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A reminder of my father’s farm in India

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A reminder of my father’s farm in India

I’m Punjabi and have grown up spending lots of time on my grandfather’s farm in India, helping to milk the buffalos, growing organic vegetables without any fertiliser and that smell of natural food is mesmerising.

We got an allotment about five years ago which isn’t too far from home. I’m Sikh and for me it’s so important to have an allotment as this brings back the feeling of nostalgia and memories of India. I have always been lucky to be a farmer’s daughter, growing up with green fingers, I value this as a vegan even more so now as it’s important for me to grow food in natural soil and without spraying any chemicals.

standing in an allotment

Our allotment is a safe place, it’s peaceful and it’s beautiful to be surrounded by nature, birds singing and bees buzzing. We as a family grow the produce together, we pray and eat together. Organic vegan food has also helped me with maintaining a healthy diet and it’s also the same principles in a Sikh place of worship where food is vegan and vegetarian where possible.

There are lots of connections between Sikh beliefs and heritage, and veganism. Our beliefs are not to eat meat and to live ethically, and our heritage has always been to eat vegetarian and vegan food. It’s against our beliefs to use chemicals. Everything we do has to be done with honesty and kindness. We shouldn’t kill insects or harm nature. It’s so important for us to also give back 10 percent of our earnings to others and to do charity work. When I realised just how important it is a Sikh to be vegan and to live a simple life, this is when the allotment for me was something I knew I just had to have.

In the holy scripture, it emphasises about being compassionate, kind and caring. Having respect for animals is what I am constantly thinking about and conscious of when growing my food. I even try not to step on any insects where possible. I ensure there is enough green area to spread out the food I grow. In one raised bed I have grown spinach, lettuce and chillies which I cover with netting to protect the food while avoiding harm to the insects.

Veganism as a philosophical belief is a strong part of my motivations on the allotment and I am always conscious of the animals or wildlife on the plot. I never like to kill any ‘pests’ but manage them by gently removing them from anything that’s grown. We get bees from the allotment next to us who have a beehive and I always do my best not to disturb them. I’ve never used manure or blood and bone fertiliser as it’s against my beliefs. Instead, I make natural compost from vegetable peelings, grass and plant cuttings.

There’s one side of the allotment where strawberries come out in March and when they grow there are so many which I then ask friends and family to come and pick themselves. It’s not always easy to see the slugs on the strawberries but I never spray anything, I just pick them up and put them in another safe area as they are god’s creatures.

Amongst other things I have grown rhubarb, tomatoes, garlic, potatoes, grapes, mint, coriander and these are mostly for my Indian dishes such as potato and peas with mint curry. I’ve also made a tasty rhubarb pie which I shared with my neighbourhood.

Last year we grew some lovely courgettes and pumpkin, and a very special vegetable called moongre which is incredibly nutritious. This can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked with Indian spices and potatoes. Moongre is a green vegetable which comes in different shapes and sizes, you pick them off the plant one by one and there’s a bit of a knack to this.  Last year we had these growing in abundance and we shared them with our local community and with the Gurdwara who then make langar which is free food in the kitchen that is served throughout the day to anyone and everyone regardless of their background. When we grow our vegetables and fruit we want to grow enough to share with others.

I love trying out new things, and hope to try bitter Gourd, or kerala in Punjabi. For this I’ll need a glasshouse and it will mean a lot of extra care. These look like crocodile skin on the outside, with yellow pips inside. They are bitter but very healthy.

Growing a variety of things on the allotment helps with the Indian cooking we do in my house. My father uses the skills he developed on his farm to grow things his way and he has always avoided putting anything artificial on the food we grow. Last year we bought an apple tree, and after an unsuccessful attempt to grow apples in the garden my dad took it to the allotment and watered it and cared for it, and we finally enjoyed lots of apples!standing in an allotment

I also once used the stone inside of a peach and asked my father to try and grow peaches, and that’s exactly what happened. We had big juicy peaches, even after losing some of these to maggots there was plenty to go around.

I find growing with love, patience and faith there is always enough food to go around. Sharing is caring - this a big part of my faith and one of the reasons for having an allotment is because I wanted to share it with others. As a vegan allotment holder, it’s the best thing I have done, and I love sharing this special place with my parents and my community. 

Grow Green

We’re celebrating National Allotments Week as part of our Grow Green campaign. Transformation of our food system must take place at every level, from your back garden to the farmers that grow our beans and cabbages, to the national and international policies which influence how food is produced. Through the Grow Green campaign, The Vegan Society advocates for a planet friendly, vegan farming system, it pushes for better farming policies to help those growing plant proteins and vegetables in the UK and the EU and shares knowledge on the transition to animal free farming. Find out more on our Grow Green campaigns pages.

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