‘Once in a lifetime, you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer’. – Brenda Schopp
On a foggy Sunday morning, with much anticipation and fervour, I began my quest to finally meet the craftsmen who cultivate our food along with a group of almost 30, kids included. The journey was long but the view was worth it all!
Only about 40 km from Bangalore, I experienced how a magical synergy of the Sun, Soil, Air and a host of farming ‘astras’ produces something which not only feeds our appetite but also nourishes the mind, soul and body.
Amidst a traditional rustic setting with cows mooing, goats bleating, birds chirping and squirrels frolicking, we embarked onto the first farm looked after by Mr Govind Raju. He is a bubbly farmer as vibrant as his farm full of delectable greens like Paalak, Amaranthus in red bloom and scrumptious carrots ready to bite into.
Apart from all these greens coming alive and what caught my attention was a beautiful sight where a bunch of little kids leaving the comforts of Air-conditioned play areas and I-Pad screens were excited to play real-life Farmville- getting their hands dirty in soil and sowing the seeds of Paalak while reaping a sense of harmony with nature. It was delightful to see them chasing away hens, feeding the goats, petting newborn calves and becoming one with the environment. The animals too reciprocated their love to the new visitors by happily munching on the feed. 😊
It made me realize how important it is to teach not only the kids but each of us to be in touch with the farmers who feed us and to live in a community where sustainable practices are revered. In a world frantically running after IT Jobs, we need more people like Govind Raju to make farming great again.
The next stop was at Mr Srinivas’s majestic Broccoli Farm. Never having seen one, its sight was awe-inspiring. How could such sculpted looking Broccolis come out of the land so effortlessly? Soon all of us found ourselves earning some fresh broccolis for ourselves. 😊 Even little kids who usually shy away from the greens in their plate. Wonderful how real farms and farmers can bring them closer to food than a mother trying to distract them with YouTube only to get a spoonful of peas in their tummies.
One thing common amongst all the farmers I met was a peculiar sparkle in their eyes which shone through and through as they happily shared farming secrets with us. All these farmers hold about 2–4 acres each, living in their humble abodes by the farm land itself. They tend, watch and protect their farms all on their own. Theirs was an occupation- a pursuit which now looks more real than ever.
The last (but never the least) stop was at a beautiful Guava farm which was again full of surprises. With all its natural traps and repellents, it is a well laid out plan to nurture the best Guavas for all of us. The keepers were 2 humble brothers who took all of us around the farm explaining how a mocktail of cow urine, cow dung, jaggery and gram flour can be used not only to nourish the soil but also to automatically make it unattractive to the pests. The trick in organic farming is not to kill insects but repel them naturally. The farm is an epitome of using natural hacks to maintain sustainability and keep the ecosystem happy.
It was a delightful getaway away from the city’s usual hustle, we all un-winded and learnt to embrace the natural way of growing crops. It was heartening to see so much of hard work and dedication being put into providing us food with the highest order of ‘Prana’ or life energy, and it makes me even more respectful and thankful for what goes on my plate.
End of my description of these beautiful little farms?
No. This is where it begins.
I feel gutted to imagine how, since so long, many farmers are plunged into a vicious cycle of debts and low incomes because the system they’re in (the middlemen, the government and even the apathetic consumers like us), robs them of their right to fair share for it is because of them that the privileged class can show off their love for hashtags like #CookingSundays, #InstagramFoodie and a thousand others! How about some hashtag #FoodForThought and #ThoughtForFarmers?
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
When I was in Bangalore working in Analytics for the ‘roti, kapda and makaan’, I was also helping a wonderful lady involved in a sustainability and education start-up called A Green Venture on the weekends. I stayed at a farm on holidays and weekends, speaking to visitors, especially little kids about the importance of biodiversity at a farm, seasons, seeds and food. I also volunteered to teach gardening at a Montessori school. I realized then, the conspicuous absence of farms and gardening from our curriculum, both at schools and colleges.
How then, will our youth ever come to understand the food-insecurity problems affecting billions of the world and only to get graver with the onset of ever deteriorating climate, soil and water?
How then, will we come to appreciate the fruits of hard-work of the humble farmer who nurtured a farm with literal beads of sweat and blood?
How then, will we come to appreciate food in tandem with seasons, soil and local climate? How then we would keep apples to Himachal and good old phalsa and sitaphal in Jaipur because #LocalIsTheNewCool!
How then, will we ever get to know the importance of the bees (which btw are responsible for pollination of almost 70% of the food on our plates), the bees from the beehives that we ruthlessly take off from our high rise buildings because, oh wait, we cleared off their natural habitat- the TREES and now that they’re committing a crime of taking little space to help the flowers bloom and the mango to fruit, we take away their homes and kill them through unsustainable methods.
My experience in spreading eco-education makes me optimistic of making way for eco-conscious citizens who can appreciate the importance of biodiversity in keeping us and nature healthy. My interactions with little kids taught me one important thing that children will prefer sowing a chiku seed after having one, over watching reruns of Chhota Bheem only if adults do it too, for they learn what they see. Such children will take more interest in food, its origins, its texture, its natural colours and shapes and will be healthier and sharper!
My suggestions to make way for a generation of eco-conscious citizens:
- Be wary of everything that comes packaged!
- Support local farms. Farmers get little share if your groceries come from fancy malls. Patronize famer’s markets and try to look for a farmer(s) who can deliver to your society straight- without the middlemen. This is called Community Support Agriculture- look it up.
- Don’t grow gardens with grass – waste of space! Go for kitchen gardens- you will be surprised at what all you can grow.
- Start composting!
- Make an effort to know what’s in season. Mangoes in winters? Pftt! A big NO.
- Make an effort to know what’s local to your heritage and buy that. If everyone goes for that broccoli or the fancy Zucchini that is likely not grown in your local environment (if you’re in Rajasthan rn, like I am) then farmers do not get the incentive to grow crops that are local to their environment and are also more resilient to climatic conditions. Imagine a farmer trying to grow a water intensive broccoli in a desert region because everyone’s going gaga over #ExoticRecipe rather than Ker (small, radish berries) and Sangri (longish beans) trees because #ResilientTOFamines & #Nutritious. LOCAL IS THE NEW EXOTIC!
- Choose farms over malls for the weekend trips. C’mon show some love to the farmers. They’d love to have you over and will excitedly tell you all about their farms, how they grow, how they manage and how they harvest and maybe share a few fruits of their harvests with you toooo!
- Lastly, involve kids in engaging with the dirt- the soil, teach them that earthworms are their tiny little friends who should always be protected by not applying chemicals in the soil, teach them love and show them how by planting and gardening!
Lastly, build a relationship with food that goes deeper than IG Food Photography. Visit farms, buy your own groceries, do some backyard gardening. Go talk to your dadis and nanis who may know more about food and indigenous recipes than you would ever get to know and make it a trend before someone from the west tries to copy it. P.S. Do I need to tell you what they did to the good old haldi doodh uh sorry Turmeric latte which btw is priced at a fortune in the US?
The Featured Image has been clicked by Nishant Ghiya. Explore more of his work on his instagram handle : @jahaanpana
About The Author
Dhanushree is a tree hugger, food and farming enthusiast. She is constantly exploring ways to make life ‘waste-free’ i.e. loosening up the single-use products, replacing harmful chemicals and meditating away the emotional baggage! A proponent of ‘Act Local, Think Global’, she is pursuing an MBA in the hopes of minting enough money and have her own farm one day!Dhanushree is a tree hugger, food and farming enthusiast. She is constantly exploring ways to make life ‘waste-free’ i.e. loosening up the single-use products, replacing harmful chemicals and meditating away the emotional baggage! A proponent of ‘Act Local, Think Global’, she is pursuing an MBA in the hopes of minting enough money and have her own farm one day!