An organic journey from tech to soil

A new breed of organic farmer, NT Prasanth Kumar also takes classes at his farm for the coming generations about the contemporary importance of organic produce.
Prasanth Kumar in his lush organic farm of vegetables in Madurai. (Photo | KK Sundar)
Prasanth Kumar in his lush organic farm of vegetables in Madurai. (Photo | KK Sundar)

MADURAI: 'If organic produce is a general good, why can’t it be produced and sold at affordable costs?’
This question turned around the life of a 40-year-old techie. Years later, the Madurai-native runs an eight-acre integrated vegetable farm near Ulaganeri village, along the Madurai-Chennai NH. A new breed of organic farmer, NT Prasanth Kumar also takes classes at his farm for the coming generations about the contemporary importance of organic produce.

“My journey as an environmentalist began in 2010, when I had, with my friends, started taking action to improve Madurai’s green cover. We used to call ourselves the ‘Maram Madurai’ team, we carried out tree planting drives, and tree surveys to create awareness about native tree species and their importance to the ecosystem. Student volunteers helped us maintain the trees we planted,” Prasanth recounts.

“Eventually, I encountered this pivotal question of the affordability of organic produce. I set out to break the persistent myth of organic produce being much more costlier. During those days, environmentalist Pamayan greatly aided me in organising organic farmers and understanding the process itself. Although my initial attempts to coordinate organic farmers across the state and procure from them directly failed due to various logistical difficulties, I came up with the idea of building and maintaining my own organic farm,” he adds.

Having set up the farm only a year ago, Prasanth has been cultivating more than 30 varieties of veggies, and even some fruits, in a totally organic manner, following G Nammalvar’s farming methods. On an average, 100 - 200 people show up daily to purchase produce from his farm, and after deducting the cultivation expenses, Prasanth makes about Rs 80,000 to Rs 1 lakh every month. Moreover, Prasanth and his team have also figured out a way to successfully organise and procure from organic farmers across the state. With produce coming from all over, we are able to provide it at very affordable prices, says Prasanth.
To the question of whether Prasanth and his team would cultivate non-perishable crops like rice and millets, he says, “There are so many other farmers who do that. But there are only a handful of farmers across the state who specialise in perishable organic produce.”

We are also providing internships for students at the farm, to teach them the ways of organic farming, he says, adding that their goal is to prepare the next generation for producing chemical-free organic food items. Prasanth says many youngsters have shown interest in their initiative and pay frequent visits to their farm.

“Recently, after hearing our proposal for organic cultivation at affordable cost, Pothys group has offered assistance, allowing us to use their land for cultivation purposes,” says the changemaker. In the near future, Prasanth also plans to set up a retail outlet for organic produce in Madurai.

(Edited by Suriya B)

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