Like all other farmers, Santosh Pachar from Jhigar Badi village in Rajasthan’s Sikar district, also wanted her produce to be regarded as the best in the market. A traditional farmer by profession, Santosh studied only until Class 8.
“From 2002, we cultivated carrots and other traditional crops on our 30 bighas of (about 10 acres) land, using organic farming methods. But we could not get the desired result. I noticed the carrots were often thin and crooked. They did not attract customers in the market, resulting in less income. I could hardly earn money for a living,” she tells The Better India.
However, today her experiments received recognition through the President’s Award for her innovative techniques of growing carrots, including prize money of Rs 3 lakh.
Honey & ghee to the rescue
Santosh says, “My husband and I did not have any solution for the poor quality produce. To gain better knowledge about farming, and hoping to find a remedy to our problems, I started attending agricultural fairs organised by the State Government. It helped me learn more aspects of farming.”
With her newly gained knowledge and interactions with experts, Santosh learned that the seeds used to grow carrots were of poor quality and responsible for her disappointing yield.
She decided to find a solution herself. Santosh started implementing a new pollination technique by blending 15 ml of honey with 5 ml of ghee (Indian butter) and drying them without directly exposing them to sunlight.
“Vegetables and fruits are living beings. And since we absorb nutrients from the food, I mixed honey and ghee with carrot seeds in the hopes that the ghee would lend its shine and honey would enhance the carrot’s sweetness,” Santosh says.
As naive as it may sound, Santosh experimented with the seeds, and a few harvests later, she found a visible difference. “The carrots were sweeter and shinier. Their size and shape were also improving.”
Santosh says it took years for the seed to evolve into a newer quality product. “We used the newer version of seeds from the fresh harvest to process them and sow them back in the soil. The experiments started around 2002, and in 2010, we could declare the characteristics and features of these newly evolved seeds. Unbeknownst to us, we were following a method scientifically known as grading to improve the seed quality,” she says.
She adds that her new variety of carrots could yield in 75 days, about 15 days earlier than the previous seeds, as they germinated quickly and the size ranged between 1.5 to 2.5 feet.
The couple shared the samples with the neighbouring farmers, who appreciated the quality. “We shared some seeds with the state agriculture officers who tried, tested and eventually declared the seed an entirely new variety. We named it SPL 101,” she adds.
The couple started selling the carrots and developed a nursery to prepare saplings from the seeds. “We started earning 1.5 times more profit than before,” she says.
The couple earned about Rs 1.5 lakh a year with the old, poor quality seeds. But the new variety today earns them about Rs 20 lakh a year. “Over the years, our income increased by 20 times,” she says.
She also received the President’s Award in 2013 and 2017 for her innovative practices. Since then, Santosh has trained over 7,000 farmers in the state to grow carrots using organic methods.
Years of efforts by Santosh have reaped a sweet success for her and thousands of others.
Edited by Yoshita Rao