Madurai

More youth showing interest in organic farming

Senior agriculturist Pamayan trains farmers interested in organic farming.

Senior agriculturist Pamayan trains farmers interested in organic farming.  

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‘There are 32 registered and around 150 unregistered farmers in Madurai’

M. Rakesh Kumar, a farmer in Usilampatti, returned home two years ago leaving behind a lucrative job in Dubai to start organic farming.

“I always knew that I was interested in agriculture. My forefathers bought land on Usilampatti-Peraiyur Road. My family and I decided to put it to use and worked on creating pesticide-free produce,” Mr. Rakesh Kumar says.

And he is not alone.

Senior agriculturist Pamayan points to a rise in the number of youth who are trying to cultivate healthy produce.

Mr. Pamayan, who trains interested farmers, says his workshops are filled with IT professionals from across the State.

A. Senthil, a 35-year-old IT professional-turned-farmer in Melur, says he was drawn into the world of organic farming after watching Kollywood movies. “Since we owned land in Melur, we decided to begin the process of cultivating brinjal and tomatoes. We eat the food we produce and sell it at a local sandhai.”

However, many of his peers in and around his farm, do not wish to make the move. Those doing chemical farming spend far less as they receive subsidised fertilizers and always make a better margin than those selling organic produce, he points out.

Despite the surge in interest, Mr. Pamayan says that when it comes to cultivating, there are only a few micro and small-scale agriculturists who undertake the methodology and advocate it. Without a policy on organic farming at the State level or availability of subsidies, farmers are forced to sell their produce at rates slightly higher than those produced using chemical fertilizers as it is the only way to see small margins of profit.

According to a senior official from the Agricultural department that certifies organic produce, there are only 32 registered organic farmers cultivating around 710 acres of land in Madurai.

Mr. Pamayan feels there could be around 150 unregistered organic farmers. However, the industry is barely booming despite demand for the produce.

Reason: lack of three inputs — modern technology, financial support and policy.

“Officials in the agriculture department are experts in chemical farming but many are yet to be trained in the nuances of the organic kind. They suggest that we use chemicals instead of slaving through the process. We only use vermicompost, manure and self-made biofertilizers,” he says.

More importantly, there is no procurement policy for agricultural products cultivated through the pesticide-free method.

“A policy must answer why we should look at this method as a viable option and give us some subsidies. The metrics can be determined based on the soil quality of the land,” he adds.

His take: organic farming can easily be practised in Madurai and crops such as millets, vegetables and fruits can be grown. At present, it is happening in pockets of T. Kallupatti, Kariapatti, Natham, Vadipatti and Peraiyur.

Retired judge Sadayandi, who practises organic farming in Elumalai region, lists out the benefits.

“It is great for the environment, improves the local economy and helps many people across various socio-economic backgrounds. However, the maximum satisfaction comes from knowing that we are one with nature and producing healthy food for others and not causing any harm,” he says.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 12:45:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/more-youth-showing-interest-in-organic-farming/article29782407.ece

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