NAGPUR: Following in the footsteps of his father, 31-year-old Ashish Shinde from Anjangaon Surji village in Paratwada tehsil of Amravati district is promoting organic farming in all possible ways.
His father Deepak Shinde had shown the way in the 1990s. Today, Ashish has expanded the area of work to almost the entire state. The membership in the firm his father started, Organic Farms, has gone up from around 3,500 in 1999 to over 4,700 now.
Deepak Shinde had pioneered organic farming in Vidarbha and then started propagating it. As farmers joined him, he floated an NGO, Maharashtra Organic Farmers Association, with himself as secretary and Appasaheb Wankhede from village Amla in Daryapur tehsil as president. As the need to get produce certified grew, Shinde launched Organic Farms.
"In 1988, there were no organic certifying agencies in India. So my father researched and tied up with German company 'Agrisco' to certify produce from all 260 farmers in just two villages, Daryapur and Anjangaon," says Ashish.
Being an agriculture graduate like his father, Ashish has an edge over other farmers in understanding the nuances of agriculture. "I wanted to do post graduation, but father said things at ground level would not change much even if I completed doctorate in agriculture. He was right. So I am now expanding on his work," he said.
"The firm is now into export of soyabean and pulses. We are also undertaking organic cultivation and certification of pulses, vegetables and fruits," he said.
The senior Shinde was influenced by the book 'The One Straw Revolution' by Masanobu Fukuoka from Japan. Shinde was a senior grader in Cotton Federation at Daryapur and Pulgaon. After reading the book, he bought 20 acre land and started experiments. Every Sunday, he would go to Mumbai to meet Rohidas Patil after they met at a fair in Dhule. Gradually, he became famous as a organic farming consultant and went around the country training and educating farmers.
He also toured the USA and Poland, and came into contact with foreign buyers. He began promoting organic cotton, since he could buy all the cotton due to the federation's monopoly then and sell it in Kolkata market. "My father maintained extreme transparency. He formed a committee for procuring cotton with representatives from farmers and buyers to decide the rate and the farmers share in the profit. If the profit percentage was 15%, at least 10% would go to farmers and remaining 5% to Organic Farms, the company that gave the organic certification," said Ashish.
Shinde got support from Amravati collector Manisha Verma, who allowed a pilot project at Nimkhed Bazar village for residential training for farmers under the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (Atma) and trained 100 farmers daily. Now, the firm exports soyabean powder, guava, pineapple and mango pulp and juices, fresh fruits like grapes, pomegranate, safflower and sunflower oil and sells pulses and oil to Brahmaratan, a Delhi-based company, from many districts of the state.
Shinde also started dal mills, oil mills, ginning mills, pulverizing units and cashew nut processing units under the guidance of Dr Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth in 2003 at Nimkhed Bazar, which is proving handy for organic growers to ensure quality and avoid adulteration. The company also displays products at big fairs like World Organic Trade Fair-Biofach.
"For export, we need third party certification. Organic Farms has tied up with Reliable Analytical Lab and Microchem Silliker Lab at Mumbai. They test the produce for 147 chemicals at the port or airport. So, we have to maintain the same quality," said Ashish.
Ashish did his bit after meeting Kavita Mukhi, who runs 'Conscious Food' outlets in Mumbai. She motivated him to diversify into vegetables, fruits, organic textiles and cosmetics. She also proposed a Sunday farmers market in Mumbai, which will complete three years this September.
Ashish wants to fulfil all the dreams of his father, who died at an early age. "I knew a lot of my father's contacts since I kept their accounts, and they are now helping me climb up the ladder," he says.Box
- Production of organic khaddar or handloom in association with Wardha-based Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Rural Industrialisation (MGIRI)
- Developing organic textiles and organic cosmetics
- Developing organic Paithani silk dress material using organic dyes with support from Asmita Gaikwad, who works among tribals in Yeola village in Nashik
- Developing organic mulberry silk in Mumbai
- Organic milk production unit using Gir cows involving 100 farmers with cows
- Training institute for farmers
- Improving weekly farmers market in Mumbai