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Directly from farm to customers

Ravleen Kaur, Chandigarh

Published: Mar. 14, 2016
Updated: May. 17, 2016

Deepika Kundaji turned her back on a career in academics in her late twenties to become a farmer. Training to be a lecturer and researcher in archaeology, she gave up her PhD and a job offer in a university in 1993 in search of a new life. After 20 years of living and working on a farm and planting a forest, she does not feel that she ‘left’ or ‘sacrificed’ a career or comforts.

A bunch of idealistic farmers like her attended the fifth National Organic Farmers’ Convention in Chandigarh from 28 February to 2 March. They were all people who had turned their backs on careers that most would die for — as software engineers, in academics, in the corporate world — to become farmers.

Today, Kundaji conserves more than 90 varieties of traditionally grown rare vegetables that are virtually extinct. In Pebble Garden, her small garden of 2,000 square metres, she has 20 varieties of brinjal and about seven varieties of lady’s fingers, including the unheard-of red, white and multi-coloured ones.

At meetings of farmers and in village fairs, she sells these seeds in small packets for Rs 5-20. In tribal areas, she sells them for Rs 1. “I don’t want to preserve old seeds like museum pieces, as a sad reminder of some past glory. I want to bring back to farmers their status of being creators of diversity and agricultural brilliance,” she said. Ironically, she points out, what she does with so much passion is illegal. There are stringent restrictions on sale of seeds (anybody selling seeds in packaged form with information about the seed has to be a registered seed-seller).

Weary of city life, Kundaji went to Auroville in Tamil Nadu in 1994. She struck up a friendship with Bernard Declercq, a Belgian at Auroville, and ...

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