Noida’s farm tourism, an apt break from city’s humdrum
With Covid-19 taking a toll on not only those infected by the viral disease but also those who have been restricted to their homes ever since the pandemic began, the vast expanse of agricultural land in Gautam Budh Nagar has opened the doors of farm tourism in the district, providing a refreshing break to people who want to break free from the humdrum of their city life and reconnect with nature.
Farm tourism involves inviting and attracting visitors to a farm land usually for recreational purposes. These farms are run by locals, who have either bought the land or are leasing it out. Visitors can take a stroll along the farm and also learn farming from the owner or the local villagers at the fram. Many families plan their picnics in these farms, which also sell the organic products produced by the locals. Some farms also serve food made from the locally grown vegetables.
Located in Sector 126, Beejom is one such sustainable farm spread over two acres, which started in 2018 but gained more popularity post lockdown. Sector 20 resident Aparna Rajagopal, who owns and runs the farm, said since they reopened to visitors after Covid curbs were relaxed, there has been a revived interest in farm tourism.
“Most of the visitors we had before the pandemic would get to know about Beejom through word of mouth. By the end of 2019, we used to host at least 50 people every weekend as entry remained free. After the lockdown was imposed, we could reopen in January this year and then again shut down in March after the second wave happened. After we reopened in September, we are hosting almost 100 people every weekend,” said Rajagopal adding that now they have started charging an entry fee of ₹100 per person on all days, except Saturdays, in order to keep Covid protocols in place.
“Since this place is within easy reach, it serves as a convenient place for people to spend their weekend at. Though restrictions are relaxed, many are still working from home and schools too have not opened completely. As a result, going outdoors has almost become a luxury and people are looking to reconnect with nature now,” added Rajagopal, who is a lawyer-turned-farmer.
Nandini and Manish Gupta, residents of Noida’s Sector 52, came to the farm on Saturday with their 2-year-old son Shael. “Our son was born just before the pandemic and we never got an opportunity to connect him with nature. We show him animals and plants in children’s books but in the city life, we are never able to show him these things in real. We got to know about Beejom through social media and decided to come here. It was a delight to see him beaming with joy watching the hens, ducks, rabbits and other farm animals here,” said Nandini, who works in an MNC.
Puneet Tyagi, who owns Prodigal Farms in Sector 131 and has been hosting visitors here since 2017, said the footfall in his farm has doubled post lockdown. “Just before the lockdown in 2020, visitors to the farm had started increasing as people were interested to spend time with nature. After we shut in March 2020, we could resume operations from October this year and the response has been better than the pre-Covid era,” he said.
On the other hand, there are also those who picked up the concept during the lockdown. Sector 104 resident Sanchaita Mazumdar left her job after the Covid outbreak in June 2020 and found herself scouting for land in Noida to grow her own organic produce.
“What started as a lockdown hobby to grow our own vegetables at a rented land turned into a family-run farm, which started hosting visitors by October 2020. The farm is filled with vegetable crops that we plant and harvest. My mother cooks these for visitors at a small kitchen here. Because of Covid, we only take bookings in advance and no walk-ins are allowed. We are overwhelmed with the response from people, looking to reconnect with nature and have a rural experience,” said Mazumdar, who runs Baagh Bagicha farm and nursery in Sector 135.
“Though restrictions are relaxed and we can go for a vacation, going to the farms on the outskirts of the city seems to be a more convenient alternative. I recently discovered such a farm near my residence, which opens for visitors on weekends and I have been going there with my family for the last three weeks,” said Atul Rathore, who lives in Sector 137 and visits a farm called Baagh Bagicha in Sector 135.
Having been through the worst during the Covid pandemic, visiting farms is also therapeutic for some. “After recovering from Covid in June and staying at home for months on end, both have had a negative impact on my mental health. I got to know about one of the farms here through an acquaintance and one visit here felt like I have healed. The wind feels totally free from pollution and it feels refreshing to visit the fields. I try to learn some farming and connect with nature,” said Rakhee Vashisht, a resident of Greater Noida west who has been visiting Baagh Bagicha for the past one month.
Greater Noida resident Vikrant Tongad, who is an environmentalist, offered up his land in Kheri Bhanauta village for community farming in 2014 to a group of environment-conscious working professionals from Noida. Today, visitors throng the farm, which is about 15-20 kilometers from Noida.
“While group of visitors used to visit earlier too, queries and visits have increased manifold after Covid. While earlier, those visiting the farm were mostly from the environment conservation community, now those who are busy with their hectic schedules also visit the farm, learn farming and teach their kids the same,” said Tongad, who invites visitors through social media.
However, he added that the concept of farm tourism still runs in an unorganised manner and needs a push from government agencies to gain more popularity.
“These farms are located in rural villages of the district and those who maintain these farms and work here the whole week are local villagers themselves. It becomes difficult for them to work here when there is a lack of basic amenities like public washrooms, steady supply of water and uninterrupted electricity. If the district authorities ensure such basic necessities here, it will be easier for workers as well as visitors to have a good time,” he said.
There are about seven to eight more such places in Noida and Greater Noida which are being used for farm tourism. District magistrate Suhas L Y said, “There are various government policies under which rural and agricultural areas are being developed in the district. Further, if villagers and farmers face any issues, I will direct concerned authorities to resolve them.”
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