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Farming for self-consumption and markets: Monetary views of a farmer

Amit Bhatt
Amit Bhatt
Shobha Ram with fresh courgette

Shobha Ram is a progressive farmer, whose name is his brand, from Ayodhya. He was recently interviewed by Megha Sharma on FTB platform. His main offerings are bananas, tomatoes and veggies. He has setup the farmhouse on this basis and he has started with goat farming. He has been a professional farmer since 2006 but he has been associated with farming since his childhood.

What to grow and when

What his father did is what he is managing now. Traditionally wheat, rice and ground based vegetables were the main items of interest. Now they are growing vegetables over bamboo sticks and cables. To reduce the overall costs, on 25th June after sowing paddy, irrigation and rains the banana plants are transplanted by 10th July. The paddy they planted are good tasting, highly productive and fast growing. We harvest paddy between 10th-15th September, and in the meantime, our focus is on our banana plants. Simultaneously they also grow potatoes and cauliflowers. They grow pumpkins after the potatoes. We will be able to finish the pumpkins by April-May. By July-August we will see the banana fruits and by October-November it will be harvested. We have to be active with time management to take proper care of the crops.

A power tiller is extremely important, because if you don't have the right tools and equipment, you will not be able to perform the farm duties effectively, if at all. We have to manage every piece of land, by calculating what to plant where so they grow in cohesion. Out main offering is bananas, hence the other crops are planted in such a way so as not to trouble the full growth of bananas. 

Banana trees and Pumpkins

These potatoes improve the quality of soil. These potatoes and rice are consumed by us, the pumpkin is a cash crop and gets us money. This cash is used up in growing bananas, so that we get more money from good quality bananas.   

Methods and markets

When asked about his farming methods - whether he farms the organic way or uses chemicals, the farmers replied that he uses both methods, in a mixed way. He uses cow dung as manure and UREA, Potash as fertilizers. Research is going on in Jodhpur, Rajasthan on organic Potash and when its complete we will get 50 Kgs of this at Rs 350-400. He was informed about the organic Potash by senior fellows, who updates him on the progress of the research, which is going well.

Harvest of Courgettes

Megha questioned him about the markets where he sells his produce. He answered that he is able to sell his bananas within the Ayodhya district. The traders chop these bananas off his plants themselves, for which they pay Rs 1000 to Rs 1600-1700 per quintal. So his bananas sell at Rs 10-17 per Kg. 

He was asked if he is using online platforms for sale or had online presence for contact purposes, he replied in negative. He said he will consider this option when his products are completely organic. He said he has mango trees under which he is growing turmeric and ginger. If he is able to grow some more spices, he plans to grind them and sell them with his brand name. He wants to work on preserving fruits and producing pickles too, which again he will sell from his farmhouse with his label. As for bananas he has so many clients that he doesn’t need to sell online or to any market outside the district, and he gets good rates.  

Best banana bunch

On what made his bananas different and special, he replied that growing bananas is not easy, time management is important, cleanliness is important and if your fruit is of good quality only then it will be in demand in the markets. He sells by bunch and throws away the weak or low quality bananas. He prepares his bunch so that only good bananas reach the consumers and he expects to get paid well. He uses fungicides, insecticides when required and says that every fruit must catch some sunlight. His analysis is that good quality fruits will always sell well. 

He is not interested in selling his bananas to any markets outside district of Ayodhya as he is getting the price that he wants. In fact, bananas are brought here from other states like Bihar to Ayodhya, which means that we have a good market here for the fruit. We don't produce locally enough to sell to other states. Ayodhya city is a religious spot and bananas are in great demand in Navratras and other festivals.          

Experience of customers 

Megha asked him to share his customer's experience of his bananas, he replied that he is also a tailor and has a shop with 6-7 artisans which has been operation since 2003, here he sells his Agri products too. This shop is next to the main road and he started farming as a side business. Customers get bananas at cheaper rates than the market and in Rs 100, they get a bag full of our farm veggies and fruits. Even in the lockdown period customers are provided supply of vegetables from his shop. Most of the people locally have come to know about us and come to buy again and again from us. His next plan is to show his farm and shop as a business to the customers. The customers will get everything they want from us and there will be no need for them to go to the markets.

Message for fellow farmers

He said that almost everyone in rural areas does farming, and they may suffer losses as inflation increases. He recommends farmers to start animal husbandry as a side business. Working with these animals will make organic farming possible. The type of animals you keep in your farm depends on you. If you keep dairy animals you will get milk from them, cow dung can be used as manure, as he already mentioned. He said he has taken up goat rearing instead of cattle farming, because managing cattle is much more difficult. With goats, in the end they will be sold and they are useful in organic farming too, he says. He did not have to build a big shed, these goats stay in the shelter under a tree. All your waste from the farm you can feed your animals and use your animal waste in the farms. You can prepare your organic manure in 24 hours with animal waste.    

He suggests his fellow farmers to work with multi-cropping as it will deliver different items to your plate. You can consume these or sell these. You must grow items like onions and potatoes that you can store. He said what a farmer sells at Rs 10 is sold at Rs 25 in the markets. If the customers buy directly from the farmers at Rs 15, both farmer and customers will be in profit. 

You can also farm sugarcane, so that you have a variety of items to offer to your customers. This sugarcane can be sold as it is or as juice or jaggery in multiple flavors. Jaggery is cut into barfi shape and then sold. Organic jaggery is being sold in the market at Rs 200 per Kg. Rajendra Verma, his fellow farmer and friend, is selling jaggery through one district one product scheme, under the brand name of "Ayodhya Jaggery". Local farmers in this area are joining this brand to make and supply their village produced jaggery.

You have your crops, your fruits, animals that will assist you in organic farming. Your costs will go down. He suggests the farmers to use co-cropping methods. He said his desi cucumber is selling in the market for Rs 15-20 while hybrid cucumbers were fetching Rs 5-7. These methods will allow you to invest less and earn more as a farmer.  

At the moment he is working on collecting desi seeds, as seeds and fertilizers are where the income of the farmer goes. So collecting seeds saves him money. These desi seeds are productive and their crops are good in taste. So you must look for money saving methods. Please click here to see the video.

Shobha Ram

Shobha Ram

Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh

The Organic Vegetables

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