From City Life to Organic Farming
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with my friend Ramesh on Messenger, who told me out of the blue: “Guess what Christelle? I am building my own farm, it will be finished soon!” Ramesh is around my age (in his 30s), living a city life in Chennai Tamil Nadu – India, and working as a professional photographer. It blew my mind I had no idea about this amazing project!
In the past few years, many people around me have expressed the need for a complete life change. Some made it happen, like my friends Louis and Elodie, originally from Paris, who are now renovating a farm in the North of France with the intention of providing a relaxing and peaceful environment for parents of children with severe disabilities.
I strongly feel that these stories reflect a growing urge from our generation, not only in my country but worldwide, to be more connected to nature rather than our smartphones, to go back to the essentials. This is why I decided to share Ramesh’s inspiring path :
Can you tell me more about yourself and your life in Chennai TN?
“I am originally from Kerala. When I settled in Chennai, the city had an amazing weather compared to most places. But as IT companies started booming, everything changed: air and water pollution, bad quality food, making a living became much harder … These past 35 years, I have lived in a very crowded part of the city where the traffic is crazy. But crowded places are not for me.
My passion is wildlife photography. Everytime I go to the forest for a shoot, I definitely do not look forward to come back to the city! Being in the nature makes much more sense for me.
In 2005 my food and life habits had become absolutely disastrous. I was drinking 2 liters of Coca Cola per day and eating a lot of junk food. Working continuously for 2 to 3 days and night without getting any sleep was part of my everyday life. I was travelling around South India for work without proper rest and food. I was feeling that photography was helping me to make money and fulfill my passion without thinking further”.
How did this idea of building your own farm grow?
“2013 was a turning point in my life. I started to develop a severe dry cough. I consulted several doctors but none could give a proper diagnosis. I was finally admitted to the hospital where they ran some tests to find out that my creatinine level was unusually high. The fluids which could no longer be filtered by my kidneys had come into my lungs. My blood pressure was so high that my heart muscle had thickened. I had developed a cardiomyopathy. I stayed ten days in the hospital and took medicine for a month. Then I tried to continue the healing process through a super healthy diet and lifestyle, and it worked.
This is when I began reading books about Yoga, natural food, Siddha, Ayurveda [traditional medicines from India], and slowly moving away from photography.
I started a yoga practice, collected one hundred Indian medicinal plants to grow on my terrace. I tested the benefit of different kinds of food on my own body. To deepen my yoga practice, I followed a teacher training program at a Sivananda Ashram where I also learnt the professional way of juice fasting (which I was already doing regularly).
Now all of this has become a major part of my life: I work as a photographer a few days a month and the rest of my time is used to practice yoga and gain more knowledge.
In 2011 my father had bought land in Panapakkam near Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu. Initially, that land was acquired with the intention of selling it in the future. But I got the idea to shift all my medicinal plants there and to build a small place to stay. It is still under construction and it will hopefully be finished in a few months”.
Do you know anyone or have you heard of anyone who has a similar project?
“Yes, three of my friends have similar projects.
One of them was into CNC machine selling business before switching to organic farming. He settled three years ago. He has already started to sell fruits and has about twenty dairy cows. My other friend is a banker and is also planning to be an organic farmer. He has been visiting me to collect information for his new activity. One of my classmate also bought land in the countryside. She is planning to move out of the city next month.
I find this very exciting because this is great opportunity to share ideas, techniques, and learn from each other’s experiences”.
What do you intend to grow?
“The building will be 1000 square feet. The rest of the land (29.000 sq feet), which is plenty of space, will be used to grow organic fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants.
When I was taking care of my herbs back in Chennai, I had the opportunity to test organic farming techniques. Today I also get a lot of information from the farmers in the neighboring areas. They are more than happy to share their knowledge. They showed me very recently how to plant coconut trees, which has to be done in a very precise manner.
I am also using Panchagavya, an organic mixture mostly made of cow dung, cow urine and milk, which works both as a fertilizer and a natural pesticide.
My farm is located in an area where the weather is extremely hot in the summer. So I am planning to plant neem trees, bamboos, paradise trees and Indian beech trees on the property. They will help bring fresh air, give shade and purify the oxygen”.
How do you see this project evolve in the future?
“For now, my main focus is on developing the farm. But in the future, I definitely want people to benefit from my experience. This is why I often say that I want to live life like a tree, because a tree always gives (food, well-being, protection from the rain, the sun …) without taking. I want to share what I know, what I have.
So I plan to create a yoga center along with the farm activity, where people could come for yoga retreats in a peaceful environment and benefit from natural healthy food. Amongst other projects, I would like to develop gardening workshops for children because I believe helping the future generations to connect with nature is absolutely necessary.
I think this is also an opportunity to raise awareness about farming. I find it very sad that not so many people acknowledge all the work and dedication required to produce something so essential for us. We tend to take for granted the food that lies on our plates. But farmers are really the ones who feed us”.
If you feel like sharing your experience, or give your impressions about Ramesh’s project, feel free to leave a comment !