Here comes an interesting story of an inspiring woman who took her dream from the kitchen to the hilltop. It all started way back in 2001 at Chicago, Priya Vardheesh an Indian settled in US was a successful IT professional carrying some deep thoughts within her. Chicago known for its freezing climate came along with vitamin D deficiency due to the lack of sunshine. Priya’s husband was too health conscious and goes to the gym on a regular basis. A spark struck Priya and she challenged her husband. `Why gym, the same old cycling method? Let’s go do some physical work.” That’s where she came to know about the community farming practices where every city will have huge farm plots both perennial and annual with the availability of water and tilled fields. She utilized this facility to develop her farming skills and techniques. It gave a lot of exposure to different techniques with an adverse diversity of having Russians, Italians, and many others as her neighboring farmers.
Farming gave the benefit of gym along with fresh vegetables. Priyas’s family took it seriously and cancelled their gym membership and soaked their legs into farming. Weekends turned out to be their village lifestyle, carrying food to the field working the whole day on the farm and sharing food with the neighbours. They socialized with everyone and felt peaceful. Producers of her farm include her husband and daughter. They produced abundant food sufficient for their entire year. They shared their excess vegetables with neighbours, food pantries and homeless shelters. “We never purchased vegetables outside.” You name it we had it.” They started experiencing a quality family time and the joy of cherishing was huge. “This is all I wanted, staying close to mother nature”.
Priya’s thoughts travelled to India and wished we had such facilities here so that children of this generation get to know where their food comes from.” Children assume Milk is from Aavin and veggies are from Reliance mart”. She felt children do not have a chance to even visit villages as their grandparents moved towards the city. She was stuck between the irony that the government was striving to control the population count and now within three decades from then we see infertility centers in every nook and corner. Diabetics has become so common in the 30’s that we start our conversation by comparing each other’s sugar levels. Just like cold flu we have diabetics and cancer. All this shows the pathetic situation of the society based on healthy wellbeing. All these thoughts kept oscillating in her mind, and she wanted to do something meaningful to the society rather than just come and go by. She clearly knew that she couldn’t make ample money through agriculture that she has been making in her IT profession. Transformation of a healthy society topped her bucket list.
A travel back from US to Kodaikanal
From 2006, Priya started her search for land to start her agriculture in India. None supported her as they were unable to understand the pure essence of healthy life that she wanted to build. In 2012 October she resigned from her IT job and moved back to India. The search for land ended up in the hills which had an apt climate and availability of water but still with the drawback of the labor force. Priya doesn’t complain about what she lost yet does the best with what she has. Meanwhile, she got in contact with Dr. Namaalvar Ayya who came out to be her turning point adding values to her purpose. Until Priya’s goal was very spiked and straight. Her goal was to produce organic food for a healthy society. Ayya’s guidance exposed her to a lot of avenues. “He says and I follow blindly”. One fine day Ayya told her to drive to the Ottanchatram market and Priya ran like a dog with two tails to explore. That’s where she saw adulteration happening right in front of her eyes. She ran towards ayya out of frustration. She couldn’t tolerate this happening in broad daylight and wanted to take some serious actions. Ayya cleared her mind saying,” If you fight for this you may lose her purpose”. He also added that she cannot change them rather she can change people. So Priya started to hold her purpose tight by living close to mother nature.
Priya doesn’t complain about what she lost yet does the best with what she has. She was invited by schools and colleges as a motivational speaker. People were very curious to know the reason behind her career switch. The quality time she spent with her parents, breathing clean air, drinking unpolluted water, and eating fresh food was priceless compared to other fields where money making was easier. Quality of life made this career shift. She used such podiums to interact more with the future generation and created an interest in them to know about where their food came from.
Priya followed some strategies in her farming techniques. She goes around the whole area visiting other farmlands to get in depth knowledge about what are the crops being opted by other farmers and plans to stand out of the box by planting bumper crops which could be in demand in the market but not been grown by other farmers. Also, she has to handle certain risk factors which were out of her control. Water should not be more nor less. Rainfall at the wrong time is also problematic. “Elephant, Bison, Porcupine, barking deer, wild boar and what not? All came from nowhere and wildlife problems arise.” Skilled labours were also an issue to be noted as they were very scarcely available in the market. Crossing all these hurdles, market fluctuation comes into the picture. Agriculture is the only field where the producer couldn’t determine the price for the produce. The affiliate traders hold the upper hand as they are dealing with the perishable goods.
Farmers become more vulnerable due to all these upper hands. To address all these issues of the farmers, an NGO named Nambikkai Vizhuthugal has been started in Chicago and Priya is a part of it. They address farmer’s issues, educating their kids. They also clean up waterbodies, plant trees. With this Priya is also trying to uplift the rural economy through reverse migration by creating job opportunities in the villages and there by bringing back the migrants.
She grew butter beans as a bumper crop which grabbed the media attention. Her fellow farmers were eager to know how she could produce a high yield in organic means. Far away farmers traveled a long way to reach her farm and needed some stay. That’s where Priya got a spark. Why not live intact with mother nature in the farm? That is how she started her resort plan and realised tourism has her another business to work along with her purpose hand in hand. She made the stay suitable for elite gusts as well as at affordable pricing for students.” It costs less than the amount you spend on a movie in the mall.” The visitors will talk about her farm, the taste and quality of the food they had, and the ethical practices being followed. This would bring in more walkins into her farm adding a boost to her purpose and reach as many people as possible. Priya challenges her visitors to stay without television, alcohol, and non-veg food. People usually come up with the comment that they had a sound sleep after years. The menu provided in the resort is always a surprising one wherein they get fresh salad and juices made from the fresh farm products. This way Priya kindles her visitor’s curiosity for the next meal. She bets that people will extend their stay for sure after having a priceless experience. She is constructing a lively pool surrounded by Italian herbs that spread a pleasant smells all around.
With all these unimaginable dreamy farm,
Bagging all this Priya is entering into another revolutionary movement where families could join and adopt a farmer so that the family gets healthy vegetables, and the farmer gets a stable income for the efforts he takes in producing them. “Why a family doctor! Let’s all have a family farmer.”
Visit her resort : Plumeriaecotrails & feel the nature