How often have you thought of leaving the concrete jungle and living in the lap of nature, leading a simple life and having healthy organic meals? That’s exactly what Arul Futnani hoped for when he left his city life to start The Farm, which he has meticulously built over the last decade.
As a child, Arul spent his weekdays at school in the city and weekends at a family farm near Chennai started by his father in 1974. The landscape around the farm changed over the years—in the last two decades, the IT Highway and various residential buildings cropped up nearby. But while others around him took up corporate jobs, Arul wanted to spend his life at his farm.
With the help of his family and business partner Shalini Phillips, Arul opened The Farm for visitors to experience the joys of rustic living and organic farming.
What made them commercialise their farm? Arul says, “It was in the late ’90s when development and commercialisation swept near our place too. It had become difficult for us to make ends meet. Since we were adamant on having and continuing this lifestyle of having our own farm and dairy, I came up with the idea of getting a hospitality business model incorporated with our traditional farm.”
The Farm opened its restaurant and food store, housed within the premises, in 2009. Arul and his team serve and sell fresh organic dishes, most of which is grown or produced in-farm, at the restaurant and the store respectively. From fresh and chemical-free grains to all types of gourds, tomatoes, beans and peas, you will find your daily dose of edibles here.
Also on over is a variety of cheese, butter, ghee, jams, pickles and even bakery products including breads—most of the things are made at the farm itself! As for those crops that cannot be grown in Chennai’s climate, they are sourced from trusted organic farmers across the country.
Arul gives an example, “One of my employee who works at the restaurant is from Dehradun. Whenever he goes back home, we ask him to get organically grown rajma from Uttarakhand. In fact we are very particular about whom we tie-up with for out-sourcing organic food items at our restaurant.”
Arul and his team at The Farm try to work on a self-sustaining model as far as possible.
Sharing more insights about this, Arul says, “We don’t buy milk from outside nor do we sell milk from our dairy farm; instead we use it to make milk-items including sweets. The ovens used in our restaurant’s kitchen are wood ovens. So the ash from the oven is used as a natural pesticide and for scouring bigger pots.”
They even collect the day’s leftover squeezed lemons, add them in big vessels of water with soapberries and keep this in the warm oven at night. Next morning, the concoction transforms into a detergent-less solution used to wash the cutlery. Cow dung from the dairy farm is added to the fields as manure. Even the restaurant is made up of bricks and has no tiles and the furniture is made from wood procured from the farm.
“During the Chennai flood and cyclone, many trees in our farm got uprooted. Instead of throwing them away, we used their wood to make more furniture. In fact, 70 per cent of the wastage produced on our farm is used for composting and producing natural manure,” he adds.
Over the years, The Farm has also increased the number of animals and poultry on the property. Apart from cows, water buffaloes, goats, chicken and turkeys, The Farm also boasts six beautiful horses—Omega, Foca, Princessa, Chicklet, Spice and Ray.
The Farm has also tied-up with schools in and around Chennai to start hosting educational trips for students.
From educational tours and fun activities for the kids, to peaceful and scenic village vibes for the adults, the property has something to offer for all age groups.
Like any other enterprise, the initiative has had its share of struggles in its initial days. “Initially, when I moved here and then started the restaurant and store, people didn’t understand the concept of The Farm,” Arun recalls. “They used to ask ‘why did you leave the city life to live in the farm’ or ‘why are you using wood ovens instead of the normal ones’. In comparison, people today understand and appreciate our efforts in creating an organic farm much more.”
As for their expansion ideas, The Farm plans to come up with pop-up as a tie-up with artisans across the country.
For more information on The Farm, head to their website.
Written by Surabhi R. All images: Facebook