Ten years ago when Thomas Verghese first planted his garden, he would walk around to ensure that every plant was healthy and growing well. Today, Thomas’ garden is a large, lush green organic farm on a rooftop, right in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram.
This sprawling farm lies atop Anna Arcade, a six-storied mall with 45 shops and supplies ingredients for a restaurant. Anna restaurant, which is situated on the top floor, uses the farm’s organic produce for some of the food products on its menu.
Owner of the mall and also the restaurant, 58-year-old Thomas says that it took years for the garden to flourish. “We started the mall in 2005 without the help of contractors, so we were able to build a roof appropriate for farming and which would not leak. Since then we’ve been setting up the farm. We took around five years to make it what it is.”
Initially, Thomas says that he would walk around the garden every day to ensure that each plant was growing well. Now, however, as the restaurant has taken off, his visits have become irregular while the everyday maintenance is handled by three workers.
The garden has everything: fruit trees, green leafy vegetables, flowers and even medicinal plants. Small trees such as papaya, drumstick and henna plant share space with spinach, peas, gourds, chilies, tomatoes, root vegetables, seasonal crops such as cabbages and cauliflowers, medicinal plants and flowers.
Thomas moved to Thiruvananthapuram from Ranni village in Pathanamthitta district around 15 years ago for business. Eventually, when he set up the mall, he merely continued something that he had been doing back home, where he grew spices.
Now, Thomas takes delight in serving patrons juice made of fruits such as papaya, passion fruit, pineapple and orange grown in his own garden.
“We don’t use any chemical pesticide or insecticide. Cow dung and the waste from the restaurant are used as fertilizer,” says Thomas, adding that the waste from the restaurant was processed in a fertilizer plant while a biogas plant produced biogas which was used as fuel in the restaurant.
Though some of the plants are visible from outside, most visitors leave without realizing once that an organic farm exists right on top of the mall. And if anyone wishes to see Thomas' precious farm, permission has to be taken.