KOCHI: Growing up in Thumbur, a small village in Thrissur district, Tom Kiron Davis spent the majority of his days assisting his father and grandfather in the paddy field and cultivating different types of spices. Born in a farmer’s family, Tom always associated himself closely with nature and found solace in its lap.
Tom left his high-paying job in UAE in 2015 and decided to come back home and work with the soil. The youngster was welcomed by many acres of barren land. Soon, he understood that the obsolete marketing strategies followed by the farmers of his village weren’t fetching them enough income. This had forced most of them to leave farming and pick other odd jobs.
But many people in his village couldn’t wrap their heads around seeing an M A Economics graduate working in the field. “Many thought I lost my mind — choosing an unstable profession over a hospital administration job in Dubai. Farming has always been considered a low-income occupation. I wanted to prove this is wrong. The farmers here don’t require any guidance in farming.
But they incur losses during post-harvest sales, as they haven’t explored any medium other than the traditional method of selling their produces,” says Tom. Tom sowed the first set of seeds of an indigenous rice variety on the 1.5 acres of land he leased out. “It was a fallow land. I had to move the dirt, take out the weeds and level it. I had to enrich the soil using natural fertilisers like vermicompost, cow dung, and jeevamrit,” he says. After a month and a half, the land was fit for cultivation.
Thanks to his relentless efforts, the paddy field brought a good yield in the very first year. This motivated many farmers of the Velookkara panchayat to join him. With their support, and aids from Velookkara Krishibhavan and Athani social&cultural club, Tom could turn the 100 acres of barren fields into fertile lands. Following this, many people started taking up farming on the portion of land they had leased out.
Tom wanted to put an end to the conventional marketing method of selling products via middlemen.
“The farmers were being exploited by these middlemen who affix a low rate for their produce. My collective uses social media for promoting its products. The indigenous rice varieties that we grow are highly nutritious and has medicinal value. It has plenty of demand and it helps our farmers a lot,” says Tom.
The products are being sold on multiple platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, under the collective ‘Tom Farmers Club’. Buyers are requested to pay an advance when placing orders and the items are sent over the post. Tom also sells the products on Amazon under the brand name Pepenero.
“Farming becomes a lucrative profession only when you learn to market the products right. That or the Government has to make efforts to channelise stable income to the farmers. That is the only way to get youngsters to join,” says Tom.
In 2018, Tom received the Swami Vivekananda Yuva Pratibha Award from the state government.
Rice and spices are Tom’s signature produce. When he returned to Kerala, there was not a single patch of paddy in his panchayat. But now, Tom and eight fellow farmers are successfully cultivating 12 acres of land. He has been growing four varieties of indigenous rice — Mattatriveni, Kuruva, Rakthashali and Kodukanni — for the last seven years. “Price rates of perishable items often tend to fluctuate. But spices and rice can be stored for a long time, and sold at a fixed rate,” adds Tom. The paddy grown on the rest of the land is sold to government’s Supplyco. On extra four acres of land, he grows nutmegs, turmeric etc.