While coming back to India after staying in Canada for four years, Deepak Gupta, a banker for 16 years, thought of something that would change the course of his life forever. Deepak and his wife Smita, who was a marketing professional for over 15 years, were tired of the rat race in the corporate world. They decided to change theirs as well as the lives of others, who were stuck with a not-so-healthy modern lifestyle.Deepak was working as a deputy general manager in a reputed bank, and had been living in South Africa for a year and Canada for another four years for an assignment.
When he came to India in 2011, he found that the entire community wasn’t very aware when it came to health, which was directly affected by the food they were consuming. Chemical fertilisers and pesticides were rampantly used, and people had no other option but to eat the poisonous fruits and vegetables. This was leading to dangerous diseases like cancer. More diseases spread due to lack of nutritious food as it meant lack of immunity. A resident of Gurgaon, Deepak then decided to visit the farms in and around Delhi and Gurgaon.
“In my journey towards figuring out the whole ecosystem of organic foods around Delhi, I was fortunate to meet several aware consumers and entrepreneurs, who were standing against all odds, in a community that was still broadly short-sighted on matters of health and well-being,” says Deepak.Thus, in 2012, Deepak laid the foundation of his firm Organic Maati, which focussed on procuring organic fruits and vegetables from local farmers and selling it to interested consumers.
While this was going well as a part-time venture, Deepak also realised that the ill effects of modernisation were not limited to food. The deterioration of our health and environment was also caused by the clothes we wear and the poisonous dyes used on them; the cosmetics and hygiene products used by us, and of course, the air pollution.
“People were popping pills like never before as their threshold of pain was much lesser, and they developed issues like stress and anxiety. There seemed to be no getting away from it for the average city dweller,” he says.Deepak’s wife Smita pitched in and added organic cotton herbal dyed apparel and natural wellness products to the list of the Organic Maati products.
The couple was running their brand successfully and could see the difference in the awareness level of the consumer as well. However, something was still missing.
“I could not help but notice the sharp deterioration in the quality of life all around me, in the name of advancement, but had no idea how to do something about it. I noticed children who were very social in their virtual life but introverts in the real world. Their physical agility and cognitive skills were quite low as they did not go out to the playground every evening, which we did as kids. Instant gratification and fidgety temperament were pervasive. The gap in health awareness and well-being between my community and the ‘advanced’ communities that I was fortunately exposed to, was too wide for me to ignore. I had to do something to change this,” says Deepak.
Deepak and Smita realised that only providing organic products was not enough. There had to be a holistic lifestyle change in the community.Deepak quit his well-paying job in May 2016 and got involved full-time into farming.
He realised that a lot of landless farmers, who had a rich knowledge of natural farming passed on to them by their ancestors, were forced to use chemicals and work as labourers in others’ farms at very low wages. He hired those farmers as permanent employees of Organic Maati. After being sure about taking up natural farming, which he believes is the best therapy for all the environmental issues, Deepak and Smita started Organic Maati 2 – a rented natural farm not too far from the city, which can be a definite panacea for the city dwellers.Organic Maati 2 offers natural farming of vegetables on rent, wherein people can choose an acre (or more) of land in the vicinity of Delhi and ask Organic Maati to farm for them.
Costing less than a US air ticket, one can have a one-acre personal farm for a full year, which is within an hour’s drive from Delhi. This includes unlimited visits with the family and learning natural farming, picking up their own vegetables and fruits and being a part of nature.
“These farms are located at the small villages near Delhi and Gurgaon. Not only will it serve the purpose of connecting the urban dwellers to their roots and lead them to a healthy and sustainable living, but also, as we are using only natural farming methods, these farms will prove as a model for other farmers,” he explains.
OM2 offers three models to own a farm. If you own a farm, you can just hire OM2 to farm for you in your existing land. If you want to rent a farm, then the firm will help you with one and grow your veggies. If you want to purchase a land of your choice and grow on it, even that can be done.Though one can earn by selling the produce too, Deepak encourages people to take up this model for personal consumption and not for commercial use.
The team signs a one-year contract with the consumer, in which they help them harvest at least three yields. If one wants to continue, they can still renew the contract or continue farming on their own. The entire responsibility of resources, logistic, labour, farming and even harvesting and delivering the veggies is taken care by the OM2 team.So far 15 families from Delhi and NCR have taken up farming on an acre land through OM2. This has helped the youth from villages in getting a permanent job, and has stopped them from migrating from their homeland.
They also get to continue with their family profession, which is farming. As these families visit the farms with their friends too, it has encouraged eco-tourism and the villagers get to showcase their skills as well.
“I am so happy my distant dream of passing on my childhood farm experience to my son has come true. And that too conveniently and affordably,” says Chiranjib Dhar from Gurgaon.
OM2 aims to scale up the natural rental farms in Gurgaon and add 100 acres of green natural farms within ayear. According to Deepak, this will help reduce the carbon footprint for the entire community too.Organic Maati also conducts workshops on their demo farm at sector-92, Gurgaon, for those interested in natural farming (cow-centric farming, producing food with no chemicals, preservatives or GMO seeds) and building their own organic kitchen garden.
“Avoid looking at your farm as a financial investment instrument with assured rate of return. Look at it as a social enterprise instead, where you get safe healthy food and a farm experience, both of which are invaluable. Unlike conventional farming, which only focuses on productivity and yields, natural farming focuses on enriching the soil first. You benefit your own health, uplift the local farmers, better the environment, and fulfil your farm dream – all without having to give up your comforts of the city and your busy life,” Deepak concludes.
For more information you can log on to www.organicmaati.com