If there is one thing that Garo Hills is known for, it is its organic produce. Be it cashew nuts, ginger, oranges, betel nut or the humble pineapple, the region has produced some of the best varieties of fruits and cash crops, which can be attested to be anyone who has had the chance of tasting the fruits of the land.
While there have been many stories that are yet to be told, the struggle of one family and how their perseverance transformed the lives of many from their village is a true inspiration.
Laimos R Marak, a gritty woman of 55, who began her farm in 1985 with just 200 pineapple plants is now a proud owner of a farm that measures more than 60 bighas where she now grows over 4 lakh pineapples and supplies them to various parts of West Khasi Hills, East Garo Hills and Assam.
The village where the family hails from is Miktongjeng under the Dambo-Rongjeng block in East Garo Hills.
“The initial years were extremely tough for us as we did not have enough to even feed ourselves. Upon receiving the initial 200 saplings, I was determined to make a success of it. While all of the saplings did not live, we had enough to start the farm,” said Marak.
The start was enough for her to clear more land around her farm to make way for growing more of the fruit.
“We got hands-on training and the entire family was involved in the process which helped us all get some expertise in pineapple plantation,” she added.
Their small initial success gave her confidence and she increased the size of her farm until it reached where it is today. Over the years she also began planting other trees as well, such as rubber and betel nut.
The family became so adept at pineapple cultivation that they began to grow saplings on their own instead of buying them in. While most of these were used on their farm itself, some were also sold to the various markets around their village.
“We are completely organic on our farm and only use manure as fertilizer. Weeding, clearing and planting are done with the help of our local villagers and my family,” Marak added.
Pineapple harvesting, she explained, is done twice a year. While the normal season falls between June and August, the second falls between November and January.
“We supply at least 150-200 pickup trucks of pineapples during June-August and about 100-150 during the winter season,” said Marak.
Each vehicle carries about 1,500 pineapples, which puts her production at over 4 lakh pineapples per year.
The success of her farm has also washed off on more than 15 other families in the village. It has led to the villagers being employed on her farm for much of the year. While there are many who work on the farm, others carry the pineapples from her farm to the vehicle and are paid Rs 50 per trip. Food, of course, is on the house.
“The road to our house and the farm is still not done, which makes carrying these goods difficult. If it was not for the help we receive from the people of our village, the success would have been hard to get. Their hard work deserves praise,” Marak opined.
Inadvertently, the farm has become an integrated one with rubber and betel nuts adding to it. Marak even has her own rubber production setup and, though not as lucrative as pineapples, it provides some income for the family, which has also maintained a community forest on their own land.