A small house can turn into an urban farm, yielding a tidy income. That is what it did for 40-year-old Kamala, who gave up her job as a garment worker in Bengaluru and turned her house in a 1,200 sq. ft. plot into a mushroom farm.
Two decades of back-breaking work in different garment factories in the city convinced the woman, who has a pre-university education, that it was time to try something less strenuous. “The continuous hard work does not even give you enough time to visit the washroom. It started making me feel as though I was in jail,” she recalls.
She quit the garment job that was fetching her ₹8,000 a month and chanced upon an article on mushrooms in a magazine. Inspired, she went to Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), 4 km from her house on Tumakuru road on the city’s outskirts, and enrolled in a mushroom cultivation course.
“A short training session by experts was offered, after which I launched cultivation in my house about two years ago. It started with two to three kg a month. Now I grow 50 to 60 kg of oyster mushrooms a month without engaging labour, and earn a profit of about ₹30,000,” she says proudly.
What she cultivates is sold to hotels and vegetable shops regularly. Now that Ms. Kamala has mastered the basics, she has joined a training programme at IIHR on value addition: turning leftover mushrooms into sambar powder and ready-to-eat products.
Her quest now is to set up an unique hotel that is dedicated to mushroom dishes in her husband’s home town of Kushalanagar in Kodagu district. He works as a supervisor in a garment unit, and the couple have a daughter and a son.
“I know I have the potential to increase mushroom production five-fold. But I cannot raise the resources required for such an increase on my own. I am looking for government assistance in any form,” she says.
Ms. Kamala has become an example for her former colleagues in the garment industry, and some have adopted her business model. “People from farming families too can add to their incomes with mushrooms,” she says. On Thursday, she was honoured by the IIHR for her achievements at the inaugural session of its three-day national horticultural fair which attracted farmers from several States.