– Rosamma Thomas
[This article was originally published in Countercurrents.org. Link to the original article]
Afrin Kale is a farmer with a degree in civil engineering. A resident of Pune city, her five-acre farm is in Pimpalgaon Ghode village of Ambegaon Tehsil of Pune district, about 80 km from the city. She travels once or twice each week to the farm, and she has hired Ravi and Roshni, a young couple, to live in the farm and help with work.
What is unique about Afrin’s farm is the fact that she uses no chemical fertilizers or pesticides; she also tends to a vast diversity of species. There are four different varieties of wheat, two different varieties of little millets, different kinds of rice, besides radish, corn, mangoes, bananas, mustard, flaxseed, jute, bamboo stalks, zucchini, melons, methi, French beans and other crops.
There is a large 65-metre by 20-metre tank in which fish is being cultivated, and this would be the first lot of rohu (Indian carp) and catla (South Asian carp) fish from her farm. There is one cow, five goats and a few chickens too.
Afrin now works in partnership with 15 different farmers in the area, all of whom grow their crops without using chemical inputs. They meet to decide on what they will grow, so that they can together meet the diverse demands of a regular set of customers, most of whom are residents of Pune keen on cooking with vegetables that are grown in a healthy way, without using poisonous inputs. “Yes, the vegetables are priced a little higher than what one might get in the closest retail market, but we are slowly growing our base of customers,” she says.