Meet H R Jayaram, a 58-year-old lawyer who quit his job to take up organic farming and has started a movement to spread awareness about the importance of organic living in India
“I was born in a family of agriculturists and brought up in a forest near the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border. Having started farming at the age of seven to help my father, I grew up with nature. And that experience stayed with me no matter where I went. I carried it along even after I came to Bengaluru for studies and became a lawyer,” says H R Jayaram, a lawyer-turned-organic farmer who established The Green Path Foundation.
Started in the year 2007, the 58-year-old defines Green Path as a movement that brings together several eco-friendly initiatives like organic farms, stores, eco-stays and hotels, terrace gardens, and more to promote the advantages of organic living.
Like many of his peers, Jayaram left his village with the dream of making it big in the city. He had witnessed immense exploitation and discrimination on the basis of caste back home, which motivated him to study hard with the aim of becoming a lawyer. And he did. As a successful civil lawyer, Jayaram set up his own law firm with a lucrative practice.
But his love for nature and the land grew with him over the years. He couldn’t stay away from farming for long and started again in the year 1998.
“That was the only way of life I had seen. Once I had enough savings, I bought a 40-acre barren piece of land in Marasarahalli, located 6 km from Nelamangala, Bengaluru, and started agriculture. I named the farm Sukrushi,” he says. This was also the time when he was introduced to chemical fertilisers and pesticides that are considered to be of utmost importance in modern farming these days. “I began with chemical farming and continued for about a year. But my agriculture experience was different. We had our own fertilisers, our own seeds, and the land was pristine – everything was so good. I started researching, spoke to farmers, and read The One-Straw Revolution that eventually helped me understand the importance of going organic,” he recounts.
Organic farming was not so popular those days. So Jayaram started experimenting with different techniques in his field and grew various crops to the extent that his work was recognised by the government.
He slowly turned into an activist of sorts – promoting organic farming and its importance. “I had been to several cities abroad, visited exhibitions, met people, and over time I reached the realisation that organic farming can be promoted only by creating models for people to replicate. This will help them develop experiences that they can take forward. So I started the Green Path Foundation to create awareness and experiences,” he says.
In 2007, Green Path launched Era Organic, the first certified organic store in Bangalore. This was followed by an eco-hotel in 2008 and an eco-retreat in Coorg in 2014.
This year, it launched the Green Park Organic State, which claims to be India’s biggest organic destination. Located in Malleswaram, Bengaluru, the state is meant for shopping, eating and eco-friendly get-togethers. It is spread across an area of 25,000 square feet and has a detox café, workshop centre, and ‘forgotten food’ restaurant.
The restaurant experiments with different millet recipes, including those for pizza, sweets, and even ice-creams to promote good food movement and to revive traditional recipes.
Aside from these, innovative eco-friendly practices are implemented on the state. They use biogas and solar panels to generate as much energy as possible. Three man-made lakes in the state help in rainwater harvesting that further leads to watering the fields. All the raw materials for the state and hotels are grown in Jayaram’s field where he practices multi-crop agriculture to grow a variety of food crops like areca nut, coconut, guava, lime, and neem. The entire farm runs only on rain water. According to Jayaram, one day’s rain is enough for 20 days of watering. They also work with a ‘food forest’ model that involves tree-based agriculture called multi-storey farming. Additionally, all the waste in the farm is mulched and used to generate natural pesticides.
Jayaram has a team of 20 people helping him on the farm and an overall team of 100 people across Green Path Foundation. He also has an organic farm in Kodagu, Coorg, where the team grows coffee, paddy, etc.
Also the Founder-Secretary of Jaivik Krishik Society, a federation of Karnataka’s organic farmers, Jayaram believes that the organic farming movement is more than just about not using chemicals. It is about giving farmers the dignity they deserve and spreading the message of sustainable living. With organic farming, he says, farmers will not have to incur extra farming costs and it will be good for their health too. “With so many benefits of organic farming, I have decided to dedicate my life to this cause,” he concludes.