“Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”
Helen Keller’s words ring so true in my mind when I think about 2022. Coming straight out of the pandemic, we took our time to adjust to the new normal and evaluate the impact of our collectives since 2019. Looking into our data, a couple of things stand out clearly.
Money saved is money earned.
The permaculture principles are not just earth-friendly but also pocket friendly. In June this year, we started an exercise in Poomaale to understand the social connections we established in the area and assess the problems of the community we were able to solve. To our surprise, we found that in its heydays, Poomaale employed almost 100 people full-time in the coffee and cardamom activities. Today, we run the same estate with 16 regular workers by shifting focus from the produce and aligning ourselves with the natural flow of energy. Bottomline – our costs are low, our produce is good, and the estate faces lesser pressures.
Never underestimate the rookie.
The cherry on the cake was the cupping of our coffee. Since we cared deeply about the quality of coffee, we got our wildly grown coffee tested by experts. It turns out the rookie hit a home run. Our single estate, natural, 100% Robusta coffee had an excellent cupping score – even better than some of the speciality ranges. Upon further analyses, we found that the flavours are unlocked by the bacteria on the skin and yeast in the pulp. This showed us how biodiversity is closely linked with flavour notes. It held true for the custard apples and the veggie boxes for the Hyderabad Collective too. We are convinced that the more natural you go, the more abundant the flavour profile is.
Inspiration is everything.
We had a hunch about this but we saw this unfold beautifully this time. As a company, we have been upfront about what we don’t know which helped us ask the right questions to the right people. Like any team, we experienced varying levels of motivation. As we work on the collectives, it is becoming increasingly clear that a sense of purpose is the seed that eventually results in a productive work environment. A great example is our interaction with the neighbours in Coorg. Outsiders who entered the village to set base, we were demotivated by the suspicious feeling the community held towards us. We viewed the scenario from the other side and couldn’t fathom the reason for suspicion when all we wanted to do was good.
Our first meaningful conversations happened this June. We invited the community over to the estate and walked them through what we are up to. To our surprise, the neighbours acknowledged that we cared a lot more about the ecological impact than they did. I remember the astonishment on their faces when we showcased that our cultivation methods have used 20M lt of water lesser than the estate had in the previous 3 years. That’s the drinking water usage of 95 families for a year. More importantly, we saw a stark difference in their attitude towards us. Their suspicion has turned into curiosity.
This clearly is reflected in our workplace. Faster turnarounds and fewer costs. What changed? I think we saw a sense of purpose as a village. Collectively, we all acknowledged the aspects of our life that the existence of the Poomaale collective was addressing. And our interests shifted from let’s do what’s best for the individual to let’s make it happen for the group. A classic case of inspiration translating to social capital that, in turn, results in financial capital.
And the natural capital this results in is beyond words. It has to be experienced.