The urge to consume vegetables and fruits that have been organically grown without any chemical or artificial contamination has always been present among the population, but only very few are driven to actually turn this wish into reality.
However, Bengaluru resident Ann Vinya Thomas is among the very few people who has done this. After working for 17 years in the aviation industry, she decided to set forth on a revolutionary path by becoming a small-scale urban farmer.
Across the terrace of her house, she has been growing various varieties of lettuce, along with medicinal herbs like basil and sage for the last one year.
She has a Facebook page titled HOME—Heaven On My Earth, where she shares regular updates about her crops that are harvested once every 30-45 days. This is also the portal through which people in the city can reach out to Ann and buy fresh leafy greens directly.
Speaking to The Better India, Ann shares that multiple factors had led her to actively consider farming, starting with the daily monotony of routine work life.
“Constant travel and working on the laptop for almost two decades made me realise that it was time to break out of this cycle where all the effort that you put only ends up being a percentage of increment received at the yearend. Being the child of a gardening enthusiast was definitely a factor, but I also wanted to connect to nature. However, the most important reason was growing food that wasn’t tainted with fertilisers and pesticides, for myself,” she says.
Before deciding to transform her terrace into a green zone, Ann spent almost a year studying and understanding urban farming and that’s when she came across Hydroponics, the soil-less technique of growing plants!
She even attended a one-day class that helped her get an idea about how one can try a hand at hydroponics in their own living spaces.
Sometime in July last year, Ann finally took the plunge and transformed her terrace to set up a greenhouse with the help of few labourers, and precisely on this date last year, she took baby steps into the world of urban farming by sowing seeds of the very first lot of lettuce.
“The last one year has been all about experiential learning and a slew of highs and lows for me. For instance, when crops failed at one odd time, I learnt why that happened and tried to incorporate changes to prevent that from happening. Also, YouTube videos on the same were very helpful—they can assist anyone to take up hydroponics and grow vegetables at home. All one needs to know is some basic knowledge of chemistry to work around this method,” Ann explains.
Besides Facebook, Ann has been selling her veggies by setting up stalls during agro-centric events which take place across Bengaluru. But this hasn’t been profitable at all as these stalls end up costing more than what she earns from selling her produce.
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“This is a primary reason why I’m trying my level best to raise maximum awareness through Facebook. This will probably help me cut short these exorbitant stall charges. Also, this venture is definitely not driven by the need to make more money but is more of a passion project to encourage healthier lifestyles, and I continue to fund it through my PF savings. I could say that only when I started out, did I truly understand the pain every farmer undergoes and why so many of them took their lives,” she sadly states.
However, it often becomes difficult to manage expenses when the veggies fail or don’t get sold at times. To counter that, Ann has also started offering hydroponic setup solutions, through which she can teach people and also help them set up urban farms right on their terraces and rooftops.
Despite shortcomings occurring here and there, Ann is positive that she will be able to sell better in future.
“This one time I had set up a stall at an event, and it was so thrilling when my veggies got sold in a jiffy! I’d never seen people being this excited about buying lettuce, which by the way are live plants that they can keep at home for about ten days. It makes all the backbreaking work that I invest myself on a daily basis makes it worthwhile and motivating to go on no matter what obstacles come along the way,” Ann concludes.
It’s amazing how Ann has managed to find a second calling in life through farming and has been dedicating all of her time helping citizens of Bengaluru access fresh and organically grown lettuces and medicinal herbs. She states that nothing has given her more pleasure than to growing these leafy greens in an entirely organic setup.
Ann plans to add additional varieties of lettuce to her farm, soon. We wish her luck and hope that her story inspires many urban gardening aspirants to take a leap of faith.
You can follow Ann’s journey on HOME—Heaven On My Earth and also message her regarding information and queries about her produces.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)