August 30 is World Kitchen Garden Day. In addition to workshops and a balcony garden tour, there will be a virtual Oota From Your Thota in memory of BN Vishwanath Kadur’s motto, eat what you grow, and grow what you eat
Agricultural Entomologist and urban gardener BN Vishwanath Kadur, President and founder of Garden City Farmers, and the man behind the popular Oota from your Thota fete, died in Bengaluru on August 9 after a prolonged illness. Kadur started propagating terrace gardening in 1995 and in this silver jubilee year, Kadur will be remembered with several online events on August 30, which is also World Kitchen Garden Day. At 10 am there will be a gardening workshop by Sanjeev Jaganmohan followed by a balcony garden tour by Hariram PS (https://www.youtube.com/c/OrganicTerraceGardening Call 9448629528)
Rajendra Hegde who holds a doctorate in Agricultural Entomology from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad and was a close associate of Kadur says, “I came into contact with Kadur in 2005. We conducted umpteen live sessions of terracegardening and took part in national seminars to propagate science and sustainability involved in growing crops in containers. Karnataka has nearly a lakh homes with green terraces and balconies today, thanks to Kadur’s efforts.” Hegde spoke to MetroPlus about Kadur and his tireless efforts to propagate terrace gardening.
What did urban gardens meant to Kadur
Vishwanath Kadur was a simple, down-to-earth person. He never looked for accolades. He was a multi-faceted personality — he was also a good photographer and theatre actor. He promoted growing fruits and vegetables in containers following simple, organic processes. He looked at terrace gardening as a way of converting wet waste into compost, harvesting rainwater and recycling domestic, grey water for gardening.
What has been the effect of Kadur’s efforts?
Kadur’s efforts were a green movement. He sensitised town folk on the importance of growing food with workshops and live demonstrations. Both of us studied various crops and the feasibility of growing them in containers at home. People’s responses to growing food crops in containers in place of ornamentals had thousands of active terrace gardeners grow on an average 60 % of their weekly requirements.
How many workshops did you conduct every year?
We started paid, monthly workshops from 2005. We also had weekend sessions in different organisations. We conducted nearly 50 workshops every year on urban foodscapes/terrace gardening in many cities including Hyderabad, Vishakapatanam, Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Lucknow, Bhubaneshwar and Gorakhpur. As we were both Agricultural Entomologists, our thought process gradually adapted organic methods with the necessity of safe food, seeds, containers, planting and design.
Could you talk about Oota From Your Thota (OFYT), which was a runaway success?
In 2010, we thought we should do these events under our own banner. So we formed Garden City Farmers, an NGO. We started getting queries regularly on availability of seeds, seedlings, growing medium, containers, and plant protection. When we started Garden City Farmers, we thought workshops alone would not help promoting terrace gardens. We needed to also help people with their gardening requirements. That was the trigger to start Oota from your Thota, a terrace gardening exhibition and sale. We encouraged many youngsters/vendors to plan and supply gardening items. We conducted 35 OFYT, and the next one on Sunday will be online.
How did you create the syllabus for the workshops?
We didn’t know much about container gardening initially but working with farmers enriched us. We learnt and formatted the syllabus for workshops. Kadur promoted the idea of food crops, on the basis of Grow what you eat and eat what you grow. Though we were not against the ornamentals, lawns or flower plants, we actively promoted growing vegetables, fruits, medicinal plants in containers.
Vishwanath Kadur’s son, Sandesh, wildlife photographer and documentary filmmaker, says on phone that he is both happy and sad to continue his father’s legacy. “I am lucky to be from a family that is deeply connected to environment and nature. My grandfather, Professor Narayan, was the Head of the Department in Botany in Mysore. My father studied social insects and was Associate Professor in the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bengaluru.”
Sandesh grew up in a campus full of insects and Kadur encouraged him to use a magnifying glass to watch grasshoppers and other insects. “This initially gave me the impetus to appreciate the never-ending macro world around me, and created a connection between me and the critters we often ignore.” Sandesh says his father took him to the Western Ghats, a fantastic biodiversity hotspot.
Sandesh has been hearing many people from across India speak about Kadur. “I know that my father’s passion, Oota from your Thota was contagious and it ignited enthusiasm in people to follow his work. Little did my father realise that his passion would be so infectious.”