Working for a tech giant in a metropolitan city is a dream come true for many, but that was not the case for Roja Reddy, who grew up in Donnehalli, a rural village in Karnataka.
Passionate about agriculture, the 26-year-old dreamed of becoming a farmer. On the contrary, her family, who had been farmers for generations, wanted her to get a well-paying job in the city rather than working the land.
As per his family’s wish, Roja sued BE and got himself a job with a reputable company in Bengaluru. She continued her corporate work and kept her desire aside for a while, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.
When her business went into telecommuting mode, she returned home and decided to finally try her hand at organic farming.
“My father and brother are full-time farmers, but due to huge losses they were on the verge of giving up completely. I wanted to do something about it, even though they didn’t want me to cultivate. So I took on the challenge of reviving our family farm through organic methods and started working in the field after 4 p.m., after my official working hours,” says Roja. The best India.
“My family weren’t convinced that I could bring the land back to life organically, as they had only been using chemical fertilizers for years. But in fact, chemicals were the main reason for the decline of products from our farm. After a lot of hard work, I was able to prove them wrong,” says the 26-year-old.
Today, Roja has quit her job and works as a full-time farmer, growing organic vegetables on 50 acres of sprawling land. She now earns around Rs 1 crore in income per year, she says.
The essential transition to organic farming
Roja says that when she started organic farming in 2020, her family, especially her father and brother, opposed her decision. Her relatives and villagers also questioned why she would go into farming when she had a well-paying job in a company.
“The villagers believed that only chemical farming would give them a better yield, which was in fact the opposite. Growing up, I saw my grandfather farming organically, but my father and brother used chemicals for so long that the quality of the soil drastically declined, resulting in much lower productivity,” he explains. -she.
Of the 20 acres of farmland in Donnehalli village in drought-prone Chitradurga district, only six were used by his family to grow pomegranates. The rest remained unused due to irrigation difficulties.
Roja asked her family to let her farm on the unused land and set up her organic vegetable farm on six acres.
When she started farming, she was “ridiculed for adopting organic farming techniques by her relatives, other farmers, villagers and even horticulture department officials,” she says.
“I thoroughly researched organic farming on the internet and contacted several other farmers who have done it successfully. With their guidance, I was able to grow my own organic vegetable farm within months,” she says. , adding that she initially grew around 40 different varieties of vegetables, including beans, brinjals and peppers.
It also manufactured organic fertilizers and pesticides such as jeevamrut, neemastra, agniastra and so on for his crops
Create your own luck
Although she proved it was entirely possible to turn chemical-laden earth into a thriving organic farm, Roja says she faced the real challenge when bringing her products to market.
“I didn’t expect it to be so difficult to market organic products. Although I harvested hundreds of kilos of vegetables, I struggled to find a market,” she says. “People in my village and surrounding areas were unaware of organic farming or products. They didn’t know about the quality or its benefits and so there was no market.
Roja traveled to different places in the state to market her products, she says. “I have traveled to different taluks and first formed a group of eight organic farmers from Chitradurga. We then spoke to local authorities in each taluk to provide us with a space to establish a market for our products. We even visited houses to raise their awareness of organic vegetables and invited them to our market, which we started to organize every week in different regions,” she explains.
Eventually, his network grew as more organic farmers joined across the state.
Roja has extended its market to different districts like Udupi, Dakshina Kannada etc.
“Currently, there are around 500 farmers in my network across Karnataka. For the past year, we have been setting up organic markets across the state. We have also started receiving huge orders from cities like Bengaluru,” explains Roja, who has created her own brand under the name Nisarga Native Farms, which has also partnered with a few outlets in Bengaluru.
So, within a year, she not only managed to revive her family land into a thriving organic farm, but also created a market opportunity to sell her products.
After proving herself, she says her family believed in her passion and expertise, so she quit her corporate job to become a full-time farmer.
Another challenge she faced was the issue of irrigation. Because Chitradurga is a drought-prone district, irrigation has always been difficult in the area, she explains.
“One of the best things about organic farming is that it requires very less water compared to inorganic farming methods. But it was essential to find a practical solution for irrigation. So, in In addition to the three boreholes on my land, I dug two ponds for rainwater harvesting,” says Roja, who set up a drip irrigation system for her farm.
A pioneer of organic farming in her village, today several farmers, including those who made fun of her, have started approaching her to learn about organic farming.
“So far, about 25 farmers in my village have switched to organic farming under my leadership. I also help them to sell their products in the markets, directly, without any intermediary, which brings them a decent amount,” she adds.
From six acres of land, Roja has now expanded her farm to 50 acres and grows around 20 varieties of vegetables including varieties of tomatoes, beans, carrots, brinjal, ladyfingers, gourds, squash bitters, peppers and cucumbers.
“I harvest around 500kg to 700kg of vegetables every day and earn around Rs 1 crore per year,” says Roja, adding that she also provides employment for around 10 villagers on her farm.
For more information contact Nisarga Native Farms on 8088064510
Edited by Divya Sethu