Hover Effects (TRUE)


Sidebar (TO-LEFT)



Free Solar Power - Get it, be lit.

Top Ad


Agri News:


My Journey as a Organic Farmer from Sirsa, Haryana - India

Harpal Singh Grewal offers a snapshot of his 30-year-long organic farming journey. It is good to see the latest developments in organic agri...

Harpal Singh Grewal offers a snapshot of his 30-year-long organic farming journey.

It is good to see the latest developments in organic agriculture in India, initiated by none other than the number one supporter of organic farming, our beloved PM Modiji and his team. It is nothing less than a dream come true for fellow organic enthusiasts and farmers like me.

The organic community was extremely hopeful of progress since Modiji’s first speech in 2014. However, there were moments of turbulence when it became apparent that organic farmers were facing certain challenges. Fortunately, the present government has realised the importance of the organic initiative and announced its complete support in the promotion of organic and natural farming.

This author descends from an agricultural family in Sirsa—we’ve been farming in this region since 1912. My great grandfather, Baba Sawan Singh Grewal, a visionary, made this possible. As well as being a great scholar and philosopher, he was also a civil engineer and an alumnus of Thomason College of Civil Engineering, Roorkee (now known as IIT). He was a learned scholar of the Vedas and Upanishads, and various religious texts of the world. He was also a linguist, having mastered Sanskrit, Persian, English, Urdu, Hindi and Gurmukhi.

Upon his retirement, he decided to purchase a block of barren land in Sirsa, using his military pension. My father was a young student in Ludhiana at the time. It was during this period that he was taken out of school in Ludhiana and relocated to Sirsa to aid in farming operations with my grandfather and the extended family. My father was blessed to have received training in Vedic farming from my great grandfather. It was thanks to him that my father was trained in these processes, and he then went on to become my teacher in organic agriculture.

When I was introduced to farming in the early 1960s, it was an era in which chemical farming was just being introduced. My older brother was rather impressed by the introduction of chemical processes into farming.

On the other hand, my father was extremely opposed to the way of chemical farming or chemiculture. Thankfully, I have had the luxury of studying both sides. My father, Sardar Naginder Singh Grewal, looked towards me, declaring that I shall be an organic farmer. After 15 years, this did indeed happen, however he wasn’t there to guide me by then.

My journey towards organic farming started in 1992. All I had was my father’s words, stories and advice regarding organic farming. There wasn’t much literature available on the topic at the time, and I was met with discouragement when I asked around. I had received some information on the subject from abroad, but no actual knowledge on organic farming.

While searching for literature on the subject, I came across pertinent books in a shop named People Tree in the ‘Regal’ building in Connaught Place, New Delhi. First, I purchased a book titled The Organic Farming Source Book authored by Claude Alvares; then I bought the complete set of books by Masanobu Fukuoka, the Gandhian scientist and philanthropist.

My focus shifted to studying and understanding the philosophy of agriculture. It was during this learning period, that I decided to drop the use of chemicals on my farm, and in doing so I failed miserably due to drop of yield.

Following this, I became a laughing stock among fellow farmers and my family. Soon I understood my mistake—I had not adopted crop rotation. I gradually realised that there was a market available abroad for organic produce. A logical economical decision I made was to switch over to basmati rice, which needed less water than regular paddy and fetched a good price in the market.

The education of my children moved me to New Delhi, so I started retailing from home. The neighbours’ children affectionately named my wife atta wali/ chawal wali aunty. We paid for our children’s fees and maintained household expenses by selling our produce. It was an enriching learning experience, though very tough times. One thing that surprised me was that my farming debt wasn’t increasing, rather I saw a gradual decrease—this encouraged me.

At the time, there was no certifying agency, so I travelled to Mumbai in search of a certifying body, but retuned empty-handed. In the meantime, I met a gentleman by the name of Bucker Dieter, a native German who was conducting some business in Kashmir. We got into a discussion and he decided to start a venture with me. Dieter had my farm produce tested from a German laboratory and was able to have it passed.

Next came the task of exporting the produce and with much difficulty, as well as, expenses, we exported our first container of Pusa Basmati. Unfortunately, our agent forgot to attach the certificate of origin and consequently we didn’t make any money.

Meanwhile, I went to a basmati exporter to sell my concept. I was taken very lightly, and my services were utilised free of charge for quite some time. To make matters worse I wasn’t even paid in full for my basmati.

Subsequently, I formed a company with a relative, called Indian Organic Food. I was overjoyed that at last things were moving in the right direction.

Our company started exporting basmati, but was unable to sell the other items we produced at our farm. Our company won awards from APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) for two consecutive years for our export of organic basmati. I also developed and expanded the project from Haryana up to the border of Nepal. For three years, we kept building the project in three states, namely Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The concept of organic farming was not fully understood or appreciated by my partners, but the ROI was incentivising enough form them to continue.

Unfortunately, as time went on, a dispute arose between my partners and me. I have always wanted to dedicate my full attention to organic agriculture, so instead of frittering away time on litigation, I continued with my journey. The company was dissolved as an outcome of the dispute.

On a positive note, the government had taken note of the organic farming concept and took the decision to form a steering committee with my aid in 2003. I was one if its founding members.

Thanks to the pandemic, consumers have finally realised the value of ethical organic practices. With the support of the Indian government, as well as, consumers, I see a bright future ahead for organic farming and organic products.

The author is an organic farmer since 1992. He is the owner of the Haryana, Sirsa-based

No comments