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Narayana Reddy, an organic farmer who earned global praise, passes away

Narayana Reddy took to organic farming after a California-based tourist gave him a copy of Fukuoka’s ‘One Straw Revolution’, a book which described organic farming techniques.

L Narayana Reddy, a farmer from Varthur in Bengaluru, who made a name for himself for turning to organic farming, passed away on Monday morning. The 83-year-old farmer passed away due to natural causes, his family confirmed. He had held classes on organic farming at his farm in Doddaballapura in Bengaluru Rural district on Saturday and Sunday.

“Even on Saturday and Sunday, he was teaching students at the farm in spite of having cough and cold for a week. We are saddened to hear of his passing,” said Jagadish Reddy, the grandson of Narayana Reddy spoke.

Narayana Reddy turned to organic farming after coming across a California-based tourist in 1976 who introduced him to Japanese organic farmer Masanobu Fukuoka’s book ‘One Straw Revolution’. The book which described Fukuoka’s life journey and organic farming techniques. Narayana was fascinated by the book and began to adopt concepts of organic farming after reading the book several times.

He stopped using chemicals including pesticides and decided to dedicatedly practice organic and natural farming, a transition that was completed in 1979. A landmark moment in his life came when Fukuoka visited his farm in Varthur in 1988. He was brought by a local NGO to meet Narayana Reddy.

“The happiest day of my life was when he came to my farm. I didn’t know he was coming. My most valued teacher is Fukuoka. I got the gift of meeting him personally. You are lucky you have his book. Distribute it among your friends. His message is for humanity,” he told students at Azim Premji University in Bengaluru in 2017. He spoke to students about his experience with Fukuoka and low-input organic farmer.

He would grow several crops together in a sustainable manner. In 1992, representatives of the European Commission (EC) visited the farm and invited him to an agriculture seminar in Brussels, Belgium. He has also spoken in agriculture seminars in many countries in the world including in Netherlands and Germany. He has also been honoured by Hampi Kannada University with the prestigious Nadoja award for his contribution to agriculture.

Until his demise, he continued to teach interested students at his other farm in Marenahalli, Doddaballapura, around 56 km away from Varthur. He was also involved in farmer meetings organised by the state government in addition to maintaining his farm which grew soyabeans, peanuts. coffee, guavas, chikoos, coconut and mulberries among other crops. He also maintained a column in Kannada-daily Prajavani in which he would write about organic farming and answer queries related to it.

“Organic farming took over his life. Farmers from all over the world sought a meeting with him from time to time and he would not hesitate to arrange it. Even on days when the family celebrated a marriage, he sometimes held classes,” says Jagadish reflecting.

Around 60 students were set to arrive at the farm on Monday when the news of his death was communicated to them. Narayana Reddy is survived by his wife, three sons and eight grandchildren. The last rites will be held in Sorahunse village near Varthur in Bengaluru district on Monday afternoon.

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