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How to (and why) start an organic farm?

With more and more people looking for healthier options when it comes to the food they eat, it does make sense to invest time & energy into healthier farming practices. And one such practice or system is organic farming. 

What’s driving organic farming?

People change eating habits constantly and this has led to changes in agriculture as well. In today’s world, people are demanding:

  • Chemical free food
  • Lowering wastage / carbon footprint when it comes to food production
  • Diversity of nutrition sources - (it’s not just meat & dairy anymore) people want seeds, nuts, legumes and lesser known sources of macro & micro nutrients
  • A return to non-processed foods. Think jaggery instead of white sugar!
  • The farm-to-table pathway for production. 

Organic farming seems to have the wherewithal to meet almost all these demands.  

What’s organic farming?

The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Government of India defines organic farming as, “..a system of agriculture without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides with an environmentally and socially responsible approach. This is a method of farming that works at grass root level preserving the reproductive and regenerative capacity of the soil, good plant nutrition, and sound soil management, produces nutritious food rich in vitality which has resistance to diseases.”

India holds the 8th position when it comes to global organic agricultural land. More importantly, there are plans to expand the presence of organic farming in the country. 

The Ministry of Agriculture constituted a task force to make recommendations for this sector and here are some of the viewpoints & advice that has come India’s way:

  • Set up a Central Organic Farming Research Institute 
  • Include organic farming in school curriculum
  • Tax waivers to organic production units
  • Separate departments for organic farming in all agriculture universities

How to start an organic farm?

It is interesting to note that people have started organic ‘farms’ in their own backyards, terraces or balconies too. This goes a long way in supporting a small household. There are also people like Ramesh Chander Dagar, from Sonipat and Pappammal of Thekkampatti who started small & have crafted phenomenal ways to ensure there is healthy food for more people out there. 

It is crucial to begin with proper identification of site or soil and match it to the crop that it can support. It is a great idea to network with the local community and attend organic farmers meets to get an in-depth understanding of what works. 

Some organic farmers focus on just one crop and others do multi-cropping or crop rotation. Decisions would depend on what is best suited for the soil. It is important to use pesticides and manure only from natural sources. So, think cow dung instead of a toxic chemical that comes in a sack!

You can also tap into the immense information provided by the Government of India on this subject. 

And if you want any more inspiration on why you should eat healthy and go the organic route, you simply have to tune into Vandana Shiva’s words: “India should be 100% organic and not just 10%. In the process….we save the social & ecological destruction of India ...and damages to health.”