Farming is a complex and unpredictable occupation. Farmers have to put up with the vagaries of nature, inconsistent rainfall, changing expectations of consumers, and struggle to get a fair price for their produce. Maintaining soil fertility and pest management are among other challenges for them.
Increasingly, working professionals are turning to farming and realising that to make agriculture successful in the long run they have to go back to the centuries-old methods of organic farming.
Today, engineers, doctors, MBAs, social workers, lawyers and professionals from other fields are taking up farming for many reasons. Some are tired of the corporate rat race, some have seen the horrors of diseases, especially cancer, among friends and families and want to reverse the adverse effects of chemical farming, while others feel it is a way to be close to their roots and relive the days of their childhood when food was organic.
Whatever the reason behind their foray into farming, most of these professionals-turned-farmers have scripted stupendous success stories.
Some have succeeded in the daunting task of first making barren or infertile land cultivable and then turning it profitable without the use of chemicals.
These organic farmers use only cow dung, urine, jeevamrit, panchagavya and other farm-based inputs and harvest organic vegetables, organic rice, wheat, fruits, and even medicinal and aromatic plants profitably.
Here are seven organic farmers, who prove that with organic farming, it is possible to turn even barren land into a profitable farm.
1. Reeva Sood, Himachal Pradesh
Reeva Sood took up organic farming in Una in 2016 after her husband was diagnosed with cancer. She knew going back to nature was the key to fighting the disease. In 2015-16, by the time her husband Rajeev was finishing his chemotherapy, they bought 70 acres of land spread over three villages of Gunghrala, Akrot and Behar Bithal in Behar Jaswan panchayat in Una.
“We decided to buy this land because it was available at nominal rates due to being barren and inaccessible by road. Uneven and dry land, in the local language, is called ‘khud’ or good-for-nothing land,” says the 65-year-old. She now grows medicinal and aromatic plants. Reeva earns Rs50 lakh annually from these herbs sold as saplings, dry roots, powders and in extract form to farmers, medicine makers and agriculture universities across India. The agro entrepreneur earns another Rs20 lakh from dragon fruit farming and is set to start its juice plant.
Here’s her detailed story: 65-year-old woman turns barren land into organic farm of medicinal plants, earns Rs50 lakh annually
2. Umed Singh, Punjab
He has turned barren land in Bachhohi, Hoshiarpur, Punjab, into a lush green farm through organic farming practices. He began work on this wild land in November 2020 and is currently cultivating organic wheat on 100 acres.
On another 100 acres, he is growing fruits and vegetables including mango, guava, lemon, kinnu, sweet lime, apple, peach, broccoli, coriander, spinach, turnip, cauliflower, cabbage and other items.
Though the land was uneven, he did not try to even it out as he wanted it to be as natural as possible. “We spent six months just clearing the land of wild growth and making it cultivable. We bought about 600 trolleys of cow dung manure to make the soil fertile,” Umed says. He sells organic wheat at Rs70 per kg against the market rate of Rs30 per kg for inorganic wheat.
3. Pavithra A and Mohammed Rinas Mundakkal, Kerala
This husband-wife duo quit their jobs in Mumbai and now cultivate organic paddy on 25 acres in Thrissur. Initially, they took 15 acres of barren land on lease in Vellangallur panchayat. “It was a tough time for us financially, and we pawned my mother-in-law’s jewellery to raise money for investing in the farm,” Pavithra says.
The land had been lying unused for 35 years. The first few days on the farm involved picking plastic, glass and other non-biodegradable items from the land.
Now the average paddy yield on their farm is around 1400 kg per acre against Kerala’s average of 1035 kg per acre. They credit organic farming methods for better-than-average yields. The couple sells some paddy varieties at Rs225 per kg.
4. Chintan Shah, Gujarat
In 2015, Chintan Shah, an MBA from Mumbai's Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), bought 7.2 hectares of land at Devapura village in Anand, about 65 km from the capital Ahmedabad, after zeroing in on organic farming as a sustainable livelihood option that also guaranteed healthy meals to his family.
Shah spent many months strengthening the soil’s fertility by adding organic manure, jeevamrit and other inputs. He now cultivates ginger, turmeric and wheat, all of which are sold directly from his farm to customers.
Here’s this MBA farmer’s story: Gujarat’s MBA farmer Chintan Shah turns infertile land into organic farm of turmeric, ginger & wheat
5. Mandeep Verma, Himachal Pradesh
After working for over four years with technology giant Wipro at Gurgaon, Mandeep Verma, an engineer and MBA, moved back to Solan in 2014 to be with his parents.
He converted his family’s 4.8 acres of barren land on the outskirts of the village into arable land. “We did not start from fertile land. This land in a hilly terrain was uneven. Plus it had not been in use following menace by monkeys who would not let any crop survive,” says Mandeep.
Due to years of neglect, the land was barren and there was only grass growing on that patch. So he decided to cultivate a crop that wouldn’t be eaten by monkeys and kiwi was a natural choice. “Kiwi is a sour fruit and it has hairs, which deter monkeys from attacking the crop,” he says. Mandeep now earns over Rs 50 lakh annually from organic kiwi farming.
Here's the detailed story: This MBA quit Wipro for organic kiwi farming in Himachal; turns barren land into profitable orchard
6. Amogh Jagtaph, Karnataka
After completing his MBA in sales and marketing, Amogh did not even appear for any job interviews. He straightaway began the work to convert his family's 10-acre piece of infertile land into a natural farm.
“I first cleaned up the land and applied a lot of cow dung to the soil. I also bought a machine to powder the leaves of coconut and turn them into manure. It has high carbon content which is good for soil fertility,” Amogh says.
Repeated application of cow dung, manure and Jeevamrut helped rejuvenate the soil. Amogh opted for multi-cropping and integrated farming to maximize land utilisation. “My annual net profit from farm operations after deducting all costs is around Rs30 lakh now,” he says.
7. Tom Kiron Davis
In 2015, Tom Kiron Davis quit his job in Dubai to start organic paddy farming on a wasteland in Thrissur. “I began to clean up the one-and-a-half acres of my family land lying unused since 2005. I cleared the weeds, debris, stones and other waste accumulated over the years,” he says.
With help from others, he also cleaned a 2km canal that runs through the Vazhukkilichira paddy field. After that, water management for irrigation became easier. A believer in organic farming, Tom added jeevamrit (also jeevamrut, a natural liquid fertilizer) and vermicompost to the soil to prepare it for cultivation.
Tom has helped many other local farmers take up paddy cultivation. He cultivates organic Matta Triveni paddy, which sells at Rs110 per kg while some other farmers also cultivate the Rakthashali red rice, which is sold at Rs275 per kg. He has set up a collective that sells their rice across the world.