The extraordinary Mr Shastry

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“I grow herbs to protect nature and improve people’s lives.” 

Mr CMN Shastry is the kind of man you can’t help but feel enormous warmth and respect for. Based in the tropical heart of India’s South, Mr Shastry is no conventional farmer, or business man; Mr Shastry is a visionary for a better world and the herbs he grows are his means to get there.

Acres and acres of organic biodiversity

His organic farm in Hosagunda, South India, is breath-taking: hundreds of acres of land meander along sacred groves and ancient trees, and growing in between, over 100 species of organic herbs.

Ashwagandha, Brahmi, Ginger, Tulsi and Turmeric are just some of the exemplary herbs that thrive there. They are also five of the herbs that we’ve been buying from Mr Shastry since 2001, the year that saw both Pukka and Mr Shastry start business.

During this time, we’ve grown together, and it’s been very rewarding watching this happen; from modest beginnings, Mr Shastry now has a team of fellow herbal enthusiasts working alongside him, as well as a first-class processing facility to handle our organic Ayurvedic herbs. And thanks to partnerships such as these, Pukka herbal teas and supplements have blossomed.

Lifting local lives out of poverty

Although Mr CMN Shastry loves plants his real love is people, and he has been committed to improving people’s lives from the start; which is no easy feat in India where social mobility is limited because poverty is rife and opportunities are hard to come by.

Along with his wife Shobha, son Surya and partners, Adiga and Viji, he has built an inspiring organic business over the last decade that lifts many of his employees out of poverty and into a much more optimistic life.

Protecting rare and endangered plant species

Yet this isn’t his only remarkable work. He’s also made it his mission to restore a derelict temple and protect 150 acres of forest that overlook his farm.

The farm and the forest sit in the Western Ghats, one of the world’s greatest hotspots for biodiversity, housing about 30% of all the plant and animal species in India. To help conserve this priceless tract of forest, every year Mr Shastry and his team organise a tree-planting day, which Pukka proudly supports.

During this day people from the surrounding villages, including pupils from the local school and spiritual leaders, join hands to plant 108 trees from rare and valuable species around the ancient temple and sacred grove. Why ‘108’ trees? Because 108 is a magical number in India, representing auspiciousness and success.

Many of the tree species planted produce fruits, bark or leaves that are used, not only by the animals in the forest, but in Ayurveda too – which is very close to our hearts.

And Mr Shastry’s vision doesn’t stop there.

Conserving vital rainwater for crops

Alongside the tree-planting day, his team have dug more than 500 rain-water harvesting trenches to capture water during the monsoon and help replenish groundwater. And in the last few years, local villagers have seen a real difference; with some farmers who were previously only able to grow one crop in a year, now having enough water to grow a second crop during the dry season.

As you can see, Mr Shastry is an inspiration – not just to us, but to all who meet him. We’re lucky to have him as an extraordinary partner and look forward to continuing working with him for a truly ‘pukka’ planet. Thank you, Mr Shastry.

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Meet the author

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Sebastian Pole, Sebastian Pole, Co-founder and Master Herbsmith

Hello There. I’m a Co-founder and the Master Herbsmith at Pukka Herbs. As well as having the most amazing job of formulating all our organic teas and supplements I am a passionate environmentalist – that’s why we are 100% organic, pioneers in sustainably sourcing herbs with FairWild, and we give 1% of our turnover for rejuvenating the Planet. I also run my own herbal practice in Bath which I’ve done since 1998. I practise an eclectic blend of Ayurvedic, Chinese and Western Herbal Medicine and am a registered member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. I love using the principles of Ayurveda (aka the ancient art of living wisely) – coupled with insights of traditional healing and modern science - to help create the best of health. Inspired by my time in India, I love cooking a vegetarian feast and rely on regular yoga practice with lots of herbal teas and tonics to keep me well. I am passionate about running a business that inspires positive change and brings the benefit of the incredible power of plants to everyone we connect with – from our farmers, collectors, Pukka team to you. I live on a two acre garden-farm in Somerset where I grow a rainbow spectrum of medicinal and nourishing plants for my bees and family to thrive on. 

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