Vivek Gour Broome’s food forest


Vivek Gour Broome looks the personification of that nursery rhyme, “Old McDonald had a farm…” His farm west of Pune, beyond Hinjewadi in the village of Marunji, is an island of biodiversity – the crows were flying in to the shade of the trees the morning this writer visited. The farm has several different varieties of bamboo, including the thorny bamboo whose blossoms in Wayanad district of Kerala have foresters worried. There are cows, at least sixteen different varieties of fruit trees and a nursery with herbs that are rarely seen in the city – including sage and rosemary.

As he plucks leaves of allspice and crushes it, Broome explains that it smells of all the different spices – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper. There are jackfruit trees and different varieties of mango and chickoo. And if you visit the farm, you may also get things you could try planting back home – like “air potato”. I had never heard of this vegetable before – “a potato the Jains can eat” Broome explains, for it grows above the ground, on a vine. It has medicinal uses too, and quite unlike the regular potato, is recommended in the diabetic’s diet. Since the growth of trees is quite thick, this farmer has planted dioscoria – roots – that allow food plants to grow wherever possible.

Broome has a pond in his farm, with blooming water lilies – the water hyacinth is taking over a portion of the pond. “That plant is just horribly defamed – it serves to clean the water,” he says.

Broome has been helping in planning plantations in other parts of Pune district too – the variation in rainfall, from the west to the east of the district is quite a lot, with some parts of the east as dry as parts of Rajasthan, he says. His wife Neema joins in explaining that a good diet, comprising organically grown produce offers satiation – so the cravings that are normally felt, for something more to eat even after a meal, are gone. “Those cravings are actually the body seeking nutrients that meals made from produce that is not grown in good soil lack. If the food is tasty and nutritious, the body does not feel those cravings,” she explains.

Broome explains that what this patch of land produces is used mostly only for the family – there is little to sell. He does have bamboo and milk for sale though, in small quantities. The Broome nursery is also well known, and visitors arrive from far away to take a look at the range of plants on offer. The farm also has a space for housing guests who would like to experience a food forest. That too helps generate some resources needed for the upkeep of the whole space.

Besides the family’s needs, the Broomes are interested in providing space for the crows, other birds that visit, bees and insects. Butterflies and birds thrive in this tiny patch of forest. “What we get from the land is not very vast in quantity, but it is of supreme quality,” says Neema. Two years ago, this writer bought mangoes from the farm and can attest to the superior quality of the produce on this farm. As one enters the farm, there is a fruiting mulberry tree – there are birds taking their pick, and Broome’s mother makes jam from the berries.

The Broomes seem the very epitome of contentment, living life close to nature. Just as you emerge from the farm, though, you are struck by the vastly expanding city – Life Republic, a project by a major builder is taking shape on nearly 390 acres just near this farm. Sudden spurt in the building activity here is bound to impact groundwater levels – and the signs are there to see. Just beyond the green oasis that the Broomes inhabit is dry, parched vegetation.

For Broome, organic is a way of life – his theory of language learning too is quite ‘organic’. He says he was teased by friends about his very limited Marathi, and then began to just sprout his own words – dubchow, for the ladle, for instance. “When you just use a word with confidence, few people dare question you about its meaning. Most people assume that the word exists, only they had never heard it before,” he says. Judge Broome would be very proud of this enterprising grandson.

Rosamma Thomas is an independent journalist




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