Winds of change: After losing kin to cancer, family adopts organic farming
Away from the disheartening stories of farmers coming from various areas of the state, Avtar Singh (72) of Charkey village near Bhogpur, roams in his 12-acre farm in which he cultivates his crops naturally.
However, the scenario was not the same a decade ago. “We would use ‘zeher’ (insecticides and pesticides) in bulk in our fields to grow the crops,” says his son, Amarjeet Singh, adding, “We knew that spraying excessive insecticides and pesticides was not right but we continued the practice until we had to reap its results ourselves.”
He reveals, “My cousin died of blood cancer caused by the same insecticides and pesticides.” The tragedy changed their lives and Avtar decided to discard chemicals and adopt the organic way of growing vegetables, maize, sugarcane and haldi in his farm in 2006.
They took help from books on organic farming written by Subhash Palekar, an agriculturist and Padma Shri awardee.
“People said that we would die of hunger with natural farming and also called us names, but today, they see us as an inspiration,” added Amarjeet.
Amarjeet further said that the main reason of farmers’ sufferings is that they don’t know the difference between good worms and bad worms. Thus, by spraying the chemicals, they also destroy the worms that help in the growth of the crop.
Their mantra: Go natural
Amarjeet says, “Use natural products, like Asafoetida (Hing), alum (fitkari), sour lassi as sprays to prevent the crops from insects.”
“Kachi lassi helps in resisting the diseases like blight in plants,” he says, and shows the mixture he sprinkles on the crops. Besides, mixture of garlic and chilli powder in water is also used by farmers who follow the natural practice.
Avtar says, “The dung and urine of cows is beneficial for crop growth.”
No govt support
Disappointed by the government and the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Ludhiana for not showing interest to promote the organic practice, Avtar says such institutions are supporting multinational companies which sell the poisonous chemicals.
“We learn from our mistakes which has helped us as we are not short of customers for our products. In fact, people look for naturally produced crops for their health,” said Avtar.
The naturally prepared products by Singh family are becoming famous outside the country too. Their jaggery, made from sugarcanes grown naturally is exported to America, England and other foreign countries.“Had we started the organic practice earlier, we would have saved our family member, so I request every farmer to adopt this practice. Avtar signs off.