Have you ever come across a farmer in India who wants his son to become a farmer? If not, then we would like you to meet Ashok Rameshwar Panwar, who wishes for his son to become a farmer one day.
A farmer from Rijgaon village in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh, Ashok was so passionate about farming that he stopped going to school after class 10 and took up the responsibility of his ancestral farm.
Ashok, 31, had started farming when he was just 16. He followed his father’s footsteps and did traditional farming of soybean, chickpeas, wheat, and cotton using chemicals.
“Though I have an elder brother, I took up farming early on. I couldn’t concentrate on studies because of my inclination towards farming,” he recalls. He adds, “My father was not that educated, none of the farmers was back then. They started using chemicals without knowing their ill effect on the soil, the environment and their bodies. It became mandatory as more chemical fertilisers helped us to get more yield.”
Two years ago, Ashok was introduced to Vinay Yadav, who had started a farmer-producer company called ‘Varda Farmers’ Club’ which allowed farmers who grew only organic produce.
Vinay took Ashok to a training session by Padma Awardee Subhash Palekar to understand the importance of organic farming.
“It was an eye-opener. We came to know about the hazards of chemical farming. They showed us two pots where they grew tomatoes. In one, they had added chemical fertilisers, and the other was nourished with cow dung and natural fertilisers. They then asked us which tomatoes we would prefer to eat; the answer was quite obvious,” shares Ashok.
Ashok has 18 acres of land and firmly believes that people trust farmers blindly. Hence a farmer is responsible for the health of his consumers.
“According to me, if the country is not getting healthy food then why is there a need for farmers in the first place,” he asks.
Once he was back from the training, he built a net-house in 1000 sq. meter area and started growing off-season vegetables and flowers organically by maintaining the temperatures. There were ten more farmers from his village who completed the training and did the same. They joined the FPO started by Vinay Yadav and contributed to the organic produce.
The FPO is associated with Kalpavalli Greens Producer Company, which markets these vegetables.
“One person collects the vegetables from our farms in the night. They are then sorted, graded and packed, well before delivering door-to-door in urban areas. The orders are taken via WhatsApp,” he informs.
Ashok agrees that switching to organic is not profitable initially, but in the long term, it makes the soil healthier and more fertile.
“If you check my farm you will see the difference between the soil where I use chemicals and the area where we grow organically. The soil has become so soft that your shoes will go deep inside when you walk,” he says enthusiastically.
Not only had he changed his fertilisers but also the way he was farming. He attends farming workshops wherever possible and applies the modern techniques learnt there on his farm.
His advice to farmers is to reduce the chemical content gradually.
Here are some of the techniques that he is using on his farm –
1. Net House to produce vegetables in the off-season by maintaining temperatures
2. Solar pump which saves electricity and works, even if there is a power cut
3. Drip irrigation to save water
5. A dual model of vermicompost and bio-gas plant.
Ashok never burns the farm residues. He puts them all in the vermicompost plant and makes use of it as fertiliser. The slurry is used in the bio-gas plant which generates enough fuel to cook food for the entire family.
“It’s been five months that I have put this plant on my farm and the women in my house are really happy with it. The fuel is smokeless, odorless and free.”
6. A three-layered DIY filter to strain Jeevaamrut used in organic farming.
“It was a tiring job to first make the jeevaamrut and then strain it thrice, so I made this easy system where it can be strained three times at once.”
“I would always see my friends who are educated and feel inferior, but now farmers from other states, agriculture students and even higher authorities come to visit my farm and learn about the techniques I use. This makes me feel that even farmers like us are important. Like other farmers, I didn’t want my son to be a farmer even though he loves being on the farm. But now, I tell him to study well so that he can make use of better technology which I can’t because I can’t read English. After that, I want him to become a successful farmer,” he smiles.
Ashok wants every farmer to go the organic way and upgrade to the latest technology. He visits every place he is invited to and trains farmers free of cost. He also appeals farmers to call him or visit his farm where he will train them for free.
You can contact Ashok Panwar on +91 9977111532.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)