Orchards - The ZBNF way

Hi all,
Finally after years of dreaming, i am on a verge of closing a deal for a small farmland plot which i plan to use primarily as a farmhouse. It is 1.5 acre land… Water available through borewell. Primary objective for me is to make the land self sustaining - Such that i get enough returns to pay for the person who will take care of the farmhouse, and i get some veggies / fruits whenever i visit. I understand this wont be possible immediately, as the orchad will take time to start giving fruits… perhaps for the first 5 years, i might be spending from my pocket… but over a period of time it would start paying for itself. I am not looking for any other returns. I have been reading a lot about ZBNF way and find it interesting, though i see many people against it. Got specific question around the recommendation of the 33 ft * 33ft layout with so many trees in it… Has anyone here on the forum done it himself and can say its a good way of planting ? Is it not too overcrowded ? I am not a ZBNF fanatic, so i might supplement the trees with other natural / organic supplements if needed.  Thanks in advance for your responses.

If your caretaker can plant and take care of vegetables in between the fruit orchard, it is going to give some returns before the fruits become productive and this returns can be used as salary for the caretaker.

Padmanabhan Ganesan

This is not an answer to your question but I thought I should share my experience of appointing a caretaker on a small land holding which you may find useful. First some background information. We are cultivating crops on about 1.25 acre made of up two plots one is 3/4th acre and another is 1/2 acre. All is under ZBNF.

On the larger plot (under conversion from chemical since 1.5yrs) we’ve planted wheat through Systematic Wheat Intensification (SWI) method. Seed rate was 7.5 kg for 3/4th acre as against conventional practice of sowing 30-35 kg for the same sized plot. Sowing was done by conventional method - tractor attached seed drill. Low seed rate was achieved by a) adjusting the guage to a low position (don’t recall the exact figure) and b) by blocking every alternative tube of the drill that dispenses the seeds with a piece of cloth.

On the smaller plot (purely organic, previously there was a timber crop) we’ve planted vegetables. One third of the land is dedicated to potato and the rest has a large variety of vegetables with propagation through seeds as well as saplings. Sowing was late (first week of Dec), almost at the end of sowing season due to other commitments. We hired two people to help with transplanting saplings and sowing of seeds. Only one irrigation has been given till date. Fortunately there have been some rains.

Coming back to caretaker. I live around 8-9 hours away from the farm and keep visiting once or twice a month to prepare and sprinkle Jeevamrit. For such small land holding it didn’t make sense to hire a full time caretaker and pay him 6-8k. I was wondering what kind of arrangement would suit best and thought I’ll ask a person to spend 2 hrs each day and pay him around Rs.1200 - 1500/month.

The person to whom I took the idea didn’t take to it. Said he will not be able to undertake other jobs. My view was that taking out 2 hrs should not have been difficult but he thought otherwise. So I came up with another idea which he readily accepted though haggled on the salary part.

The final arrangement works out like this - this person will work on the farm 2 full days every week or 8 days a month and he will be paid Rs.1600/month. As per the labour rate it comes to Rs.2400 (8x300) but he wanted Rs.2000 at least. I stuck to Rs.1600 and he finally relented a day later with the condition that if there are any additional work days, he will charge at the standard Rs.300/day.

Interestingly, initially he added another condition that he wants 6-month advance upfront. He said he could buy a couple of goats which will give him a good return. I reluctantly agreed (trust isn’t an issue as he is known to be trustworthy) considering the bargain I was getting. Later he turns around and says no you pay me monthly only. Looks like he was testing my long-term commitment. Clever chap.

Tasks he will carry out is preparation of Jeevamrit, sprinkling it before rains or adding it to flood irrigation; weeding - we have a lot of hemp; mulching, land preparation for next crop, sowing, irrigation, harvesting vegetables etc. He will work on both the plots.

P.S: Forgot to add a crucial detail that our land is adjoining those of our relatives - my cousins and nephews - who make up our support system here. Although they are cultivating chemically, they provide the tools, guidance about local resources, even accommodation (we don’t have a house here) etc.

Thanks Newbie447.
Fortunately for me, the land is 70 kms away. Between my brother and I, we would be able to visit almost every weekend. The agent who helped me get this land has already said he can get someone from his home to look after the land and do the odd jobs. The idea is to grow fruit bearing trees (purely for personal consumption + give away to friends) and veggies. I am fine with the caretaker using / selling the fruits and veggies as long as i get some :slight_smile:, and thus the wouldbe caretaker is willing to negotiate on the monthly rate.
@ other experts here: Could you please suggest if the 36 ft * 36ft strategy for orchads look feasible ? I plan to start the process just as the rains start.