For the longest time, Pradeep Kumar's life as a highly paid engineer was quite uneventful. After a decade in the IT sector, he realised all the money he had earned was inconsequential if he did not have access to healthy food. Hence, in 2015, he took it upon himself to become a farmer and provide his friends and family with organic food. After two years of shuttling between his IT job in Bengaluru and farming in his village in Tamil Nadu, he has now made organic farming profitable by selling the excess produce.
Pradeep grew up in Tenkasi, Tirunelveli district, with a strong passion for agriculture, as his grandfather was a farmer himself. However, his parents, who were professors at a government college, wanted him to pursue engineering. After graduating from Chennai, he settled in Bengaluru in 2003 with a job at HP. Not happy with all the toxicity in the food he was eating, he thought of farming on his ancestral land. However, his parents were initially unsupportive. In his words,
"My parents were not ready to pay heed to my request. Like most others, mine wanted me to concentrate on my career in the IT sector and grow in the profession. They decided to give in only after realising that I was determined."
His wife Mangai, on the other hand, supported him from the beginning. After reviving his ancestral land, which had gone barren, Pradeep started cultivating a variety of crops like onion, groundnut, and pulses. But becoming a farmer did not mean he quit his day job — while weekdays were spent at the office, on weekends he travelled 300 km to Karur.
It was difficult in the initial months as the barren land was not suitable for agriculture. However, Pradeep was adamant about not using hybrid or genetically modified seeds and also about using only natural manure. Even the cattle he raises are native breeds. Over time, the land has become rich.
Thus, Ranga Malai Organic Farm was born in 2015. Pradeep has also convinced his friends from the IT sector to work with him in making sure they produce and eat organic and healthy food. In 2016, Pradeep started a community seed bank that preserves native seeds. At present, Pradeep delivers organically produced food across India. He says,
"We knew organic farming was the ideal way to have healthy food. What we did not foresee was that it could be a profitable business."
Read this in Tamil.