After spreading knowledge through books for more than a decade, a teacher in Uttar Pradesh has found a new love for farming. So much so that the earnings from his farm are many times his monthly teaching income!
“My yearly salary at the school used to be Rs 1.20 lakh. But I am earning Rs 30 lakh a year from farming activity,” says Amarender Pratap Singh, a government school teacher in Daulatpur village of Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh.
The farmer, living an hour away from Lucknow, has not only mastered the skills of farming, but is also inspiring and guiding others to prosper. “I was a full time teacher in the school and lived in Lucknow with my family. During the school vacation in 2014, I decided to get my hands dirty and try agriculture in 30 acres of family owned land,” Amarender said.
First Steps into Farming
Looking at some YouTube videos and accessing online tutorials, Amarender decided to grow bananas in one acre of land.
“There are a lot of problems with agriculture in the area. Farmers traditionally grow sugarcane, cereals and wheat. But the three crops do not help to earn much money,” Amarender said.
The teacher said for a farmer to earn money from sugarcane requires almost two years. “The other crops only support one during the long wait and does not help improve the financial conditions,” Amarender added.
The teacher decided to experiment with different crops.
“I started growing bananas in one acre land and slowly reaped success. The following year I learned that intercropping of turmeric, ginger and cauliflower with bananas would yield better results,” Amarender said.
The ginger did not help, but he got better results from turmeric.
“The earnings from turmeric covered the invested amount for bananas. The money made by selling bananas were complete profits,” he added.
From losses to Profits
After initial successes, Amarender moved to Daulatpur to put all of his efforts into agriculture.
“Later I experimented with watermelon, muskmelon and potato. Eventually, I visited various farms, watched more YouTube videos about best farming practices and grew strawberry, capsicum and mushrooms,” Amarender told The Better India.
After initial losses during the first cultivation, Amarender managed to turn the losses into profits. “Over the years I have planned the cultivation in a manner that waste from one crop goes as nutrients for the next crop in the soil. This way the waste generated from the farm never goes out of the farm,” he adds.
Amarender rotates crops between seasons and intersects intercropping techniques to get the maximum output from his farms.
Over the years, the farmer has scaled up his farming to 60 acres of land of which 30 acres is self-owned land, 20 acres is leased and he recently bought an additional 10 acres. The varieties also include coriander, garlic and corn.
“The 30 acres of land is used to grow vegetables and fruits while the remaining half is used to grow sugarcane, wheat and cereals. The total land helps to generate a business of Rs 1 Crore a year and I make profits of Rs 30 Lakh,” Amarender told The Better India.
With time, flood irrigation has replaced drip irrigation and sprinklers, and mulching technique helps retain soil moisture. Amarender said he often takes leave without pay from his school duties – as the farm demands.
“Many people and colleagues said it was a bad decision to move and shift to farming. My relatives said that people give up farming to look for better income through jobs. But I was moving the other way around,” Amarender said adding there were a few who appreciated his courage and supported him.
Helping Others Find Success in Farming
Looking at the success of Amarender, about 350 farmers have associated with him to change their traditional agricultural practices.
Narendra Shukla, a childhood friend and a farmer is one such beneficiary.
“Amarender and I studied together and looking at his success I was inspired to experiment on my farm. I decided to grow bananas in one acre in 2015 and learned all the techniques,” Narendra said.
The farmer said that eventually, he also grew vegetables to make more money. “The reason this method works is because produce is achieved every 60 days. This helps steady income of money and helps to invest the profits for the second crop,” Narendra explained.
“I believed that high risks would come with expectations of high results. Getting the produce to market is still cumbersome. The market is 70 km away in Lucknow and requires Rs 200 of fuel for each trip,” Amarender explains.
Amarender said that if the produce is not sold enough or at the expected price, losses are imminent.
“The problem exists for every farmer. I want to cut down the middlemen in these markets and directly reach the consumers. We are planning to work in this direction,” Amarender said.
The teacher turned farmer says that he still has not decided to quit his teaching profession. “Of course that is under consideration. I have procured a licence for food processing and making fruit juices. Once I set up that successfully, I can confidently quit,” he adds.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)