'We left city lights for the farms' quiet'

Bengalureans have moved to organic farms on the outskirts, some leaving lucrative tech jobs.

Published: 04th June 2016 06:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th June 2016 06:33 AM   |  A+A-

We Left

Through Permaculture He Found a partner

Amid the pollution pervading the city, Bengalureans, in pockets, are striving for sustainability. Some have even moved away to start organic farms.

John Fennessy’s Hamsah Farm, off Sarjapur Main Road, is perhaps among the ones closest to the city at about 30 km.

His five acres, where peanuts, cow peas and ragi are grown, also have 30 coconut palms, 80 mango trees and a few guava ones.

John, who hails from USA’s New York state, first heard of permaculture — sustainable agriculture — while in Auroville. “That was soon after college, in 2002,” says Fennessy, who went to University of Vermont.

So he started working on Solitude Farm near Puducherry, where he met his architect wife Shweta. Five years on, they moved to her hometown, where her brother owned land, and began to cultivate it.

“We also have trees —  mango and guava — and cows and chicken,” he says. “Most of the cows are huge, not the naati variety, so I make sure to leave between 30 and 50 per cent of the land uncultivated for them to graze on.”

His products have been showcased at flea markets at Jaaga. Since his wife moved to the city to continue with her practice a few months ago, John manages everything on the farm.

“There’s one paid employee who cooks and takes care of the cows,” he says. But, otherwise, he depends on volunteers, whom he calls friends, for help. The peanuts become peanut butter and the mangoes are pickled or used for jam before they hit the market. “So the volunteers help out with that as well,” he says.

They Quit IT for the Greens Always wanted to Farm

About 10 km beyond Chikkaballapura district’s Bagepalli village, Hari Narayan Reddy, in his early thirties, has used ancestral property flanked by acquired land to farm.

“In all, it’s 100 acres,” says Reddy, who went to Puducherry’s Sri Aurobindo International Centre for Education.

Hailing from an agricultural background, Reddy says he knew early on he wanted to go the farming way.

“The school doesn’t have a fixed curriculum or syllabus,” he explains. “So the idea is that you will figure out what you want do in the process.”

During the last three years of schooling, he worked on a dairy farm nearby. Later, he assisted and picked up organic farming techniques from his maternal uncle, who lives near Kolar.

“He used to be a sericulture lecturer, and gave it up to farm on his 30 to 40 acre patch,” says Reddy. “In that water scarce region, he has managed to devise novel ways of irrigation, and doesn’t depend on borewells. That gave me the courage to start.”

Reddy says he petitioned the district commissioner to clean up Chikkaballapura’s lakes recently, and the groundwater level has risen to 20 feet.

“I started in 2012, with cows and goats,” he says. Over the past three years, banana, mango and pomegranate trees have come up, although none bear fruit yet.

He has tried cow pea and toor dal as inter-crops. “We had a good yield last year, and we managed to harvest quite a bit of it green,” he says. “I would drive up 110 km to Kalasipalya in a small van every night and wait at the auction with it. The rest we harvested dry.”

This and the animal husbandry side of the farm have so far been most financially rewarding, he says. “For expenses, I still depend on the loan I took.”

Name: john fannessy

Journey: Met his wife at Solitude Farm in Auroville, and now runs his own — Hamsah Organic Farm

Location: Off Sarjapur Main Road, about 30 km from the city

Name: Hari Narayan Reddy

Journey: Studied at the

Aurobindo Ashram school,

Puducherry, trained at a Dairy Farm there and with his uncle near Kolar

Location: Beyond Bagepalli, in Chikkaballapura district

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