Vocation: Natural farmer
Location: Davangere, Karnataka
“Natural systems have a remarkable tendency to renew and transform in continuous cycles. As farmers, we get to work along with these cycles and leave nature to flourish on its own. It will slow down or speed up, according to its own needs,” says Raghava.
Natural farming is based on human-intervention-and-interference-free agricultural practices. It is a process which tries to heal the destruction caused by human knowledge and human activities.
When Raghava was a young man, some incidents changed the course of his life. Ahead of him was a deserted road on which he walked alone to eventually land in nature’s lap. Initially, Raghava walked on this road as a sad youth because it was not the path he had chosen but the path on which he had been thrown.
When Raghava was in college, he would enjoy reading biographies of entrepreneurs. He was inspired by them and wanted to be one of them. However, destiny had other plans for him. Or it would be better to say that his path was right under his feet but he was wasting his energy looking for it elsewhere. It was during his college years that family pressure and responsibilities put the burden of the family’s agricultural fields on his shoulders. Though Raghava took this responsibility, especially since he had little choice, he also continued with his education and went on to get a degree in MBA.
Incidentally, he happened to attend a seminar on natural farming. Impressed by the process, he adopted the same in his field.
“In a coconut orchard, one has to wait for three years to see the desired results. I adopted natural farming in 1996, but the harvest in 1999 was a big failure. All the trees had turned yellow, the crops were completely ruined. I didn’t know where I had gone wrong. To understand my mistake, I read several books on natural farming, participated in various workshops and met many farmers. And that’s when I understood that natural farming was not all about farming alone but it was also a way of living your life that leads to a healthy and happy lifestyle. It is a way of living that takes one in nature’s refuge and teaches one to live in harmony with nature,” Raghava tells me.
When Raghava met some farmers who had prestigious degrees to prove their modern education and were yet involved in agriculture, he realised that he, too, was quite satisfied with his life and was living a happy life with his family. As soon as Raghava realised that farming is the reason for a happy life, he dropped his initial idea of becoming a top businessman and adopted farming as his profession.
“People often say that natural farming is a ‘do-nothing farming technique’ but it’s not true. The objective of natural farming is to minimise human interference and use one’s time and effort for the betterment of oneself, one’s family and one’s society,” adds Raghava, who is heavily inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka, more popularly known as the ‘father of natural farming’ and author of The One-Straw Revolution.
Unlike conventional farming, there is no cultivation, fertiliser, pesticide or weeding involved in natural farming. But one has to invest time and effort — before beginning with natural farming — to create an environment for nature where these techniques are not required. If one manages to create an environment like this, then the only task that requires attention is harvesting.
“When I first adopted natural farming, that was the mistake I made. I had not created a natural farming-friendly environment where my crops could flourish. Even I had assumed it to be ‘do-nothing-farming’ initially. UItimately, I ended up doing absolutely nothing. Now, over the years, I am learning more and more about this style of farming,” recalls Raghava.
Natural farming teaches to first feed the family without any intention of greed; if nature gives you more than you need, then you must share it with your community; and if something still remains, you should sell it. On the other hand, conventional farming is about selling whatever you grow. This leads to greed. To fulfill this greed, we want more and more harvest, which in turn requires use of poisonous chemicals. These poisonous chemicals not only harm humans but also have a negative impact on nature.
“This is the reason many of us are now looking for options that bring us and our families closer to nature and provide us with a better lifestyle. In an effort to achieve the same, we are continuously bringing changes in our lives. We don’t send our children to schools; they are home-schooled (swashikshan), and are learning at their own natural speed. As far as possible, we use home remedies for any sort of illness or injury. If home remedies are not enough, we turn to Naturopathy, Ayurveda or Homeopathy. We try and use old, indigenous grains and vegetables in our food as much as possible. And now our family is exploring the idea of building a habitat with eco-friendly materials,” he says.
Leading a lifestyle like this is not always easy but Raghava’s family is always by his side, supporting him and assisting him. After all, whatever he is doing is for the wellbeing and happiness of his family.
“If they won’t be happy, I won’t be happy,” he says.
Raghava adds that if one compares his fields with that of others, one will find that his farm produces better yield. “And thats not all, now I am also able to produce various rare fruits and vegetables that I could never grow earlier. Today, I’ve created a new ecosystem around me where birds, animals, insects, plants and humans live in harmony. And that is what we must all do. When I had set out on this journey of farming, I was alone and sad. But when I began to truly see things around me, I understood that I was never alone. Nature, naturally present flora and fauna, and my family were always by my side. And the real happiness lies in living together in harmony,” he tells me.
Raghava says that had he not adopted natural farming or understood the different perspectives of life, he would have never understood this truth of life. To continue on this path, his philosophical enlightenment experience was the base.