Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The Organic Farmer of Anandpur

The Organic Farmer of Anandpur


It might’ve been christened as an Organic Farm but around Nurpur Bedi, a 15-minute drive from Anandpur Sahib, it's better known as "angrez da farm". The angrez in question is Darshan Singh Rudel, a French-born British national who finally decided to make home in India and converted to Sikhism. Then, came the farm.

There's more to the farm than meets the eye. It's a farm, forgive the cliche, with a difference.

Organic. That's the byword for the products grown at this farm.

Darshan Singh, who married Malwinder Kaur aeons ago but settled down in Punjab about a decade years ago, grows wheat, rice, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables, pulses, turmeric and herbs like basil, thyme and oregano. "We grow on a rotational basis so that fertility of the soil is not lost and every season, we reap new crops," he says, explaining the intricacies related to the land.

Darshan Singh totally believes in the idea and spirit of organic food. As does his better half. But when they bought the land in Nurpur Bedi, family and friends actively discouraged them from the 'organic idea'. "Everyone agreed it wouldn't work out," he remembers wryly. But he believed in it. And went ahead. "It's a question of principles," says the farmer, "to produce healthy food. And consumption of organic food leads to a well-ourished body".

The farm, which has undergone a whirlwind change since Darshan took up work, looks transported from another country altogether. "It's the
landscaping effect." beams Darshan Singh. The proactive progressive farmer has not only done the landscaping of the farm all by himself but
has also added gazebos and fish ponds to complete the pretty picture. "I've worked hard on it."

However, his involvement is not just restricted to landscaping. Darshan Singh, who practically lives at the farm, is involved in all aspects, including odd jobs as well. "I like being a part of each and every thing that happens at the Farm - be it sowing, reaping, buying seeds and marketing."

The situation might have settled down by now but Darshan Singh's been through a rough patch. "Though I did have prior farming experience, the farming culture is different here and initially, there were a lot of labour problems," he admits honestly. Add to it, a bad yield and it might have scared away a less determined person. Darshan Singh stuck to his guns. "Now, everything's stabilised - the quality of the soil has improved many times over and the yield is excellent."

But he rues governmental attitude. "The government does nothing for the few of us who are trying to revive the fertility of the soil," he fumes. He believes government help, first in terms of encouragement and later by providing marketing opportunities, can go a long way in promoting organic farming in the state.

"Punjab farmers have to change their farming concept - that is, if we don’t want to end up with barren land. On the other hand, organic farming is a more holistic approach to farming and it is like working with nature - a long-term solution to calculated and controlled soil."

That brings him to the most important factor: marketing of organic products. While the situation definitely improved in the past couple of years, awareness, feels Darshan Singh, is still in the depths.

"We, at our outlet here in town, have a regular clientele and the number is only increasing," declares the rather reticent Malwinder Kaur, who takes care of the marketing aspect of the farm.

[Courtesy: The Hindustan Times]