Ajay Tyagi was doing extremely well in his career when he informed his family about his decision to quit. His parents’ disapproval only increased when they learnt that Ajay was willing to sacrifice a career in management to pursue organic farming.
Despite hailing from a farming family in Meerut, Ajay’s father, a defense personnel, never wanted his son to practise the ancestral vocation. But, Ajay persisted in his bold decision, primarily with the vision to make healthy, organic food affordable to the masses.
His switch from a lead managerial position at a multinational company to becoming a true son of the soil was no cakewalk. But, all his struggles paid off in the end, as Ajay Tyagi now heads Karbanic Meadows – a trusted and well-known producer and marketer of organic produce in the country.
Moreover, he regularly trains regional farmers to make the necessary switch to organic farming. So far, he has trained more than 200 farmers to embrace organic farming.
The Switch from a Cushy Job to Farming
“Even a grassroots person has every right to eat good food,” says Ajay, who started farming full-time in 2016, mainly in the pursuit of a better quality of life. He recalls the hectic days of a 9 to 5 corporate job, which provided all the luxuries of life but peace. “The stress was affecting my well-being, prompting me to eat unhealthy food. After a while though, I switched to a cleaner diet and a healthier lifestyle, I felt the corporate job was just not making me happy.”
At that time, back in Meerut, Ajay’s uncle and his family were practising farming, with heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. “It’s nothing but shelling a whole lot of money, only to eat poison and feed the same to other consumers,” believes Ajay.
The Initial Failures
After meticulous research on organic farming, Ajay finally put down his papers, determined to his hands dirty, literally. Initially, he tried his hands at dairy farming, though his ultimate aim was organic farming.
“I thought the cattle waste will provide me with enough manure and raw materials to kickstart my organic farming venture. But I had little clue how labour-intensive and difficult dairy farming is,” shares Ajay admitting his initial oversight.
Meanwhile, his parents were extremely apprehensive of the fact that their son, who was a senior business executive one day, had willingly turned a dairy farmer the next. This, coupled with Ajay’s own struggles in dairy farming, made him completely shift his focus to organic farming – where he sought peace of mind as well as a decent livelihood.
From Foodgrains to Exotic Vegetables
Though sceptical at first, Ajay’s family finally consented to explore organic farming in a portion of their farm, after he informed them about the entire concept. Ajay secured 10 acres of land on lease for himself, where he started growing crops in an all-natural manner.
His backbreaking labour in the first few months helped catalyse his yield such that he was able to sustain his operational costs within just a year. Overall, the profits have increased by around 25 per cent as compared to conventional farming.
Sold under the branding of Karbanic Meadows, his farm grows a wide array of crops – ranging from cereals, vegetables to spices.
Among staple grains, Ajay grows the conventional varieties of wheat and paddy as well as exotic types like red and black rice. Millets, quinoa, chia and flax seeds are other profit-yielding additions to his list of cereal grains. Alongside, Ajay also grows an extensive range of pulses and legumes.
More focus on seasonal vegetables has helped Ajay to ensure intercropping in his farm and thus create less nutritional stress on the land. Broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, chilli, radish, carrot and kitchen herbs like coriander or Methi are some of his common yields.
Almost all his farming prerequisites are made-at-farm or sourced locally. For instance, Ajay prepares his own green compost from weeds and stubbles, while he procures vermicompost from his cousin, who was inspired by Ajay’s success to venture into organic farming. Crop rotation is another important reason behind the high yield, which is quite rare in the initial years of organic farming.
Uplifting the Farming Community Pan-India
Ajay markets his products to urban locations mostly, where he has developed a dedicated customer base over the years. Karbanic Meadows is a popular brand on the shelves of retail chains in cities like Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru etc. Ajay has also partnered with other small-scale organic farmers from Kerala, Rajasthan and other regions and procures products from them.
“The ultimate aim is to uphold the concept of organic food and in turn, uplift the lesser privileged cultivators practising the same. I have identified and on-boarded other organic cultivators from across India whose products are now reaching the right market. For instance, all my spices like black pepper, cloves, cinnamon etc. come from growers in Kerala, who were otherwise not earning the deserving profit by selling locally.”
Incidentally, Ajay’s success has been a source of inspiration for his neighbouring farmers. Keen to venture into organic farming, they approached him for guidance and advice. Gradually, Ajay started conducting training workshops in early 2018, attended by conventional farmers and white-collared professionals alike.
Farmers and enthusiasts from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Odisha and other states frequently attend Ajay’s workshops and engage in hands-on training sessions at his farm.
Inspiring Others To Make The Switch
Of the scores of farmers Ajay has trained, Ankit Vishnoi is one whose story is almost similar to Ajay’s own.
Around a year ago, Ankit was a business development executive working in Gurugram. Even with a decent salary and life of comfort, his recurring health issues were a cause of major concern.
“I would binge-eat on junk food out of stress, and that made me overweight and unhealthy. That’s when I decided to make a green choice and switch to organic food,” shares Ankit.
As the benefits of an organic diet started reflecting on his health, he felt that there are hundreds like him suffering the same way. The idea of pursuing organic farming sprouted in his heart, and despite disapproval from his family, he continued toying with the chances.
“That’s how I came across Ajay Tyagi, through a YouTube video on organic farming for beginners. I immediately met with him, more eagerly because our career trajectories were almost identical. I visited his farm and he walked me through comprehensive hands-on training,” says Ankit. At present, Ankit turned full-time organic farmer six months ago, growing wheat, mustard and vegetables at his family plot in Moradabad, UP.
Ajay Tyagi now spends an ample amount of time in inducting others to the A to Z of organic farming. With expanding business, his priorities have spread out as well. But whenever he gets the chance, he loves to get his hands dirty – sowing the seeds or tilling the soil.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)