A group of professionals from Chennai turn to farming during weekends, to help poor farmers find free labour and other support. M.J. Prabu meets the enterprising bunch

A motley group heads out of the city every weekend for an activity that is light years away from what it does through the week. Entrepreneurs, software engineers and professionals from various others streams visit agricultural farms and turn farmers as part of an initiative called The Weekend Agriculturist. There is little romanticism attached to this exercise. These youngsters are trying to be of help to the farmers: by offering them free labour, understanding their problems and trying to resolve them.

"Of the many problems faced by farmers today, availability of labour is the most difficult one. So we have decided to help Indian agriculture by volunteering for free labour and making other contributions. The tool we have chosen to achieve this goal is social media and networking," says Harish Srinivasan, a software engineer and an active member of the forum.

"We identify needy farmers and visit them on weekends and help them in processes such as sowing, harvesting and weeding. At present, the 500-odd members, connected through our Facebook group, contribute to this mission, directly and indirectly. We have made farm visits in areas located within 100 km to 150 km from Chennai. The farthest we have gone so far is a farm near Thindivanam," says Harish.

The group has received a warm response from the beneficiary farmers with many of them having requested these Good Samaritans to visit them, many a time.

When the group visits an agricultural farm, it makes it a point to walk across to the neighbouring farm and share the objectives of their mission with that farmer and offer him their support.

Apart from helping out in the farm, the group guides the farmers on good practices in agriculture. They provide these farmers with contact details of other farmers who follow these practices.

Harish says the group is disposed to helping people who want to set up their own farms, but don’t know where to begin. The group draws from its experience of working at farms, while guiding such people. The idea is to help the cause of Indian agriculture, says Harish.

"Group members meet once in a while to review the effectiveness of the farm visits and to plan new ones," says Harish. They are on Facebook and have a blog as well.

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