Even while working for a multi-national car manufacturing company, Kottayam-native Mathewkutty Tom’s desire was to join his family in their farming venture. After spending three years in global car companies, he shifted to his hometown and took charge of the farmland, which was previously run by his father.
“I took this as a challenge because I really wanted to do farming. I had a burning desire to sustain my family’s legacy of farming. My parents were happy to back this decision, which enhanced my confidence,” says Mathewkutty to The Better India.
It has been seven years since he took up full time farming. He says that the most glaring issue he has observed during this period is that traditional farmers are often exploited by middlemen.
When he left his job in 2014 and opted for agriculture, Mathewkutty knew nothing about this problem. But when he began farming on the 18-acre ancestral land in Pala, he was unable to make any big profits in the first two years.
“I started by continuing the existing cultivation of paddy, banana and a few daily vegetables. But soon, problems emerged in finding labourers, as well as marketing and selling. When the produce was taken to the market, the demand and price were too low,” he recalls.
Among the produce on his farm were coconut, arecanut, nutmeg, tubers and other vegetables, as well as fruits including jackfruit, mango, papaya, rambutan and mangosteen. “I used organic fertilisers and the produce was of good quality. But market rates are always low and one share is taken by the middlemen,” he says.
“This leaves us with nothing except the cost and losses to bear. Being an MBA graduate, I thought of incorporating some business techniques and becoming an agripreneur instead of a traditional farmer.”
A thriving farm
The 32-year-old opted for integrated or mixed farming — growing crops and breeding animals on one farm, permitting wider crop rotations, and using the waste of one produce as food for another.
For instance, instead of planting 1,000 saplings of brinjal alone, Mathewkutty began growing 200 saplings of five different vegetables.
TJT Farm now produces and sells almost all varieties of vegetables and fruits, as well as ornamental fish and birds.
He also grows seasonal vegetables and exotic fruits, from and he earns upto Rs 5 lakh by selling an average of two tonnes of produce per month, he says. The produce is mainly sold directly to customers through his store in the locality, or delivered at home.
“The crops have a good market as they are grown organically using in-house fertilisers and pesticides made from the excreta of animals bred on the farm. We also take big orders for any particular events or occasions,” shares the agripreneur.
The greatest advantage of this integrated farming model, he says, is the utilisation of waste.
For example, the excreta of duck, goat, buffalo and chicken is an excellent manure for plants, he says. Mathewkutty even sells this for manure separately. “I charge Rs 2.5 to Rs 8 per kg for excreta of chicken, pig, goat and buffalo. Farmers are my major customers. Urban terrace gardeners also contact me for purchasing them,” he says. This comes as an additional income and ensures that the plants are grown organically.
Animal waste is also used in a biogas plant located inside the farm. This covers the entire family’s and processing unit’s LPG needs throughout the year. “In fact, at the end of the day, absolutely no waste remains on the farm. We clean it daily and ensure proper hygiene and health of the animals.”
The fodder for most of the animals is also grown in a half-acre space inside the farm. This helps cut down costs, he says.
TJT is also teeming with exotic fruits like rambutan and mangosteen. “There are 300 jackfruit trees on the farm, which are around three years old,” he adds. Additionally, there is mango, papaya, nutmeg, cashew, passion fruit and more.
Mathewkutty’s effort in building a successful farm has been recognised twice by the state government. He received the Young Farmer Award of the Kerala government in 2015 and Young Farmer Award of the Kerala State Animal Husbandry Department in 2022.
He says, “A good number of farmers are leaving the field in search of better income and opportunities. But we cannot deny the reality that farming is an integral part of the economy and basic need for survival. Instead of sticking to traditional farming methods and tolerating the exploitation of middlemen, it is better to start your own ventures. This might need a bit more investment and effort but in the long run, success is assured. I hope more youngsters step up into the field without hesitation and teach new ways of getting agriculture done.”
Edited by Divya Sethu; Photo Credits: Mathewkutty Tom