My kid came back from a wonderfully interesting session at school. She eagerly filled me in on the interactive time they with the representatives from TAFE who were part of the Be a #Farmdost initiative. Not only was she given a quick but effective class on the importance of the agricultural sector but was also given a kit to start her own little farm project. The kit consisted of a packet of seeds and instructions on how to grow the same. Hers contained spinach and ladysfinger seeds while some others had spinach and cluster beans seeds. The instructions it came with were very detailed and precise. Her excitement and mature understanding of the session was what really caught my attention. The students were also encouraged to think of different kinds of containers in which they could grow their plants. “Don’t go and buy pots” , they were told. “Look around your home , you can use an old broken bucket , tin can , mud pot or anything else. Just make sure to add holes at the bottom for drainage”. This further retreated the recycling lesson taught at school. For many ,this was an initiation in not only growing but even the thought of growing one’s own plant. Coincidentally I received an invite on Facebook to ‘like’ the #Farmdost page. It contained of a series of pictures from schools where children were involved in the planting of kitchen gardens . These pictures were from various schools in Coimbatore.
The pictures were impressive, to say the least. I had a million questions in my head as to where this initiative was headed towards and what the reason behind it was. The invitation to be a part of this initiative was extended to me by Sunitha Subramaniyan who is the Sr. deputy General Manager at TAFE. TAFE has always been a dependable brand name for the farming community at large. The Chairman and CEO of TAFE , Ms. Mallika Srinivasan is of the belief that in sharing the world ,we should all be “environmentally responsible” . Her vision is that of “Cultivating the World” .This new initiative is an off shoot of that vision. The purpose of this initiative is quite simple. To recognise the ‘invisible hero’ – the farmer. This campaign needed an appropriate name that encompassed all that it stood for. After a considerable brainstorming session ,the head of product strategy Mr. T . R. Kesavan ,came up with the name FARMDOST. The name upheld the irrefutable truth that TAFE was , is and always will be the farmer’s true friend .
The agricultural sector depends to a great deal on the hard work put in by the farmer. He toils on his land ,each day with utmost humility and perseverance . He is responsible for every meal ,that we enjoy at the comfort of our homes. But how many of us spare him even a passing thought ? TAFE has always striven to reach out to the farming community. Through this campaign they hope that society will recognize the farmer in the public sphere and give him the much needed respect that he or she rightfully deserves. What better way then for people to understand the life of farmers than by stepping into their shoes.
The first phase of this initiative is aimed at first raising the awareness of respecting farming as a profession. The journey to bring about a sustainable change in the lives of farmers is long. It cannot be completed in a short span of time. It requires the participation of society as a whole , to take a step in the right direction. Being a nation with the world’s largest youth population ,it made sense to pitch this idea first and foremost to children. As the team at TAFE rightly puts it , ” We face a risk of keeping the future generation away from the important things that are divorced from technology” . I couldn’t agree with that statement more. Children these days, in my decade plus of experience as a mom very rarely stop to connect on things that are real. Conversations largely revolve around technology and we’ve all heard the answer to , ‘Where does milk come from?’ , ‘The Supermarket’. This is not want we want for future generations . They must be made to identify with what is real . They must be taught that one cannot click on a button to cultivate land or harvest crops , it requires physical labour . In order for it to sustain , the land must be tended to with utmost care and dedication.
This seed kit put together by the team at TAFE, is for the kids to experience the joy of cultivating and harvesting their own crop. It reminds me of a story of a little girl who hated tomatoes , until her mother got her to grow her own. The ‘Be a #Farmdost ‘ package not only consists of seeds and compost mixture. It contains a very important message individually worded to both the parent as well as the student. Empathy as well all know comes instinctively to children and a chunk of that needs to be directed towards the farmers,is what they believe..They end this note by requesting , “May you show the country the way back to it’s conscience’ . The #Farmdost representatives also want the kids to share this activity with parents , grandparents , cousins and neighbours. It could be a wonderful way for families to bond and together they could spread the message. It’s time we taught ourselves to be proud of our farmers. They are every bit as important as any other professional in the service industry , if not more so ! The first phase has been launched in Trichy ,Madurai ,Coimbatore and Chennai. After a one on one communication to set the ball rolling , the rest of the communications are being done online through social media. They are planning to engage them in various activities throughout the year. Today , the #Farmdost Facebook page has over 1,00,000 fans . School children have been motivated to upload pictures of themselves planting the seeds , then subsequent pictures of the new shoots and finally of them harvesting the produce. Each stage of growth from shoot to mature plant has to also be clearly documented in the form of photographs. The rules and regulations on the Farmdost page clearly state the manner in which these pictures need to be presented. This will be then judged as an ongoing competition. A healthy and friendly competition amongst the schools adds to the excitement of growing their own plants.
The school that uploads the maximum number of pictures and has the most number of enthusiastic little farm hands will find a special mention.These awards are of different categories. The #farmdost best school award will pick 3 schools in each city for the highest percentage of participation .The school champions award will go to the school that has the best overall participation of schools in all 4 cities. The #thank you farmers award is what I like best of all. This involves students visiting a farmer in their area and acknowledging them by way of an innovative gesture. If parents could take time out and ensure that the children meet the farmer ,it will be an unforgettable experience for all. Giving thanks could be by offering a home cooked meal for the farmer, spending an hour with them in their environment or maybe even writing a verse in appreciation of their hard work , the possibilities are many. The most innovative gesture will be highlighted. This gives the children a unique opportunity to be grateful for the food they are assured of every day. It is the best way to teach them to appreciate fully the farmers’ contribution to each and every one of their lives. An experience of this nature can go a long way in teaching the young that this sector needs a lot of investment from us in order to thrive. Investment in the form of time , money , appreciation and support. This lesson cannot be taught inside a classroom. The green fields will also open young minds to look at farming as a career. Farming is not only for the lesser educated. That myth needs to also be squashed. If we delay in making this all important connect between the youth and respect for the land , we will be encouraging a generation to consume food that is not real ! The school that has the highest percentage of participation in thanking the farmer will be evaluated and awarded. At the end of the year the plan is to throw open an agri innovation challenge to students at the college level.
Society will also be engaged to contribute at different levels. The good news is that the #Farmdost is not just for students. Anyone who is willing to contribute can be a Farmdost. Do visit www.farmdost.com . You can order for your own Farmdost kit free of cost. You can get started on your own farm project. You can spread the message and invite others to be a part of this special project. At every stage , you are welcome to upload pictures and videos of your progress and share it on social media by hash tagging Farmdost. As the website clearly states , ‘if you want to feel the thrill of warm earth between one’s fingers. The joy of nurturing a seed until it springs to life. The humility of knowing that the earth will reward the efforts put in. And finally to feel the bliss of harvesting a crop’ , be a #Farmdost.
As the campaign progresses they hope to develop many activities that will lead back to the #Farmdost movement. The team at TAFE want to create a million farmdosts. They are of the vision of spurring this on as a nation wide movement , reaching out to a cross section of society across the vast urban landscape. They are looking at educating the nation on the importance of the farmer and the need to uplift the quality of life for the farmer. They want to bring about ” a paradigm shift in the way the urban society looks at farmers and engages with them”. It will include outreach programs which will tackle different aspects of the needs of the agricultural sector and how the general population can work towards meeting those needs. People from all walks of life are being roped in to lend their voice in favour of the #Farmdost movement. We all need to passionately work towards a common cause. That of preserving the agricultural sector. As the population increases ,the land needs to ‘stretch’ to accommodate the growing needs. It needs to be nurtured and revered . The best way of making an immediate change is to be the farmer’s friend , every step of the way ! “Cultivating the world” is truly what we all need to focus on collectively.
The team next aims at “generating ROI ” which means “Return of Inspiration” with a much deeper sense and purpose. By then , they hope to have instigated a change that will see the community of Farmdosts form groups in their own area to work closely with the farming community.This will in turn propagate the cause further and inspire many others to follow suit. These hardworking sons of the soil can then finally live off their land in a manner that will uphold a sound lifestyle. This will in turn ensure that farmers’ crisis situations become non-existent.The #Farmdost initiative is committed to putting the ‘pride’ back into farming !