India has always been known as an agriculture-based economy and lists among top nations globally in terms of its farm output. Despite developments in other fields, agriculture still remains one of the largest source of livelihood in the country. On the flipside though, while many farmers are leaving the profession for more lucrative options, individuals from other sectors are turning urban farmers in hopes of a better future and a dream to create a sustainable environment.
“Driven by high stress and absence of work-life balance, lot of people in their 40s are shifting to farming, dissatisfied and unhappy with their jobs after a certain point of time. So, after a fair amount of saving, they turned farmers,” explains farming expert Kranthi Kumar Reddy, director of the infotainment serial ‘Bhumiputra’ targeted at farmers, which aired on Maa TV.
These new-age farmers armed with knowledge and experience prefer to operate in multiple areas rather than just sticking to mono-cropping.
Driven by passion
John Israel, an urban farmer from Hyderabad, says, “I was always driven by the programme “Satyameva Jayathe” anchored by Aamir Khan. When my son was born, I wasn’t very keen on feeding him food laced with pesticides. So, I thought why not take land on lease and develop my own farm. I didn’t have any farming background so I did research on modern techniques of farming before starting. My colleagues and superiors at Dell encouraged me and even helped me financially. I also decided to take up animal farming apart from crops similar to the old concept of paadi-panta.” Things at his farm work like a food chain and the whole ecological system comes together in a harmonious manner.
“The manure comes from the cows and goats,” adds John who chose to take up intercropping to avoid losses due to natural calamities and market uncertainties. Planning, he says, is crucial in farming. “This is the season for maize, which will give me yield in three months. I am also growing tur dal simultaneously so by the time I sell maize, tur dal will be ready for harvest in nine months. Moreover, they are pest-free and safe crops,” adds John who uses modern farming tools such as rain guns, drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, etc.
Besides taking accurate and timely decisions on what specific or multiple crops should one grow based on the soil and the season, most urban farmers are able to maintain profits by conducting regular farm tours for children and conducting classes for aspiring farmers.
“Farming requires a lot of patience and you need to be ready for the rigorous physical work you will be doing daily. Most urban farmers don’t need to go to the gym because we are physically exerting ourselves. Research thoroughly, get some experience and take a plunge into farming,” says Kranthi.
Part-time to full-time
Switching to full-time farming is not an easy decision, as not only is the occupation full of uncertainties, but one needs to think about familial obligations too. Having worked for more than a decade in the US and Spain, Yella Reddy had been toying with the idea of returning to India for quite some time. Not keen to take up another high stress job, he decided to go back to his farming roots.
His wife, Sunitha, however, had her apprehensions, but came around eventually. “There was a dual purpose to my decision as it also allowed me to live close to my parents. I started cultivating Gerbera flowers and later ventured into organic farming,” says Yella Reddy who owns six acres of land in Siddipet. His wife now helps him in marketing. “Most of the DRDL students regularly visit our farm to learn techniques of farming. We are now producing millets which are making a comeback these days.”
Interest picking up
Interest in urban farming is rising going by the number of people who sign up for the weekend classes at GoFarming, a venture started by duo Geetha and Jeetendar Singh. “One can learn about different types of farming, cultivation systems, science behind crop rotation and then apply what they have learnt in the field. As a group, we can easily afford modern equipment and get access to the best agri consultants thus increasing the quality and quantity of our produce.
A person can purchase one acre of land and begin working on it and harvest the best produce possible,” says Jeetendar Singh, an ex- IT employee. Currently, close to 170 IT employees do part-time farming with them.
Apart from production, marketing plays an important role where all the farmers directly supply to their clients and market it through social networking sites such as Facebook. The government, on its part is helping farmers by providing 24 hrs electricity, seeds and many other facilities which has brought down the farmer suicide rate.
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