Balmaadi estate is situated in the Nilgiris district of the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. It is part of the O’Valley group of plantations that were developed over 150 years ago by an enterprising Scotsman, John Ouchterloney. Home to the mysterious Toda tribes ( many say they are a lost Greek regiment of Alexander The Great) , it is today a hill resort of repute.
At Balmaadi we grow coffee, tea,cardamom and stevia at an elevation of 4000 – 6000 ft above sea level. Our coffee grows at altitudes far above other coffees. The bushes grow under the natural shade of the native ‘shola’ trees and others such as jack , ficus, albizzia, .African neem and cedars. Our boundaries afford a welcome hunting and grazing ground for the fauna of the Nilgiris. After sundown, the estate is a sanctuary for the wild animals and we limit our activities, as to not disturb them. The quietude may be broken by the frantic cry of the deer escaping the chase of the panther or the rumblings of the elephant herd as they head towards the river to feed on the banana grove. Even before the first rays of the sun bathe the estate, we are awakened by the melody of bird calls and cacophony of marauding monkeys.
A valley, so full of life, so untouched by the rough hands of man, needed to be protected from the ravages of chemicals and harsh modernization. To us the solution was self evident – adopt the least intrusive agricultural practices. To this end, we at Balmaadi practice a mix of ancient Vedic methods coupled with the Bio-dynamic methods advocated by Rudolf Steiner. We make our own compost, liquid manure and cow horn manure, silica et al. ‘Pachagavyam’, which is concotion of 5 products from the cow i.e .milk, curd, ghee, dung and urine are fermented in time honoured proportions and sprayed as a tonic. At sunrise, we salute the sun god and make a small offering invoking his blessings. This is called ‘agni hotra’. The ashes from this offering are sprinkled all over the estate as a pest repellent.
Come November and it is harvest time at Balmaadi. The ‘Just Ripe’ berries are hand picked, pulped, fermented, washed and sun dried on tables. At no stage in the processing are chemicals used. The slow dried parchment is packed in clean, vegetable based jute bags and stored at an ambient temperature awaiting further processing into clean coffee. Balmaadi is a small producer of niche, superior quality, high altitude Arabica coffee. Stringent standards of excellence as set by Coffeelab, Bangalore and IMO, Switzerland are our benchmarks. We are proud of our coffee and vouch for its excellence in quality. Everyone at Balmaadi is trained in organic methods. They recognize its significance as compared to modern practices and appreciate the value it adds to the quality of their life.
Many, marvel at the rich humus content of the soil, but we realize that we have miles to go before we achieve our goal. A feather in our cap at this early stage, is being awarded the ‘ Flavour Of India, Fine Cup Award, 2004,’ for India’s best Arabica coffee and also the best Arabica coffee in the Nilgiris region. These encourage us on. The journey towards a truly self-sustaining bio-sphere is a celebration of nature at its best, one that we are sure, many of you would like to join us in.
Balmaadi estate is located in the Nilgiris district of Tamilnadu, about 50 kms from the hill resort Ooty. It is nestled in the verdant O’valley criss-crossed by numerous mountain streams. These streams which are the source of life in the valley give the estate its name. Blamaadi is the anglicized form of the Tamil word ‘Palmaadi’, meaning the udder of the cow. Hence everything we do is a celebration of nature as the Supreme One. We strive by our practices to be the pristine living source.
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION :
We maintain thorough records of all inputs and are certified as fully organic by IMO ( Institute For Marketecology ), Switzerland. The inspection for the current year is complete, the evaluation has been done and certificate has been issued.
We practice sustainable methods of agriculture. Our estate merges into the forest and hence is the natural home for wildlife. If you should take a quite drive into the Wallwood division around sunset you will chance upon groups of sambhar, bison and barking deer At night elephants and panther roam freely. Monkeys keep us company through the day and now we are creating a special monkey playground to keep them busy with other things, besides coffee berries and tender young shoots. Early mornings are a musical melody of all the avian life. The song of the royal velvet Nilgiri thrush , also called the ‘ whistiling school boy, ‘ is so enthralling in the hours before sunrise.
Every year we plan our shade cover and try to add many varieties of trees to increase the bio-diversity. In 2005 we planted about 5000 saplings.
No chemical fertilizers, weedicides, pesticides are used. Over the years all our staff and workers have grown to understand the value of organic practices and how it only adds quality to their life and to the environment.
We follow the cultivation methods as advocated by Rudolf Steiner of Germany. This is called bio-dynamics. Agriculture depends not only on the quality of the soil but also on the cosmos – movements of the sun, moon and planets. Hence, to maximize the effect of our inputs we follow a bio-dynamic calendar for planting, harvesting, applying manure etc.
Compost : We make our own compost with material available on the estate – green weeds and leaves, dry weeds ( weeds are not a nuisance, but just an indicator of the missing nutrients in the area ), pulped coffee husk, cow dung and BD preps 502-507 – which are flowers containing traces of iron, sulphur, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, calcium, magnesium, silica etc.
CPP : Cow Pat Pit is made from cow dung mixes with quarry dust and egg shell. To this is added the BD preps 502-507 and this rests in clay pits for 3 months to mature. After which it is harvested and used.
Liquid Manure : is made from any locally available material, fermented for 3 months and used as a foliar spray. We use the leaves of the datura as a pest repellant; leaves of the erythrinia as a source of nitrogen and fish as a protein tonic.
BD 500 : is also called Cow Horn Manure. This is the main BD prep which benefits root development and soil structure. The dung of a lactating cow is collected and placed in cow horns which are buried in shallow pits in autumn. These horns along with the astral forces digest the dung which turns into a humus like structure by spring. This is then collected and stored in mud pots kept cool in a dark room. A small portion of the BD 500 ( 25 gms ) along with some CPP is stirred ( for 1 hour ) in 15 litres of water in a clockwise and anti-clockwise direction. This is then sprinkled on the soil over an acre during the descending phase of the moon.
BD 501 : also called Cow Horn Silica. It improves the form and quality of the plant, helps leaf growth and protects against fungal diseases. Crushed and finely powdered silica is placed in cow horns and buried in shallow pits in spring. The horns rest through the summer gatering all the cosmic light energy and are ready to harvest in autumn. It is then stored in transparent glass jars exposed to sunlight. A very small quantity ( 1 gm ) is stirred in a bucket of water for 1 hour and sprayed in the air over the plants. This is done in the ascending phase of the moon.
BD 502-507 : preps are made from flowers and oak bark. These are a source of potash, sulphur, selenium, calcium, iron, silica and phosphorous. Hence these are used in the making of compost, liquid manure and cpp.
Tree Paste : is a mixture of fresh cow dung, cpp, quarry dust which is applied on the bark of plants as a pest repellant and rejuvenator.
Panchagavya : is a concotion of five products from the cow i.e. milk, yoghurt, ghee, urine and dung. These are fermented in time honoured proportions and sprayed as a tonic.
Agni hotra : is a vedic practice invoking the blessings of Surya, the sun god. At sunrise and sunset we chant prayers in praise of the Supreme One and make a small offering. The ashes from this offering are sprinkled all over the estate as a pest repellant.