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Pen pushers turn tillers

Venkat Iyer | Updated on December 05, 2014 Published on December 05, 2014

Growing interest Participants get their hands dirty at the Bhaskar Save Natural Farming Learning Centre’s workshop in Dehri village, Valsad, Gujarat

PURVITA KAPADIA, Techie-turned-terrace gardener

MANU SHARMA, Financial consultant-turned-farmer

Yuppies are leaving behind cushy careers for a life in organic farming

Leaving his corporate job at IBM a few years ago, Manish Tiwari (aged 39) started an organic farm near Bhopal. Similarly, Manu Sharma, a 38-year-old financial services consultant, and his wife Archana have decided to leave Gurgaon, buy land in Punjab or Himachal, and start a farm.

“I am aware of the repercussions of climate change and have been advocating policy change at the government level to reduce its impact. Gandhiji once said, ‘an ounce of practice is better than a ton of advice’, so we decided to move out of our unsustainable city lifestyle at the earliest,” says Sharma. “I feel tied down in this paradigm of consumption and believe we need to do more to slow down the harm we are doing to the environment,” he adds.

Tiwari thinks likewise. “After working in the corporate world for so long, I realised that to be truly free and independent one must provide for the basic need — that is, food. What better way than farming to do that,” he reasons.

He and Sharma were among the 15 students attending a workshop recently at the Bhaskar Save Natural Farming Learning Centre in Dehri village, Valsad, Gujarat. The six-day residential course, one of the first in India, includes hands-on training.

Coming from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Punjab, the students listen in rapt attention as Suresh, son of the 92-year-old ‘Gandhi of natural farming’ Bhaskar Save, tells them, “The greed to make more encouraged chemical farming and, in return, we get toxic food.”

Bhaskar Save switched over to chemical-free farming in 1960 after yields fell at his farm. He was inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka, the Japanese guru of natural farming. After guiding and training people for years, Save is less active today due to failing health. His sons Naresh and Suresh have taken on the mantle, says Bharat Mansata, one of the organisers of the workshop.

“This learning centre is a step towards realising my dream of spreading natural farming across the country. Even if a fraction of these students return to nature, I will consider it as a debt repaid by me to Mother Nature,” says the senior Save.

Besides Tiwari and Sharma, there’s 49-year-old mechanical engineer Vipul Sanghavi, who left behind his family business to start organic farming at the 10 acres he bought in Wada, Maharashtra.

“I wanted to lead a stress-free life and return something to the environment,” says Sanghavi. “I wish to leave behind the futile pursuit of money and find true happiness and inner peace.”

Belonging to a family that has farmed for generations, Gaurang Bharot was long uncomfortable in his chosen career as software professional. Eager to move away from an unsustainable lifestyle in the city, his transition to organic farming was a logical step for him.

Like him, Purvita Kapadia too grew tired of the software profession and quit her job in 2006 to look for alternatives. She tried terrace gardening for six years and experienced the joy of eating the fresh-grown and non-toxic food. “I have bought land and will slowly, but surely, move to the village and grow my own food. My intention is to make the farm sustainable, while contributing my bit to the environment by not using harmful chemicals,” she says.

The writer is an organic farmer based in Dahanu, Maharashtra

Published on December 05, 2014
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