Think Pineapples and immediately a name comes to any Mangaloreans' mind - Moodabidri Soans!
Yes. This name is phenomenal since a hundred year in the field of farming. From Pineapples to Rambutan and Mangostein, Soans Farm located at Bannadka 5KMs from Moodabidri and 40 Kms from Mangalore, is famous for a variety of fruits grown with best quality and their saplings sold at reasonable prices. The main brain and inspiration behind this farm is Dr. L. C. Soans who is Mangalorean Star for the Month of June 2011.
Mangalorean.com feels proud to present Dr. L. C. Soans as Mangalorean Star for the month of June 2011.
Livingston Chandramohan Soans, popularly known as Dr. L. C. Soans was born in an agriculturist family to Alfred Soans and Shanthamma on April 4th, 1928 at Bannadka. He had his basic schooling at Mission School (Now Jathanna School), High School education at Jain High School till Metriculation and then had his College education at St Aloysius College Mangalore and Christian College Madras. After doing post Graduation at Christian College, he went to USA and did his doctorate in Agro Research from University of Montana.
Though the farm was an idea of Basel Mission, maintenance and running costs increased considerably, and agro market saw a slump during the Second World War. Alfred Soans took the charge of the farm in individual capacity and implemented new ways of farming. Dr. L.C. Soans was interested in modern techniques and he did his Graduation in M Sc Agriculture from Madras University. He studied the potentials of growing Tropical fruit bearing plants from South America to Indonesia and had considerable success in developing the farm. His brother I. V. Soans has the credit of being trained by CFTRI Mysore, and he looks after fruit processing mainly and other operations as well.
The task was not so easy when Dr. L.C. Soans took over the farm from his father. Soil testing and other facilities were unknown then. Due to his never say die attitude and to accomplish ultimate level in farming, he faced the challenges and confronted adverse conditions to bring that farm to profit making success. Nevertheless, lot of hard work and dedication went into that effort.
He married Benita born to G. I. Simon and Manorama Simon in the year 1968. The couple has four children. Eldest one being Sonia Martin who completed her CA and is now settled in Bellery with her husband Santhosh, an engineer with post graduation, and daughter Sunaina.
Second one is Sunil who is also an engineer with post graduation married to Dr. Delphin. They have settled in Bangalore.
Third one is Vinod who has done post Graduation in Agriculture, married to Sowmya who has done her MA. They have a son, Manish.
Last one is Sahana Palanna, after completing her BBM, is married to Sudhir Palanna, an Engineer now happily settled in England with their daughters Diya/Aadithi.
Happiness in life doesnít stop at bringing up the family for Dr. L. C. Soans. His one point agenda of making Soans Farm fruitful with innovation has won many laurels for him, thanks to his family and dedicated staff members who work almost 10 hours a day.
Started with mango, Pineapple and other local fruits, Soans Farm today, has at least 100 different varieties of fruit bearing and many medicinal and commercial plants that stand testimony to an effort that never went wasted, thanks to the patience and foresight of Dr. Soans.
The sweetest and juiciest Pineapple, Rambutan, Mangostein and Durian have been the most successful crops that Soans Farm has come out with apart from Mauritius Pineapple, Malayan Red and green water apple and Ratnagiri Alphonso. The list is endless, and Dr. Soans has a printout to guide one with names of those.
His brother I. V. Soans has been supportive, if not his son Vinod in rendering quality and affordability. Mrs. Soans manages to keep the accounts, control the operations and attend to clients with utmost patience.
Fruit and ornamental plant saplings are available at very reasonable rate at Soans Farm. There are a few plants like decorative Pineapple and orange plants to keep your garden lovely, while keeping the birds and inquisitive boys at bay!
Dr. Soans has won many awards and felicitations over the years for his excellence in innovative farming.
The best felicitation as Dr. Soans remembers is when a book was released by Kanthavara Kannada Sangha headed by Dr. N Mogasale. This book was written by Shekhar Ajekaru and was released last year. Mangalorean.com is thankful to them for the info on Dr. Soans.
The pyramid for healing without medication, the wheel that has healing properties, natural herbs and medicinal plants within the farm provide much solace to the visitor.
The guest house has all basic amenities and also cooking facility for a group of 4. Nominal rates are charged to host the guests.
Bamboo grove within the farm is a solace for peace loving people. The gigantic bamboos, the fallen leaves, the cool ambiance within attract many people from local level to abroad.
At the sales counter, one can find pasteurized Pineapple juice bottled and ready to serve round the year, while there is cashew juice available mostly in the summer season. Pineapple jam in bottles and dried pineapple candy, available in plastic packs as well as in containers keep kids and adults indulged in relishing them when the monsoon falls incessantly. ďThis is the result of research by my brother I.V. Soans who had his training at CFTRI MysoreĒ, says Dr. Soans.
A simple conversation with the simple living and high thinking Dr. Soans will reveal what his mind says and what message he has to convey.
Q: What inspired you to take up farming/gardening as your livelihood?
Dr. Soans: My father had already established the farm. I had the obligation to continue. After my education, I preferred to be independent and agriculture was very much suitable to me. As a Botanist, I indulged in working with the plants. I felt, it was a better way of serving my Nation than taking up an office job, which was easy and lucrative at that point of time.
Q: What exactly is this field of farming/gardening in which you have specialised?
Dr. Soans: To develop the vast potentialities of horticulture especially in India, I always found ways to improvise the qualitative and quantitative needs. We have tropical climate and we have not tried many a tropical crops grown here. I had the inclination to find the right solutions for the specific crops pertaining to this region. We have a place with high rainfall and poor soil fertility. Traditional crops were never encouraging to local farmers. Diversification with value added products aided by eco tourism ensured growth in my kind of farming in this area.
Q: Was it by choice or by luck that you chose your specialization in the field of farming/gardening?
Dr. Soans: To a certain extent, I was influenced by my father who had studied agriculture, with a never say die attitude. I wanted to pursue scientific studies to implement innovations in farming. Those days, there were no special courses available in South Kanara District.
I had to move to Madras, which excelled in academics those days in the entire Country. Botany was my natural choice, and thus I did my studies related to plants in Madras University.
Q: How do you interact with your helpers? How well they keep your farm growing and glowing? If you have some anecdotes to share with us, mention them in brief here
Dr. Soans: The entire Team including my family and workers are supportive to me in farming and marketing. My brother I. V. Soans an expert in fruit processing and my son Vinod who has his masters degree in Agriculture are involved in operations full time. We have foreign visitors from cruise ships in season. The entire family is involved in taking them around and attends to their needs. My wife, who is a science graduate and my sister who is a post graduate in English Literature help me during such visits from foreigners.
I am involved with several social organizations and I need to dedicate part of my time for that. Then I depend on my family and workers who do a good job to take care of things as well as maintaining the farm.
Q: When did you start your farming activity? How supportive are your family members in this direction?
Dr. Soans: I was born in the farm. Even during our school days, we had help in the farm to a great extent. I came back to the farm in 1966 after achieving my Doctorate abroad. Ever since, I didnít turn back and have indulged myself and my family in farming. My family is highly supportive and all of them here, are involved in maintenance and marketing.
Q: Working in this line and facing never ending demand for innovation and improvement needs lots of money resource. What is the secret behind your success in achieving all this while being a young and agile at this age of yours?
Dr. Soans: Resources are perennial problems. Leading simple life and putting in your best efforts, while saving for the future is the mantra for success. Though many Banks are eager to finance agricultural projects, we have obtained finance for special projects such as tractors and green house which we have utilized. There are a few schemes with low interest promoted by the State Government that we have utilized. I donít believe in passing a burden to my next generation by way of default! As far as possible, I have been self sufficient and marginally dependant on finance. My age doesnít hamper my positive attitude as far as farming activity is concerned.
Q: Your achievement in developing much yielding Pine Apple is commendable. Rambutan and Mangostein, those were never known to people of undivided DK district have been cultivated and distributed successfully by you. How could you achieve this?
Dr. Soans: Pineapple was introduced by my father for cultivation in the 1930 or little later. It had a slow spread here due to short supply or natural conditions. We used to get the saplings from Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and oversea islands such as the Andamans.
Recent awareness among the public to eat more fruits for healthy living encouraged us and we invested heavily in this field. The buck didnít stop there. I studied the potentials of growing tropical fruits from Malaysia and Indonesia, Mexico, Venezuela and other Latin American Countries. Obtaining import license and getting through with legal formalities was difficult, cost of each plant reaching almost Rs. 2000/- but with the help of a few good friends, today I have proved that we also can achieve those special crops at a cheaper price. I have guided many farmers and distributed many saplings or passed on the technical knowhow without charging them hefty fee.
Q: Soans Farm is dedicated to produce quality fruits and saplings that have kept many people happy raising their gardens. How do you guide your clients?
Dr. Soans: We have maintained standards and are delivering quality fruits and plant sources at reasonable price. We also are giving free guidance to people interested in developing their own farms. We get visitors interested in farming that come in groups to study and implement our methods. We give them free audition, assistance and encouragement, though it does waste considerable time from our daily exercise. We also encourage children from schools who come in groups and try to motivate them with farming activities. This is something that brings about public awareness for which, we are ready to invest part of our resources.
Q: What are the challenges that you have faced in this field?
Dr. Soans: Challenges are galore when one gets into adventure in farming.
First challenge that I faced was getting low prices for our farm products. It never kept in pace with the costs and we were losing revenue. We were forced to give up some crops and concentrate on commercial ones to sum up. You canít develop agro products through subsidy from the Government alone. Only a section of the population that is ready to pay the price for your agro product can save your farm!
Recent constraint in farming has been shortage of labour. It is difficult to get labour force in Dakshina Kannada since last 10 years. This is probably due to construction activities and Super Market culture. We do provide shelter and good pay to our workers, but of late, we are finding it difficult to get hard working labours.
Q: We would like to know about your family, interaction with them, your vacations, parties and socializing
Dr. Soans: Family support has been incessant in farming activities. Keeping away from the nearest city centres, attending parties or socializing becomes difficult most of the times. Yet, my association with social groups like Rotary International has helped myself and my family in socializing and having a good time at occasional meetings.
We also need to take care of the animals in our farm. Hence, long vacations are not possible for us, but we do celebrate some occasions from time to time within our farm, sometimes within our family, many a times with our good clients.
Q: Bamboo grove, medicine wheel and the pyramid within your luscious farm speak volumes about your dedication and hard work to keep eco balance. Can you tell our readers how to go about it and how well one can adapt natural ways of farming within limited urban household?
Dr. Soans: Bamboo grove has been developed with an aim to provide natural ambiance to the visitor with a carpet of foliage to spend a hot afternoon with cool nature. The advantage of bamboo is copious. Bamboo grove can whisper to one with a pleasing sound and make one forget worries within a short moment. One can sleep on the bed of dried bamboo leaves and feel as if one is in heaven!
On the other hand, the pyramid is a concept for healing without medicine, like the wheel I have designed in my garden. I am still doing research on that and found good results on quite a few people over the years.
Q: Terrace gardening is catching up in major cities. Some people have successfully grown vegetables and fruit bearing trees in pots within limited areas of their terrace. Is this a successful move, or will it survive the adversities of nature in the long run?
Dr. Soans: If properly induced, terrace gardening has good scope in metro cities where set back land is scarce for gardening. I have seen many instances of terrace gardening in major metros like Mumbai and Bangalore. The main worry could be repotting, since the soil within the pots is limited and has to be fortified from time to time.
Q: Guide us about organic farming. Do we need to follow it 100% or is there a need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. If chemicals are needed, is there a way in which we can balance with natural pesticides?
Dr. Soans: Organic farming has potential, but at a high cost. Looking at the number of pests increasing over the years, we need some chemical or some innovation to curb them. We have introduced some devices at many places under Coconut and other trees to attract pests and bugs. You may see that in one of the pictures. All said and done, we canít maintain our vast farm without using pesticides. We do alert our clients about washing the fruits properly before consuming them.
Q: European Countries are mostly switching over to naturally grown leafy vegetables and fruits. Are they just advertising about that or really investing in it?
Dr. Soans: Not very long ago, we used to grow greens and vegetables in our farm the natural way. Some of the households still follow that. Yet, the cost of growing and the returns after marketing are not encouraging. European economy is far above ours and they may go for that. Indians need more food to feed much larger population and we are not able to follow that rule for the time being.
Q: Tell us the importance of water harvesting and dug wells. Do bore wells drain out ground water resource in the near future? What is your opinion about Netravathi River being diverted to feed the upper plains?
Dr. Soans: Water harvesting is good. It supplements the ground water level to a great extent, supporting dug wells and wet farms. Those living close to the sea have to follow water harvesting more than rural dwellers for the simple reason that much rain water is wasted and flows to the sea in monsoon. About Netravathi river diversion, I am not an expert on that. There are experts working on that possibility.
Q: What is your message to Mangaloreans in general and the younger generation in particular?
Dr. Soans: We have a great potential for agriculture, especially Eco friendly horticulture, Eco Tourism and value based farming. Younger generation should give more importance to maintaining greenery or growing more plants. Those who already possess or can afford buying a patch of agricultural land should give importance to Eco tourism that can produce fruits and vegetables, while making the project commercially viable.
We at Mangalorean.com would like to thank Dr. L. C. Soans for the valuable time he has dedicated to make this interview possible and also wish him good health and prosperity in the years to come.
Submitted by: Rajanikanth Shenoy, Kudpi