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Young, stylish and addicted to growing herbs

Dharmendra

“I am young, why should I do farming the way old farmers do”, says Mr Dharmendra Sahay from Rampur district of Uttar Pradesh, India.

Looking at the robust crops of Asparagas racemosus and Anacyclus pyrethrum , he was excited about the bumper harvest this year. Like many others, he too encountered many problems and met failures initially while growing these delicate crops. But in the last seven years, he persisted, perspired, thrived and now ready to fly even higher, an inspiring journey indeed!

Attracted to tempting real estate business in a nearby town, he was reluctant to taking over family farming from aging parents, he confessed to us. Lured by prospects of quick money, he tried his luck there, but found real estate business too tricky and risky to survive.

Around 2010, it was just a coincidence, he met agricultural specialists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of the ICAR- Indian Veterinary Research Institute. This association brought a much needed break in his life- he turned to farming for good. Traditional farming of wheat, paddy and sugarcane didn’t look exciting to him, so he was told to consider growing medicinal plants. He acted on the advice of the farm specialists of KVK and started molding his farm to herb growing. In doing so, he got initial practical tips from KVK along with a well established successful vegetable farmer Mr Afzal Ahmed. He narrated the lessons he gained from Mr Afazal with a heart of thankfulness. The land preparation, weed control, irrigation, fertilization, harvesting to marketing including the Do’s & Don’ts of good farming, he learnt from Mr Afzal. He said, “What I am today is because of KVK and Mr Afzal Ahmed” truly a grateful heart.

Gradually, he is expanding his operations from production to on-farm processing and planning even to export in coming years. His zeal to learn from anyone who can tell him anything worth trying to improve farming is amazing. With him, we visited other herb growers and progressive farmers in the district. He saw those using sprinklers and foggers; he was quick to seek their help in installing the system at his farm too. This is one good way to learn from others’ experiences, I believe. He has been hassled by some obnoxious weeds like Motha Cyperus rotundusfor which he is consulting experts in the field so that he could control weeds and further maximize his profit. Eyeing on the growing demand for organically produced herbs, he contemplates switching over to certified organic cultivation of medicinal plants in coming years.

Mr Sahay is looked at by local youth with envy-they should emulate and learn from him. He engages nearly two hundred local young men and women in seasonal agricultural operations which gives learning opportunity to these unemployed rural youth, while they earn for their labour.

When returning from his farm, he shared his cherished dream of owning and driving Sedan or BMW one day! Going by the commitment he has for farming, he may realize this fanciful dream too, I believe.

I wish him good luck with his profitable farming of herbs!

Photo credits: Dr Mahesh Chander

Blog post by Mahesh Chander (drmahesh.chander@gmail.com), Head, Division of Extension Education, ICAR- Indian Veterinary Research Institute. The views expressed are personal, and cannot be attributed to ICAR or YPARD.