“Retired life is the best time to pursue one’s hobbies,” begins Harish Chandra Singh, a native of Ambedkar Nagar in Uttar Pradesh. He retired as a Colonel from the Army in 2015 and now spends most of his time in his field, cultivating different varieties of superfood including chia seeds.
Certain food items are believed to have exceptional health benefits. When Harish decided to take up farming, he wanted to try growing such items called superfoods in his land at Barabanki. These crops are not widely seen and are expensive.
Harish mainly grows chia seeds on his 4-acre land. Also known as Salba chia or Mexican chia which are the edible seeds of a flowering plant from the mint family, they were first made popular in Mexico and have several health benefits.
They lower blood pressure and, in turn, reduce the risk of heart diseases. They are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants and are grown extensively in China, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.
“Chia seeds are so expensive, which is the primary reason why I started cultivating them. Also, it takes less time to grow and the seeds are easily available,” says Harish.
The seeds are sown in October just like wheat but they will be ready for harvest a month before wheat. About profitability, Harish says, “It costs around Rs 75,000 per bigha (61 cents) to grow chia seeds and one can earn up to Rs 2 lakh from it. The cost of one kilogram of chia seeds in the online market is between Rs 1,500 to 2,000 rupees.”
Due to their health properties, Chia seeds are very popular in India. The product is in great demand and Harish says if cultivated locally across the country, farmers will hugely benefit.
Making a Case for Superfoods
Apart from Chia seeds, he also grows other superfoods like green apple, dragonfruit, black wheat and plums. There are a total of 500 apple trees on his farm, out of which 400 are green apples and 100 are red. Usually, apples are grown in cold weather climates but Harish proved that they can be cultivated even in a dry place like Uttar Pradesh.
When the majority of nearby farmers opted to farm traditional crops, some of them including Harish experimented with these crops and was successful.
“Let’s take the example of black wheat. You sell regular wheat at a maximum rate of Rs 15 per kg, while the price of black wheat is Rs 100 per kg. Growing more such crops will also help in reducing the price. It makes the product affordable to everyone,” Harish appeals to his fellow farmers.
He believes that farmers should keep experimenting in agriculture. Only when they experiment, he says, will farming be looked at as a profession. “Experiments are being done in every field today. So why should agriculture remain untouched?” asks Harish, who is also the District Sainik Welfare Officer of Sultanpur.
He also considers this a chance to attract youth into farming. “Our country is depending on other world nations for the supply of superfoods. By cultivating them we can be more self-sufficient. The prospects of reaching a global market will bring in more youngsters to this field,” he adds.
In the coming years, he hopes to cultivate more varieties of superfoods. “Apart from availability of land, there are no major concerns in farming,” he concludes.
If you are interested in superfoods farming, get expert advice from Harish Chandra Singh on 8146466446.
Read this story in Hindi here.