We have a dream at CropConnect to have a farm of our own where we will grow food and make interesting value added products from it. So far all we have done is talk this dream to death without much action. Neither have we bought or leased a plot of land nor have we tried to grow anything in the urban space available to us.
Things they say happen when the time is right. For some reason events so transpired that I find myself currently in Uttarakhand for a farming internship over 5 days with a famous and progressive local farmer, Mr. Dayanand Joshi.
Mr. Dayanand Joshi is a progressive, organic farmer based in Govindpuri village. He has been recognized for the work he has done in farming over the course of his life. So much has been his interest in farming that he cross bred and developed a new variety of radish, each of which can weigh up to 15 kgs. Locals from far and wide line up to get the seed for his radish.
He is 75 years old, a widower and still practices active farming. As is common with most farmers in India today, not one of his 6 sons or 3 daughters is interested in farming. They have all been enticed by better paying big city jobs.
Dayanandji came to pick me up at a pre-decided time at a local tea stall and took me with him to his home which is nestled in the mountains and takes a good 25-30 minute uphill walk to get to. He is fit. And I am not. I was already panting by the time we reached his place and was so happy to hear that we will first sit and have tea.
My farming lessons started with an orientation of his farm. While he has a lot of land, increasing age and lack of interest from his children allows him to cultivate only about 1 acre of his land, using step-farming techniques. He is growing mainly vegetables like potatoes, carrots, radish, onions, garlic, pumpkins, spinach, fenugreek amongst others. His farm is also dotted with a variety of other trees and plants like walnuts, pomegranate, big cardamom, bananas and cinnamon. He also has a bunch of bhang (cannabis) plants growing wildly – not an uncommon scene in the Himalayas where the nutritious and non-hallucinating seeds of the plant are widely used to make chutney and other hemp products.
Dayanand Joshi does everything on his farm himself as he doesn’t have help from his family (even though one of his sons and the wife of another son with her 1.5 year old baby boy are living with him right now) and he doesn’t trust outside labour to do go a good job.
“Till there is life in my body and bones, I will keep doing farming”, he said while sipping tea and chewing tobacco.