Though working as a techie, Roja Reddy wanted to practice “simple living”, and dreamt of becoming a farmer.
Born and raised in a farming family in Donnehalli village, her family wanted her to get a well-paying job in the city rather than toil in the soil.
But when the pandemic hit, her company switched to remote work. She decided to use this opportunity to quit her job and become a full-time farmer.
“My brothers and father were about to give up farming altogether due to losses. So I took it up as a challenge to revive our family farm through organic methods, and started working in the field post 4 pm, after my official work hours.”
She realised that the reason for the decline in production was the overuse of chemical fertilisers. Roja decided to revive the land organically.
She started organic farming, going against the wishes of her family, as they did not want her to leave her job.
Most of the villagers and her family did not believe that organic farming could increase the production of the farm.
“I was ridiculed for adopting organic farming techniques by my relatives, other farmers, villagers, and even the officials of the department of horticulture,” she says.
Regardless, Roja has quit her job and now works as a full-time farmer.
She started by growing 40 kinds of vegetables including beans, brinjals, and capsicum.
She also travelled to different taluks and formed a group of eight organic farmers from Chitradurga to create awareness about organic farming.
“We then spoke to local authorities in each taluk to provide us some space to set up a market for our produce,” she says.
She was eventually able to expand her network to several districts like Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, and so on.
Today, with her venture Nisarga Native Farms, she has a network of 500 farmers across the state. She harvests 500 kg to 700 kg of vegetables every day and earns Rs 1 crore annually, she claims.
So far, around 25 farmers in her village have shifted to organic farming, which she considers as her biggest win.