The pull of New York City is undoubtedly unparalleled. Most people would trade half their fortune to even visit the Big Apple without a second thought. And then there are the odd ones like Anjali Rudraraju, who left her high-paying, corporate job in New York to come back and live a simple life on a farm. Long before the 35-year-old decided to become a farmer, she worked as a global internet strategy manager and a management consultant at two different films in New York. All that is a world away though. Her new life mission is Yarroway Farm, South of Mysuru, where she lives with her husband Kabir Cariappa, also a farmer. Currently located south of Mysuru, Anjali and Kabir have been working to encourage sustainable living and stressing on the fact that there is no alternative to natural food.
How’d she go from New York to the middle of nowhere? While she was working in New York in 2001, she spent her lunch hours chatting up farmers at organic farmer markets. “I bought their produce, visited their farms and began to understand their farming practices, marketing strategies and challenges,” shares Anjali. She noticed the difference in quality of organic produce compared to conventional market produce. “The taste profile of organic food was outstanding. I started including more vegetarian food in my diet. All this really improved my energy levels,” she adds.
That’s when she started thinking about growing the food she wanted to eat, organically. “I wondered why we complicated our food growing system — adopting chemicals and short cuts when natural resources are still accessible. This, especially in a country like India, where the soil and resources make it very easy to adapt to nature’s way of growing healthy food,” she reflects, adding that aping the West in terms of growing our food didn’t really work well when people tried it.
And just like that, working in a corporate environment didn’t make sense to her anymore. “I wanted to do something meaningful and live a simple life in a rural setup,” she recalls. She adds, “I realised it is important to support the current farming system in India with the right kind of methodology that respected nature.” But she didn’t just throw herself into it. She decided to approach it scientifically. She returned to India in 2011 and trained in bio dynamic agriculture at different farms in Mysuru and Gujarat before she started farming.
Her MBA in Marketing and an MS in Information Systems also came in handy. She has been training farmers in rural areas in sustainable farming practices and building models that work for them based on their set up and location. “I have been able to apply my education and work experience in every stream of work at the farm — basic concepts like statistics, strategy, accounting, management, skill development etc,” she tells us.
Farming also kicked off her love story. It was at one of these training sessions in Araku, in 2014, that Anjali met her husband-to-be. They clicked instantly, and have been going forward with the vision to encourage people to understand the importance of natural farming, while making the best use of technology. They married in 2015. “Going forward, we also want to set up a business arm that would support local small scale farmers to trade their products, train them on sustainable farming methodologies and value additions, help market them so that they can continue and encourage such farming practices,” shares Anjali. What’s more, they’re doing their bit to get Gen Y to develop a green thumb. “Depending on how passionate they are, we hire young people as interns and encourage natural farming,” she adds.