Velanga Orchard is a farm equidistant from Chennai and Bangalore. An ultra-private mango orchard, Velanga exists skirting a reserve forest at the foot of a hill with a lake nearby. It is encompassed by shrub forests endowed with over a hundred species of birds and animals.
Velanga Orchard is a gateway to achieving the small freedoms that seem distant in the urban landscape and pace, like lighting a fire everyday, watching dogs run free in the meadows, and growing and plucking homegrown mangoes. “Velanga is an escape towards discovering what we might enjoy spending our lives doing, in an alternate universe where we don’t have to be suffocated by the urban-ness of cities. A farm life was the most conducive and achievable, immediate goal for the vision we had. Everything else fell into place!” says Karthik Ramaraj, one of the founders of Velanga. The orchard is named after an old tree that stands tall at the entrance of their farm. Velanga is also the name for wood apple in Tamil, holding personal meaning as well since the fruit is associated with stories of the founder’s grandmother.
Fortunately endowed with a flourishing habitat that their location brings, the estate is surrounded by an interstate reserve forest. This allows visitors to explore and experience nature with absolute privacy and at their own pace. They also have a forest with many trails to discover on long walks and a hillock to enjoy visually pleasing hikes. Sunrise and sunsets are magnified from there as well. Another unique feature to be cherished is a clean, fresh water lake, where one can spend hours swimming and kayaking. Moreover, picnics around the area in the evenings are also a frequent tradition. Natural cooking methods and wood-fire preparation are very close to Velanga’s heart, especially since they cook hyperlocal food on wood fire at every chance. There are certain gastronomical flavours that can only be enjoyed thoroughly when cooked using natural, organic processes.
The farm is always blooming and colourful. Vegetables and fruits are carefully grown, keeping fluctuating seasonal patterns in mind. “We are currently occupied with harvesting mangoes and heading towards the end of the mango season, while growing a heirloom variety of paddy on a one acre plot right in the middle of our orchard. Our vegetable patch is being prepared for the on-coming monsoon rains, while existing bitter gourd,
bottle gourd, brinjal, beetroot, tomato, spinach and chilli plants continue to provide for our daily food needs. We also have an ancient wood apple tree on our premises which bears fruit all year long and our banana trees continuously provide us with different varieties of the fruit.”
Introducing practices of slow living and organic farming to travellers is also something in which they like to dabble. Guests don’t have to necessarily get hands-on at the farm, but tours are conducted, such that belief systems and thought processes on sustainable food culture are discussed and deliberated upon. Encouragement towards practicing a zero waste process, and conversations around living off the grid are always buzzing about in the air.
When asked what the future holds for the orchard, Karthik shares “We’d like to imagine our orchard as a canvas to create a forest on, and we envision and strive to introduce and populate our farm with native trees and medicinal plants which will ideally be a treasure trove
for the birds and animals that live here and for the future generations to come. A sustainable food forest which can provide in abundance for its inhabitants — that’s the dream.”
Words Neeraja Srinivasan
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