Kalpana M. a name in Organic Farming popular in Chennai and she quit her job to take the road less traveled.
I knocked her to share her unusual journey on agriculture and farming on the eve of Women’s Day and her journey is an inspiration for many.

Her passion has rekindled the hope of growing better with efforts and care.

Lets hear her story in her version…

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Looking back a year ago, I was a High school Biology teacher and an Academic Coordinator on the brink of a big step up the career ladder. But things were about to change big time as my dream to grow my own food got stronger by the day. I had always been nurturing a dream of owning a garden and growing my own food but somehow it wasn’t materialising alongside having a full-time job.

So, I decided to step off the beaten path and take up a road less travelled, a path riddled with obstacles and doubts. Many people I interacted with who had taken up organic farming had given up mid-way as it was very difficult to sustain plants against pests without pesticides and the likes and it turned out to be a tedious uphill journey to actually see even a moderate amount of success in this field. There was no fool-proof method to follow and there were a lot of factors that could contribute towards the crops failing.

For a city-bred person, toiling in the sun and physical labour was totally alien and it needed a lot of perseverance to see the end result. Moreover, it wasn’t a regular salaried job with the security and assurance of good returns and a secure fund either. With all these apprehensions, I still decided to take the plunge.

My decision to quit my full-time job to become an organic farmer raised a lot of eyebrows. Advice poured in from well-meaning colleagues, family, and friends that this wasn’t such a wise decision to take at this crucial juncture in my career. I did understand their concerns and could totally see their point of view. Leaving a well-paid job in a respectable institution along with a well-earned track record of exemplary performance to boot and not to mention a great step up waiting right around the corner, was not the ideal thing to do. I am sure many would have judged my sanity for taking this step and I don’t blame them. An urban city-bred woman in organic farming was something that didn’t seem to sit well with many but I just had to listen to my calling.

The passion to grow food was born out of the desire to provide my family with clean, nutritious, toxin-free food.  The disturbing ugly side of the food industry and how we seem to have no choice but to buy whatever is sold to us fuelled my passion even more. The satisfaction of feeding my family chemical free, totally organic, native, seasonal and nutritious produce is immense. I believe in native indigenous crops being the most nutritious and best suited for our bodies. I don’t support hybrid varieties and I am totally against GMO’s.

Building a self-sustainable model for living is something that I am working on. Towards an attempt to achieve that our small farmhouse on our farm is SOLAR powered. Rainwater harvesting is built-in to the design of the house and a biogas plant is something I want to look into in the near future.

Today I am cultivating a small half acre farm on the outskirts of Chennai where I grow all the vegetables for my family organically. I have plans of developing it into a self-sustaining space. My farmhouse is solar powered and I have around 20 fully grown coconut trees and 50 plus fruit trees and flowering tree saplings.

Currently, we are growing more than 50 varieties of seasonal vegetables on our farm. We also have a variety of herbs and fruit trees. I have managed to successfully convert my “Farm to Table” dream into a reality. When I choose to grow my own food, I have full control of what I sow, what I reap, what I cook and what I feed my family. There is absolutely no room for doubt and that gives me immense satisfaction.

Working with your own hands, toiling and caring for the plants adds to that much more satisfaction when it’s time for harvest. I don’t think anything that we get easily can ever give you real satisfaction.  In a world where, in the name of development and advancement we are running farther and farther away from nature, poisoning our own food and destroying the ecosystem we live in, there is a serious need to change our way of life. I am hoping we can slow down just a bit and get back to our roots…

I want to change the narrative about farming in my own minuscule way, if possible. I would like to see the perspective about farming change for better. Somewhere down the line in all the urbanization and technological advancement farming had become the most deplored occupation.  I would really like to see a better outlook about it in our next generation.

In all these years of depending on the grocery store, is it even possible to grow our own food? Is it do-able?  Can we try to be producers rather than mind-less consumers to some extent? These are some of the many questions I am trying to find answers to, through my journey.

As an Aspiring Homesteader, I try my best to prepare things myself at home. I make my own soaps, body butters, detergents and cleaning solutions. I also bake my own bread, prepare my own jams, sauces, pastas and cook everything from scratch. I try to reduce my waste by composting my kitchen waste (which I use on my farm) and reuse and recycle non-biodegradable waste.

Though soap making was something I did just for my family, it has somehow unintentionally and unpredictably reached far beyond its own course. It has made me an “accidental entrepreneur” (using this phrase for the lack of any other appropriate word)

This journey of mine has brought out all the facets of my creative side to the foray, be it farming, blogging, art, cooking or creative entrepreneurship. I am extremely happy that I took the stand when I did and did not let my self-limiting doubts bog me down. This women’s Day I urge all women out there to believe in their dreams and follow them passionately.

Today, as a new-age farmer, homesteader, an environmental & food-safety activist, I am slowly but steadily trying to break the barriers, trying to make inroads into changing the world around me, one step at a time. I hope to inspire many others who aspire for a similar lifestyle to take the leap of faith and make a little difference to this world and leave it a better place than we found it.

I would like to leave you with an inspiring quote by Michelle Obama –

“Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?” ― Michelle Obama, Becoming

Guest Post Series Tagline –
A Tribute to the Woman, By the Woman & For the Woman.


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