Imagine a scenario where you don’t have to visit a garden to buy vegetables. What’s better, you can choose to grow what you want to eat, in the comfort of your home.
Archana Stalin and her husband Stalin Kalidoss are championing this cause, and are working hard to revive gardening and farming among the urban population.
Bitten early by the entrepreneurial bug, the couple, who were classmates in college, decided to start an NGO together. After passing out of college, the couple moved down south, where they began working on ecological issues.
Working with nature opened up a whole new avenue—that of organic farming. Enamoured, the couple dived headfirst into this new realm, even travelling to Bangalore to learn the intricacies of composting.
The couple lived in a joint family, and the birth of their nephew around 3.5 years ago, began to change a lot of things. The family wanted to eat healthy, and this need gave rise to the idea of growing their own produce at home.
For eight months, they utilised the first floor and the backyard space to grow plants. Taking note of their efforts, local newspapers started to pick up the story of this unique couple who were promoting sustainable farming.
Archana is very active on Facebook, and when friends and acquaintances began to post queries related to farming, she realised that many of them were interested, but didn’t know where, or how to begin. She sensed an opportunity and decided to help them out.
The couple didn’t own any land, and leased out 2 acres of farmland, 50 km away from Chennai. Since their work had taken them to these remote parts, they were familiar with the terrain and the people, which was a huge plus.
The ball started rolling, and when it picked up speed, Archana quit her job as the marketing head of a major salon chain and started myHarvest in January 2017.
As part of its many activities, myHarvest wants to inculcate the spirit of farming in the younger generation.
Archana noticed that even though these children learnt about plants as a part of their curriculum, they did not use this information beyond the walls of their schools.
She then decided to address this gap.
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The first step was to organise a gardening workshop in a school, which was well-received by the students, parents and teachers alike. Painting classes along with the gardening lessons kept the little ones engaged and interested.
Archana noticed a trend, in which people were giving saplings as birthday return gifts for children. More often than not, however, these would soon be forgotten about, as the kids didn’t have the know-how or infrastructure to grow it. This gave rise to the idea of the “gift box,” which is a kit with a pot, soil, and seeds of 3 varieties of spinach—which is an easy crop to grow.
The gift box was a big hit with the children and was distributed throughout summer camps, and schools, and could even be customised if required.
Archana and her team also started an initiative directed at schoolgoing children. The initiative is called “Reconnect with Nature,” and has been implemented in 4-5 schools. It aims to make children more eco-sensitive and encourage them to grow plants.
Archana laughs when she recalls that the children were particularly awed by the fact that tiny radish seeds could produce such a large vegetable.
The team has introduced a game called “food chain,” which breaks down the journey of food, from the farmer to the market. During a session, one child pointed out that farmers should be fixing prices if they’re selling the food. The kids also have a gardening journal, where they note everything.
Archana and her team are passionate about making children realise the importance of nature.
While private schools are charged a fee to implement this initiative, the team take help from rotary organisations to fund its activities in government schools.
Archana wants the initiative to be implemented across various schools in India and is working on creating a module to train people so that every school can grow a garden.
All pictures courtesy: myHarvest.in
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To get in touch with Archana, contact her at myHarvest.in