SAMBALPUR: Six years back when Sandeep Khandelwal decided to give up his flourishing job as an investment banker and take up farming at an ancestral land in Sambalpur district, this decision left his family in a state of dismay.
But the urge for owning a venture that is sustainable and finding inner peace was too strong to hold him back at the Pune-based MNC Credit Suisse investment banking company that paid him Rs 16 lakh per annum.
After working for seven years, 36-year-old Sandeep, an MBA graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management at Pune, returned to his village Gurla in Bamra block of Sambalpur district. Farming was on the top of his mind as his family owned an ancestral land of 25 acres which lay unused.
For a year, Sandeep went around village farms to see things first hand. And a year later, he started farming by cultivating chilli and ginger over one acre of land each. The beginning was good, fetched him some profit and strengthened his resolve to experiment with more crops.
He started researching online and interacted with farmers in his village to gain knowledge on farming techniques and irrigation. Subsequently, he adopted drip irrigation and mulching for vegetable cultivation which helped him immensely in enhancing production from his farm. He draws water from a deep borewell and a water body dug up on his own land for the crops.
Currently, he cultivates cowpea, french beans, cauliflower, chilli, lady’s finger, cucumber and sweet corn over 11 acres of land and local variety of watermelon over three acres of land. Sandeep is also into floriculture and pisciculture.
He cultivates marigold flowers - which are much in demand during the festive season in the local markets - over two acres of land and produces 300 quintal of the flowers annually. In 2018, he set up a pond in around 2 acre of land for commercial production of Rohu and Catla fishes.
"Fish production was only six quintal in 2019 but this year, it has increased to 35 quintal," says the farmer, who has also planted 700 mango plants over 2.5 acre in three phases and is waiting for commercial production.
By growing fruits and vegetables, Sandeep now earns Rs 15 lakh annually of which Rs 7 lakh goes back into agriculture inputs and maintaining his crop land. His produce is much in demand in the local markets. "So far, I have never faced any problem in selling the yield because traders procure vegetables, fruits and flowers from my doorstep," he says.
When asked what prompted him to shift to a field he had little expertise in? Sustainable living, he replied, adding that his life in the city was mechanical. "I had grown up seeing my family members grow fruits and vegetables. So my interest in farming was natural. I feel farming is the only way for inclusive growth and there is no alternative to it. Most importantly, it gives me immense satisfaction which I never got while I was in the MNC," he says.
Sandeep is also happy that he is currently providing livelihood support to 22 persons including 16 women who are engaged as workers in his farm.
What is he cultivating?
Sandeep cultivates cowpea, french beans, cauliflower, chilli, lady’s finger, cucumber and sweet corn over 11 acres of land and local variety of watermelon over three acres of land
He also grows marigold flowers over two acres of land and produces 300 quintal of the flowers annually