The best of what to eat/shop/do in your city, delivered in a brown paper bag

Wake up to daily updates in your inbox

27.05.2015

Have you considered becoming a dragon fruit farmer? Will you read a book that could make you quit your job to grow herbs in Kodaikanal? Wouldn’t it be nice when the only vertical growth you have to think about pertains to grape vines? But how do you move from power points to planters and still earn a living? And can you afford farmland without inheriting it from your family? bpb talks to four individuals in various stages of the farming cycle and gets details on how to harvest time, money and energy into a seed project.

Stage 1: Restless In The City 

Speaking to Kim Koshie, a 32-year-old audio producer/ sound engineer based in Mumbai, we get a sense of the growing restlessness that many in high stress jobs are experiencing. This is the main reason why Kim has started researching life on a farm. Now that he has narrowed down the kind of crop he plans on cultivating (“the market for dragon fruit is ripe”), Kim is in the process of finalising a deal to buy his own farmland in Tamil Nadu.

At this point, you’re wondering how much it costs for someone without inherited land. While the prices obviously vary across India, Kim tells us you can get started with as little as Rs 4,00,000 in the hilly regions of Tamil Nadu. Apart from the cost of the land, there are electricity, fencing, irrigation and land registration overheads that are separate from the actual cultivation expenses. “Applying for a farmer’s license gives you access to free electricity for your farm and is not a very complicated process,” Kim tells us. 

Confirming this restlessness in the city is Abhijay Save, one of the managers at Kalpavruksha, a natural farm based in Dehari, Gujarat. Save has helped launch a week-long training program in sustainable and natural farming practices that has been running house full with curious city cats. “Students are often those disillusioned with hectic lives and looking for a change of pace,” he explains. Priced at Rs 3,000 a head, the course is conducted by the very knowledgeable 93-year-old Bhaskar Save in Hindi, and takes only 20 students per batch. Here you’ll learn the basic principles of natural farming, biodiversity, orchard development and dry-land mix cropping, along with four hours of practical farm work everyday. 

Farming is a state of mind, more than an enterprise. Accept that and you will be able to fully transition to a life away from the city.

Stage 2: Almost There

Media entrepreneur and Cannes nominee Shaili Sutaria doesn’t exactly have a resume to back a new career choice, but given her past credentials, she believes she can plough through this chosen course.

Come August, Shaili and her husband Siddhartha will shift base from Mumbai to the Perumal Malai hills off Kodaikanal to launch their new farming venture, Prairie Herb. “I know this sounds clichéd, but all it took was one book to change my life. After I read One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka, I knew I had to pursue a career in farming,” says Siddhartha to us over the phone in an almost Zen like voice. Apart from a brand of herbs with medicinal properties, Prairie Herb will manufacture ingredients to be used in culinary and beauty products.

 “Farming is a state of mind, more than an enterprise. Accept that and you will be able to fully transition to a life away from the city,” they tell us.

Under the label Vrindavan Farms, Gaytri’s product range, apart from the actual farm produce itself, includes pickles, brines, herbal teas and preserves, made with ingredients from the land.

Stage 3: Farming Full Time

After working as a consultant at the Environmental Protection Agency in Boston for seven years, Gaytri Bhatia moved back to India with no agricultural plans, but eventually began farming in Wada, 127 kms off Mumbai.

Under the label Vrindavan Farms, Gaytri’s product range, apart from the actual farm produce itself, includes pickles, brines, herbal teas and preserves, made with ingredients from the land. Armed with a prior knowledge of environmental science, Gaytri has been working to create a sustainable, chemical-free model of farming.

Gaytri’s work has attracted other urbanites like Kumud Dadlani, who after a Masters in Food Studies from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, returned home and began volunteering at Vrindavan, planting seeds and transporting tomato saplings. While Kumud has moved to a regular 9-to-5 job, she still visits the farm to assist with ongoing projects.  

If you are interested in getting a first hand view of farm life, Gaytri tells us that she is open to hosting groups of volunteers on the farm who can help out during season time, which is generally post the monsoon showers. You can also get your hands dirty via networks like the Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms (WWOOF) that facilitates volunteer programs at organic farms across the world, that has roughly 150 Indian farms on its roster.

So(w) long and farewell, city life. 

Getting there: Read up on Bhaskar Save’s training program here, see details about Vrindavan Farms here.

Image courtesy: Vrindavan Farms. 

Wake up to daily updates on what to eat/shop/do in your city

Show me more
Intel