While studying in college, Alappuzha native Nishad VR put together a mushroom farm in his house and the produce was sold at his college store. Nishad and his siblings used to make decent pocket money through this.
Even though the family has no background in farming, Nishad always showed interest in helping his mother in their tiny kitchen garden. Later, he got busy with his studies and career but always wanted to go back to gardening.
The law graduate worked for several companies for 15 years. After 2015 he wanted to try something new. It was around this time that he assisted his mother in renovating their kitchen garden. But a good chilli harvest was all he needed to push him toward farming.
“We only had a limited area around the house. So, I thought of taking a few acres for lease in the district but one of my friends who owned 1.5 acres of land asked me to make use of a barren space without any lease. So, in 2016, I sowed chilli seeds in the whole property, which brought a great harvest,” recalls Nishad.
Although the results were good, Nishad couldn’t earn a steady income as the price of chilli fluctuated. That was when experienced farmers suggested he plant more varieties of crops on the same land. He picked red spinach and papaya and decided to expand the farmland as well.
“Watching my success and the authorities’ interest in expanding farmlands in Alappuzha, the panchayat and village secretary allotted me a few more barren lands in the district. In a few months, I took some more land for lease in Kozhinjampara, Palakkad. Today, there is a total of 13.5-acre land where I farm more than 14 varieties of vegetables and plants,” says the farmer.
But Nishad wasn’t ready to be an ordinary farmer who takes his produce to the shops and settles for a meagre income. Since vegetables and fruits of different qualities are available in the market, he decided to sell his produce under a brand so that people can identify better. Thus, in 2018, Marari Fresh was launched.
“I supply the harvest daily to top supermarkets of the state including the largest Lulu hypermarket in Kochi. On an average 500 kg of items are sold per day, which accounts for more than Rs 40 lakh as my yearly income,” says the agripreneur. “The major crops are brinjal, bitter gourd, cucumber, okra, chillies, spinach, papaya, butternut, pumpkin, peas and tomato.”
Since 2018, Nishad has been able to sell over 130 tonnes of produce every year. “Marari Fresh is one of the very few brands which didn’t stop production and sales during the lockdown period. We had a boom [harvest] that year. More people came to know about the brand as we did home delivery too,” says the 44-year-old farmer.
Nishad visits his farm in Palakkad two days a week. He has six permanent employees and on his other farm in Cherthala, managed by himself and two full-time workers, he grows spinach, papaya and chillies.
Other than these activities, the agripreneur also introduced an app in the same brand name for selling the produce. Another app called Farmers First is under making which will help farmers to organise activities as per the production calendar and to find sellers around them.
“Customers can either order items through the app or our website other than procuring them directly from shops. We provide a home delivery facility too based on location,” shares Nishad.
For those who plan to enter into farming, Nishad suggests starting small. “Talk to the local vendors to understand what items are sold well and try growing those. Preferably, a 10-cent land is good enough for experimenting. Stick to organic methods, especially with pesticides. Once you gain confidence, expand the farmland. Employing technology is the only way to develop and promote farming. Traditional farmers should also shift to these methods for sustaining,” he suggests.
He plans to lease land in Munnar or Ooty to make seasonal veggies available all through the year.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
Photo credits: Nishad VR
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