Food

Sunnybrook farm

It was a pleasant day to be out in Delhi — a sunny Sunday morning. With not many having stirred out of their houses just yet, the roads were so clear I did 50 km in less than an hour. The GPS worked just right too, thankfully, leading me to The Prodigal Cook Farms just a tiny turn off the main road. The idea is to rediscover organic farm living with Puneet Tyagi and Neha Bhatia, an earnest couple that does everything from cook and serve to help you understand why it’s okay to leave turmeric in the ground for several months (because it’s anti-bacterial, remember, and so won’t attract any pests). Swati Talwar, who does the Sunday event with them, helpfully guides you through the day’s activity. The farm experience is registered on Airbnb at ₹1,250 per head, including food and beverages.

The good thing to do is go in a group, or go prepared if you’re alone. This is the place to finish a book, for instance, as you sit and doze in the sun. The food and home-made beverages (kanji, haldi-milk, organic coffee and tea) come in small plates, and you’re offered seconds and thirds of each course. (By the end of the afternoon, you’re sunned and stuffed enough to go home and sluggishly prep for Monday morning, before calling it an early night.)

When I went, there was a large group of people with young children, all being goaded into a workshop that they had little interest in. So if you do come with kids (and you must) I beseech you — let them be. It’s a great place for children to look around, stand and stare (not at a mobile phone, but at Basanti the buffalo), play with the farm dog (Tofu), or, as one boy did, draw a stick through the mud for hours with no particular agenda in mind. There was another couple of kids, who took to playing badminton on a spot of land that was empty of vegetables.

Parin Mehta, Director – APAC, Airbnb Trips, says that farm-to-fork experiences are popular amongst a fairly wide range of audience. “Due to the family-friendly nature of the experience, a lot of couples with kids find it to be a great way to spend their afternoon with the family. In fact, there has been a fair amount of interest lately in the organic farming sector. People are enjoying spending a fun Sunday morning at a farm, or just learning little anecdotes about organic farming.”

It’s a good idea to call in ahead and check how many people will be there — while the property will take up to 70 kids and adults, an ideal number is 30-35, so you have enough space to yourself.

Puneet and Neha are charming hosts, though you don’t meet Neha too much — she’s the cook and takes care of the back-end, so to speak. Puneet charmingly takes you on a tour of the 2-acre farm (there are 3 more reserved for local, seasonal vegetables) to point out the veggies and give you little helpful insights. For instance, beetroot must always be bought with the leaves — it’s a sign that pesticides haven’t been used on it.

He tells the story of the land, how he’s had it for some years, but when he got married and thought he’d show off a bit to his wife, “she usurped the land and now it’s hers,” he jokes. Neha spends most of her day here, while he (with a full-time job) comes in over the weekend (they live elsewhere).

Puneet talks about how the land, initially farmed by the locals, produced a single crop of larger-than-life radishes. When they decided to turn farmers themselves, they made up their minds to go natural (it can’t be classified organic just yet), despite the fact that the land was ‘shocked’ for the first six months (it’s been just a year-and-a-half), and gave very little yield. “But it has paid off,” he says, handing us peas that we had forgotten could taste so sweet, because what we were eating was often cold-stored.

It’s obviously been an uphill task, but the couple remains positive. Then there were the wild boars that came to eat the sweet potatoes and the nilgai (blue bull) that came to eat corn and sugarcane! The couple confesses that when they began, armed with books on organic farming and many a YouTube video, they thought they knew it all. “We didn’t know anything,” says Puneet. They collaborated with the four farmers that they employed, learning with them, and helping them to try out new things, to gradually build up the produce.

As you chat, course after course of vegetarian fare comes to you: some chana, a winter salad with a little edible flower. Then you settle down to eat wood-oven-fresh pizzas, and fresh-from-the-land saag and makki ki roti. Breathing in the clean(ish) air, you’re happy you haven’t spent another mindless day at the mall.


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Printable version | Jul 2, 2022 8:32:33 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/sunnybrook-farm/article22729482.ece