A businessman, software entrepreneur and an organic farmer, Alladi Mahadevan has dabbled in many fields. Coming from a family of solicitors, legal consultants and farmers, farming and agro economics were the main areas of interest since a young age. Today, he manages a Software company called Open Source Models that specializes in open source software for the education and non profit sector. He also has an organic farm near Chennai where he grows organic produce and also teaches children and gardening enthusiasts about growing produce in their apartment terraces and backyards.
You have been doing organic farming for almost 14 years now. What inspired you to get into this unique venture? What are the lessons you have learned from this?
Farming took me to different places in India. What I saw at many farms was a real eye opener. I had been reading Dr. Namalvar’s statement on conventional farming. He used to say that India was a dumping ground of chemicals that were invented/produced during the World War. They were being used on our land. The soil starts degenerating.
That’s when I realized “Is this something that we need to feed our family, friends and the world” One lesson that I have learnt through this venture is that, a farmer holds the power of providing daily food but along with this power, comes the responsibility and the moral commitment to provide good healthy food.
How did you apply your economics background to the business of making organic food and what are the lessons you have learned in the process?
Agronomics has become a natural interest these days. Farming in our country is a disorganized sector. Mass production had become the norm post Green Revolution in our country. Demand/Supply metrics were not looked into before growing a crop.
Economics provided me an understanding of the existing market. This inspired me try and grow multiple vegetables in small spaces. I started looking at the retailer’s shelf and at the customer needs and tried to map it with what is natural in our soil and started growing it.
You have an organic farm where you teach children and other gardening enthusiasts about the different techniques of organic farming and compost making. How did that come about? Any lessons you have learned in this venture?
Couple of years ago, a friend and his son visited India. They were interested in visiting my farm. We drove down and during the drive my friend asked me what do you grow? Paddy and other crops were my answer. Once we reached the farm standing amidst the paddy field the son asked me, “Where is the paddy tree?”
This is the sad situation with our education. I have since learnt that children in our society should have a real feel of soil and learn how the food that they eat, gets to the table. This will start making them respect food and farmers.
- Agriculture is a science. We teach mathematics while growing food.
- Catch them young. It is easier to educate them and this would be for lifetime and would be taken to the generations to come.
You come from a farming background. How different are the farming methods of today’s when compared to what your grandfather or father used to do? What are the lessons learned here?
Our forefathers were brilliant people. They were able to study the galaxy with bare eyes. They named the planets, moons and stars without any technology. This knowledge is brought down to Agriculture.
They knew the basic principles of agriculture; something as simple as why should we sow during Amavasai (new moon). This way the gravity levels on earth will help the seeds to germinate well.
I do not hate the modern thoughts. I have tried to pick good things like drip irrigation and renewable energy. One important lesson that I have learned is that our resources are depleting and we need to conserve and use it with care.
Organic farming and growing vegetables in one’s terrace are trends that are improving our lives in a small way. What are the lessons that you wish to share with your readers about this?
A family that has a balcony garden brings a lot into their home.
- Safe food that is devoid of any chemicals or pesticides is one of the basic things. Gardening also helps us learn many valuable lessons such as learning patience, not being angry, bonding within the family.
- I have also learnt that once you start growing plants, you tend to inspire others to do that same and soon your community starts becoming vibrant and you will be sharing produce and seeds with others.
- Seeds are very important. While I am writing this I am sitting amidst the farms of Nilgiris where the whole concept of seeds have been lost. They grow their plants and sell the seeds to big brands and take it back in covers which they are so confident to use. The self esteem and confidence on thy self is LOST. This changes in a home gardener and they move with so much of confidence.
If it were possible to travel by time, what lessons would teach your younger self?
I would have many lessons to share with my younger self. I strongly feel that every youngster should be allowed to define the space around them. The space in which they can feel happy and enjoy. Adults should just watch and direct them in case the path is wrong. But self learning is something important for every youngster today.
Connect with Alladi Mahadevan here – https://www.facebook.com/alladimahadevan?fref=ts
Visit his organic farm here – http://theorganicfarm.in/