Their village Anamangad in Kerala lies on the windward side of the Western Ghats. There was a time in Kerala when agriculturists with fairly big landholdings were ruling the roost. Times have changed, quite rapidly. Agriculture, as a means of livelihood, has become difficult to rely on. Labor cost has shot through the roof. Whereas, growth in revenue is sadly negligible.
Jaya Avanoor and Parvathy Avanoor the beautiful minds behind Purvina, instead of griping about it, continued to plod on with their farming. They could have left their land fallow but did not do so, because they felt it would be felonious on their part. Kerala is such a blessed state with sufficient rainfall, inclement weather, they couldn’t ask for anything more.
Jaya Avanoor started her dream venture with the idea of sharing the rural goodness that she relishes with the rest of the world. At Purvina, she looks after the production, product development, packaging, and all the on-ground activities at the mini-factory, apart from her other businesses. She’s a literature graduate who runs multiple businesses along with her husband, who is a second-generation entrepreneur. She is also the sole proprietress of Lohashilpi Packs, the unit that manufactures Purvina’s packaging materials, among others. Jaya is also a Kathakali music singer and an All India Radio artist.
Parvathy Avanoor, Jaya’s elder daughter manages digital marketing, online sales. She is an MBA graduate who quit her full-time job to join her mother, full fill her dreams.
The family is into multi-cropping. They do not know which crop they grow will fetch remunerative prices at the time of harvesting, but still, they do it for the love of it. “We cultivate paddy, coconut, rubber, yam, tapioca, banana, ginger, turmeric, and pepper.
There was a time when agriculture was the mainstay for our family. We used to then opt for the use of pesticides, fungicides, and weedicides along with the application of inorganic fertilizers to make farming profitable,” says Jaya. “Frogs, crabs, earthworms disappeared from our farmland. This was followed by the disappearance of predatory birds, reptiles, and animals. Consequently, we took a conscious decision of doing away with pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. It was heart-warming to see the return of the fauna,” she added.
Now, when they plow their fields, they see storks trailing behind the tractor for their meal, kites hovering before making a swoop to grab a crab or a frog. Foxes, which were long gone, are back on their farmland.
100% natural turmeric and coconuts from local farmers are sourced by paying them the fair price, which is much higher than the market rates. As their business grows, they want the farming community around them to grow along with them.
Until the late 70s, quite a few farmsteads in Kerala did not cut down traditional trees and shrubs to make way for cash crops. But when the size of holdings shrunk and earnings of the farming community reduced, many of them cut trees which did not add to the bottom line and replaced them with cash crops. This led to a lot of animals, birds, and reptiles disappearing from these farms.
“On our farm which is situated in rural Kerala, we did not take this route. We have left the large, traditional, fruit-bearing trees, soft and hardwood trees, and bamboo clusters intact. The desire to conserve nature has led to us having birds, which are rare, to come by in our farm. They do make a real cacophony at sunrise. Each bird vies with the other to make its point heard. We get to see foxes, wild fowls, mongooses, and civet cats making their presence felt. Butterflies of varying hues, moths, and bees can be seen fooling around,” said Parvathy Avanoor.
“We do not disturb any beehives, including those of rock bees on our farm, though they could harm the people who come to work in the fields. There are a few birds that make the bamboo clusters their abode. They are one of the most secure spots to build nests as predators are thwarted by the thorns of the bamboo. These birds can stretch out without fear whenever they feel like,” she added.
The Avanoors have not filled their ponds and wells, they do not have any river or a large water body close by too, and still, they don’t face any problems with water. God’s own country has its magic. They strive their best to keep the farm litter-free, especially from plastic waste. With all the trees and shrubs around, they do not hear the noise of vehicles at home. Isn’t that is a luxury? They say yes! And they try to retain the same at any cost.
They also have a majority of women employees in the production process of all their products. As a woman-led enterprise, they make sure it stays the same and the women employees are empowered at every step Purvina takes.
At Purvina, they parboil, dry, and powder the 100% natural turmeric, the traditional way. Kerala has relatively less air pollution than other states in the country. The ones, who live in the villages of Kerala, can see the blue sky during the day and a star-studded one in the night when the moon is yet to make its presence felt. Any product they dry in the sunshine gets all the available energy. The turmeric, which is sun-dried, gets all the blessings of the sun rays it deserves.
The Avanoors make sure they follow the traditional method to make the hot-processed virgin coconut oil. The first step involves grating fresh coconuts. These gratings are squeezed to extract coconut milk. The rich coconut milk is cooked in a bronze vessel at a consistent temperature with constant stirring. Stirring continues until the oil separates and reaches the desired quality. Once decanted, the pure oil is left to cool before it is packed and shipped to the customers. They also grow black pepper, one of the oldest known spices, and anti-Kapha herb that burns up toxins. When sealed and stored dry, their whole peppercorns can retain their flavor for up to 3 years.
Hot-processed virgin coconut oil, known as Ventha Velichenna in Malayalam, is versatile cooking oil and a healthy substitute for guilt-free frying and baking. Drinking 15–30 ml of the oil every day can boost your memory and even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.