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A Chennai City Woman Turns Organic Farmer

Anuradha Balaji bought land in Tiruvallur, set up a farm there, and manages it single-handedly.She worked as librarian in Saudi Arabia for 10 years before becoming a farmer

Published: 29th March 2016 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th March 2016 06:00 AM   |  A+A-

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CHENNAI: When we talk of women breaking social barriers, we hardly think of them as farmers. But that’s what Anuradha Balaji of Villivakkam has done. She bought a piece of land in neighbouring Tiruvallur district, set up a farm there, and manages it almost single-handedly. She travels an hour every day to the farm at Periyapalayam and supervises the workers.

“Many people in this locality thought I’m a soft-spoken Brahmin woman who would be scared of problems and soon sell the land. But I chose to fight and asked thorough questions to get the benefits,” Anuradha Balaji tells City Express. She narrates an incident when officials asked for unnecessary documents to provide benefits to farmers. “I realised that being a woman farmer is not easy. But I fought the discrimination with support from my husband and family,” she says.

citya.jpgEven as she speaks to the reporter, she instructs the farm workers to stop the flow of water. “It’s afternoon; don’t water plants and trees now,” she tells them and adds that her farm (eight acres of land) is an organic farm.

“We use organic ingredients for manure, including a mix of cow urine, dung and dry leaves,” she says. How did the 43-year-old with a masters degree in library and information science and a career as a librarian in Saudi Arabia take up farming?

“I worked there for 10 years. But when I got back, the first thing I wanted to do was farming. With my husband’s help, I bought the land near Vadamadurai. My uncle too encouraged me and I finally set up this farm in 2008,” she recalls.

“Both of us were interested in organic farming for several years. My wife decided to start doing what we always wished to. I support her financially,” says Balaji, adding that he might be able to help her even more when he returns from Saudi Arabia, where he now works.

But Anuradha doesn’t depend on her husband alone. She works in such a way that the farm sustains itself. She does inter-crop cultivation, so if one crop fails, the other crop would her make ends meet. She also makes value-added products from farm produce.

“If the market for gooseberries is poor, we make candy and pickle. We also grow rice and other grains and vegetables. We also plan to grow herbal plants for medicinal use. Right now, we are laying the foundation. My failures have taught me how to manage a farm. Without my family’s support, I wouldn’t be able to do what I had always dreamed of,” she smiles.

Shankar, a chemical engineer who quit his job to assist her, explains, “We want to do integrated farming. We plan to bring in native cows also, which will help in farming and (provide) manure. Man, land and animals are interconnected and we should preserve them.”

Couple share the same passion

“Both of us were interested in organic farming for several years. My wife decided to start doing what we always wished to. I support her financially,” says Balaji, adding that he might be able to help her even more when he returns from Saudi Arabia, where he now works.

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