Call of the green thumb

Madhu Chandan left his IT job in the U.S. to come back to India and farm. He decided to change age-old methods and introduce new ones.

Published - February 11, 2016 04:51 pm IST

Madhu Chandan: Founder, Organic Mandya

Madhu Chandan: Founder, Organic Mandya

Under the hot sun, a group of farmers huddle around a man. They are brimming with excitement as the man plants paddy saplings. He is one of them, yet different. While they are farmers who have almost lost hope of a decent livelihood, this man is a farmer by choice, one who is quite new to farming, yet is bringing back hope to the farmers of Mandya, Karnataka. A software developer from the U.S, Madhu Chandan S.C. plants the last sapling and stands up to cheers and applause from the bystanders.

Chandan, or “Madhu anna” as he is referred to by the farmers, came back from the U.S. after giving up his job as a software developer. He started Organic Mandya, in association with the Mandya Organic Farmers Cooperative Society, in November 2015.

The goal of the Society was to highlight the importance and need for organic farming. There were organic farmers in Mandya, but they found the returns were low. The Society aimed to uplift these farmers. It began with 270 members and now has 350.

Last week, Organic Mandya was in the news for having organised a Sweat Donation for agriculture. The idea was to sweat for a cause by working on the farm and learning about organic farming and the healthy benefits of eating organically grown food.

Reaping benefits

Chandan says he and his wife gave up the American Dream to come back and take up farming. In Mandya, he realised that farmers had been using pesticides and chemicals which led to the soil quality being compromised. Consequently, the Society was formed. “After starting the Society, we realised that we needed a good marketing channel. The Society did not have enough to take care of the marketing of the produce. This is how Organic Mandya was born,” says Chandan. Only marginal or small land-holding farmers — those with holdings that range from 0.5 to 2.5 acres — are part of the Society.

Organic Mandya bridges the gap between farmers and those who buy their products. Set up on the Mysuru-Bengaluru Highway, it has a supermarket, an organic food restaurant, and an oil extraction mill. However, the organic products are expensive. When asked about the higher prices, in an interview, Chandan said, “I never understand how people are willing to spend hundreds of rupees on medicines, but when it comes to shelling out a little extra money for organic products they think twice. In fact, I would recommend that everyone tries going completely organic for a year. And then see how much money you save on hospital bills and medicines.”

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