Bengaluru couple’s dream of creating food forest blooming as ‘Vrukshavanam’- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

BENGALURU: The vision to behold nature in all pristineness, an inclination to find an organic way of life and diet, and a call to connect with trees! This beautiful potpourri of thoughts conceptualised into ‘Vrukshavanam’, a lush food forest lovingly nurtured by a Bengaluru couple.

Pushpa Kallianpur, who envisioned Vrukshavanam, was always passionate about all things natural. The 46-year-old dentist-turned-makeup artist was just 12 years old when the thought to produce and consume her own food dawned on her. In 2010, in what was nothing short of prophetic, she sketched a picture of a country house surrounded by greenery, little knowing that a decade later, this dream drawing would manifest into reality through able support from her husband, photographer Kishan Kallianpur.

“Vrukshavanam was our dream, which we embarked upon two-and-half years ago. The idea was to create an ecosystem of trees and plants, providing us with vegetables, fruits and flowers, eventually metamorphosing into a food forest,” Pushpa says.

A food forest resembles a forest garden, where every plant or tree is food-giving, self-renewing, sustainable, requires low maintenance and implements a stable design system, mimicking and behaving like a forest. Once the required flora has been introduced, the land overtime adapts to natural changes on its own, with almost zero human intervention, even as it provides food. This whole idea stands on the concept of ‘permaculture’, which refers to the growth of agricultural ecosystems in a self-sufficient and sustainable way.

Occupying a quarter-acre plot within a gated community at Kodikonda in Sri Sathya Sai district of Andhra Pradesh, Vrukshavanam today is home to at least 150 trees, including those that are fruit-bearing, medicinal and floral, apart from vegetable-yielding plants.

Reminiscing her green journey, Pushpa mentions, “About six years ago, we set up a small kitchen garden on the terrace of our home in Rajajinagar, which met most of our food needs. Then I thought that we could replicate a similar design on a natural, larger scale. After careful research, I found what I was looking for was in permaculture, and I wanted to create a green patch which was pesticide-free, drawing all its nutrition from the earth. I also undertook a course in permaculture design, in furtherance of my vision.”

She adds, “We purchased the plot before the onset of Covid. The land was barren, but we didn’t introduce any soil from outside, applying inputs in the form of organic manure and homemade compost. Since it is topographically a grassland area, not much human interference had taken place. We gradually tended the soil over a three-month period, planting trees from the scratch. A few plants were transplanted from our terrace garden too. Today, other than rain, our land receives water through drip-irrigation.”

Vrukshavanam also symbolises a relevant shift towards leading a holistic life, promoting the right kind of food, besides how it is consumed. Adhering to permaculture guidelines, the forest works in sync with nature, producing pesticide-free, organic and nutrient-dense food.

“Nutrient-dense food coming from live soil is the need of the hour, and we to project Vrukshavanam as a model food forest intend by not only growing food over a small area, but also addressing basic needs like water, shelter, right cooking methods , energy and nutrition, well-aligned with nature,” she says, adding that with many birds visiting, there is frequent dispersal and germination of tree-bearing seeds.

This simple, yet painstaking approach, has got several people interested, and the couple had also organized a workshop in the past, involving a naturalist. “Our intention is to bring awareness through workshops related to these topics and also let people experience Vrukshavanam through visits and stays in the near future,” says 47-year-old Kishan.

Completing the overall natural appeal of the place, the couple has built a cottage — Shambhala Mane — for themselves within Vrukshavanam. “Shambhala Mane is alive with breathable mud walls, ample sunlight and fresh air, setting an example of how we need to be connected with nature,” Kishan concludes, highlighting that their dedicated natural selection is bearing fruit.

Permaculture was conceived by ecology experts Bill Mollinson and David Holmgren in Australia, in the 1970s. According to the Permaculture Research Institute, permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.

Veggie-fruit basket
A host of vegetables, flower- and fruit-bearing trees and plants call Vrukshavanam home. Some of these include avocado, custard apple, guava, starfruit, papaya, banana, orange, mango, apple, coconut, gooseberry, carrot, cabbage, hibiscus, champa, nagachampa, jasmine, and a lot of greens. A few medicinal plants include amaranth, simarouba, soursop, and soapnut. Most of the vegetation here automatically adapts to the changing seasons.

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