Sharing Knowledge For The Future

July 5, 2020

“Our primary product is knowledge. We are an experimental farm.”

- Robin Singh, Farm Manager at Peepal Farm

Does the youth in India have an interest in sustainable farming?

Will traditional techniques continue to be lost in a generation consumed by Instagram and TikTok?

How can we ensure that our knowledge is not forgotten?

Over the weekend Robin got on the line with Kavvya Rajagopalan, a year 5 student who likes painting enchanted worlds from her imagination. Her family grows their own chilis and tomatoes, and she has recently started taking care of her own plants. Kavvya started to research organic farming online after learning about it from her teacher. She tells us that her school has a focus on teaching the kids about green alternatives. Maybe her imagination can help us find creative solutions to problems in modern farming!

Kavvya: “What innovations and inventions are you using in your farm?”

“The Green Revolution’s sole focus was to increase the farming yield for the rapidly growing population. A lot of our traditional methods of farming got lost.” Monocropping and chemicals are the new status quo. Farmers are now running into problems where their soil has been depleted of its nutrients. This causes the need for harmful pesticides and fertilizers which are known to pollute groundwater and the air.

Here at Peepal Farm we grow our food organically using a no-till technique. This decision was fuelled by our mission, to reduce our suffering footprint. Not only does it harm fewer animals, but also promotes a healthier, nutrient-rich soil. That makes our food healthier too! We put layers of cow manure and mulch to create a nutrient rich topsoil, full of microorganisms. We let them flourish, we do not disturb them with tilling.

Robin explains the importance of microorganisms in breaking down organic matter, “When you destroy all these workers, then nutrition is not being added to the soil.” After harvesting, we cut the stalks and allow for the roots to be broken down and turned into nutrients for the next round of crops.                                              

Kavvya suggests some innovations for modern farmers, “I was thinking for stubble farmers, in my last green project, that instead of burning it why don’t you save it for the winter?” Robin quickly responds, “We don’t burn it, absolutely not. Because we want to increase the biomass.” At Peepal Farm, the excess material is either fed to the cows or turned into mulch.

Robin then points to logistics and storage being possible issues with Kavvya’s idea, but she might be onto something. This could help mitigate the smog problem that occurs after harvests and save trees from being cut down for firewood. A fresh look on old ways can often bring about positive innovations. It is great to see the younger generation looking towards a cleaner future. As a kid with asthma growing up in Delhi, she says she has had troubles with the smog, particularly when stubble is being burned. “Sometimes it’s even very hard to see the next house.” Maybe she can continue to use her imagination to help create a world like one of the enchanted scenes she paints.

As the interview is coming to an end Kavvya asks, “What is the best part about farming?” Robin responds, “Farming is a necessity. Without farming there is no food.” He suggests revising the question to, “What is the best part about farming for yourself?” to which Kavvya promptly asks “What is the best part about farming for yourself?” To this, he responds that food security as well as knowing that your food is going to be packed full of nutrients are two of his favourite things about being a farmer. That is because when you grow it yourself you can be, as Robin says, “A good steward of your soil.” That is what organic, no-till farming is all about!

Peepal Farm is challenging the norms of modern farming. Traditional techniques have been lost over the past century, new innovations will have to be made to fill in the gaps. We must interact with the youth and pass our knowledge on to future generations. Her probing questions and innovative thinking are an inspiration to us here at Peepal, and we look forward to engaging with more passionate minds like hers.

The conversations we have matter. Join the revolution!