandu’s Ratna Bus Park to Dulikhel and another short ride from there to Patalekhet.Then once I was dropped on the side of the road I was surrounded by beautiful green hills with terraced fields and literally not a sound in the air. From there its just a 7 minute climb up a rocky foot path until you reach the beauty that is Everything Organic Nursery.
When I arrived in the morning, there were already a group of women congregated around a beehive, taking notes, listening attentively and apparently not fazed by the swarm of bees surrounding them.
I received a warm welcome from Judith and Jim, the rockstar couple who own the farm, but mostly I was just thrown right into the training- well as much as possible considering it was all in Nepali.
The women (and one man, hey Nurbu!) were taking part in a six day training, today was day 5- planting, pruning and grafting fruit trees. The women were all leaders of different wards of the nearby Timal village and were getting trained in bio-intensive organic farming practices and will return to their wards to teach the rest of the village farmers what they’ve learned.
For the past few days the women had learned several bio-intensive methods of farming such as double digging- a method of planting that involves first digging 2-3 feet down, and then filling the hole with layers of dry, leafy and wet organic materials (basically a compost pit) and then building the bed back up a couple feet.
Apparently this method ensures that the soil deep down will be healthy for 5 years. FIVE YEARS! Its a lot of work upfront, but pretty much worth it in the long run. It allows the roots of whatever you are planting to really reach down for all the nutrients that are below. This method is a slight adaptation of John Jeavon’s theory- the man who originally coined the term “bio-intensive” farming.
The morning was spent trying to get used to notion that bees are my friends, speaking (as much as one can with minimal Nepali) to the women, and just walking around the beautifully organized demo farm.
Through my conversations with Judith and Jim I found out that they have been living or connected to Nepal for over 20 years. When they moved to this particular location in 2010 they didn’t want to fence off their property, rather make it as open as possible for the community to benefit from it. They built E.O.N. with the intention of helping the surrounding villagers as much as possible.
Every Saturday morning they offer bee-keeping training to local youth and then some type of bio-intensive training depending on who shows up and what their needs are. They employ six Nepali staff on their farm, and teach a weekly class at a nearby school on organic. They have even promised to buy all of the produce that their students grow in their kitchen gardens and to provide half the funding for a moveable frame hive so that the youth can take their weekly Saturday lessons and put them into practice.
My earlier comment on rockstar status is starting to make sense now, right?
After a morning of beekeeping we took a break for Daal bhat.
Now, to call this meal a simple daal bhat is just not right. This was like daal bhat 2.0, daal bhat on organic steroids, daal bhat…. basically it was an amazing meal. We ate organic brown rice that was grown on EON, thick organic yellow lentil soup, fried shitake mushrooms, and huge organic steamed cauliflower (also grown on site) spiced to perfection with cumin. It was actually heavenly.
However, to not mention the exquisite ceramic plates and mugs would actually do a disservice to the meal. Jim’s craft and passion is in ceramics. He worked and trained others in his craft for 10 years in Bhaktapur, and the dishes we ate from were made by his students. There’s really no question about it, the meal was somehow even better because of the artwork they were displayed on.
To finish up, we had dessert momos with a kiwi jam filling, a banana and orange compote with fresh yogurt, bread with honey- both made on site- and coffee. If there were ever a time for a daal shnatz, now would be it.
But alas, the show must go on! And boy, was it a show.
The Nepali farm manager, Binod, proceeded to train the group in planting and pruning fruit trees for the next few hours. Although I didn’t actually understand what was being said, farming happens to be a non-verbal language.
As I watched Binod “dance” with the trees I was in awe of him- not only his ability to truly understand this art form, but also to be able to communicate it so effectively. Binod’s 20 years of farming experience was clear that afternoon- the man a fruit tree intuitive.
By the end of the day I was feeling like I was on a cloud of pure happiness. It was a sunny warm day, fresh air (which I will never take for granted again), a gorgeous landscape (those Himalayas really never get old) and I was surrounded by such inspirational people- and I was almost used to the bees.
For anyone at all interested in farming, organic, grassroots community development or just visiting some awesome people doing meaningful work in Nepal- visiting Everything Organic Nursery is an absolute must. See you there bellpeppers!