Tractors and Farm Equipment Limited (TAFE), has been deeply committed to the well-being, prosperity, and success of farmers world over. It has undertaken several initiatives to ensure that the farmers and the profession of farming is respected and given its due credit. With an aim to help the urban and semi-urban population understand the importance of a farmer in their lives, TAFE launched the ‘Be a #FarmDost’ initiative in April 2015 to encourage people to empathize with farmers and step into their shoes, even if for just a few moments.
Within a short span, the #FarmDost community grew to become 1 million strong on Facebook and is steadily growing. For the past two years, the initiative has focused on encouraging the urban and semi-urban population to become farmers in a small way and activities were conducted throughout the country to introduce people to the profession of farming. Seed kits were distributed which the #FarmDosts could take home, plant and grow on a small patch of land which gave them a glimpse of the hard work farmers do in order to nourish and sustain the world.
Taking the initiative forward and to celebrate National Farmers’ Day, #TAFE – Be a #FarmDost organised ‘Day at the Farm’ on 17 December, 2017. Held in the outskirts of Bengaluru, the celebration was a unique opportunity for the residents of Bengaluru to interact with the farming community and get insights into their life by participating in farm activities and live the life of a farmer for a day.
The participants were selected on a first come, first served basis from in and around Bengaluru city and the day-long event which was completely free for the participants, aimed at giving them a taste of farming and the rural life. Farmers from the local community were also part of the event playing the lead role by sharing their insights about farming and inspiring the participants.
More than 100 participants of all ages were present, and were divided into different teams and engaged in activities like, planting of saplings, tractor ride, organic fertilizer making, farm tour, farm tending and ‘Build-a-farm’ challenge. Participants were taken to a farm and shown how to plant a sapling. Participants then got the opportunity to plant pomegranate, teak or sandalwood saplings in the farm. Participants then proceeded to the vegetable farm where some harvested radish plants, some harvested red chillies and some tended to the farm by de-weeding.
After the farm activities, participants were in for a tractor ride. Participants boarded a trailer hitched to the back of two tractors and were taken through the farm to the organic fertilizer making area. At the organic fertilizer making area, all participants were given a run through of how the fertilizer is mixed and made. They were also invited to join in making the organic fertilizer. From the organic fertilizer making area, the participants indulged in a farm walk on their way back to the main event area.
While the participants were engaging in all these activities, the farmers in attendance were engaged in a session with Dr. T N Shivananda on better farming practices to increase yield and productivity. Post lunch, Dr. Shivananda briefed all the participants on the ‘Build-a-Farm’ activity, where the farmers and participants were clubbed into different groups.
The ‘Build-a-farm’ contest required the teams to build their own miniature farm with the guidance of the farmers, keeping in mind the practicalities associated with setting up a real farm. It exposed the participants to farming challenges, the vagaries of nature and the intense planning and hard work involved. The teams were totally engrossed in strategic discussions with the farmers about the choice of crops to plant, combination of millets, grains, vegetable and fruits and inter-cropping suggestions. They planned their water sources, came up with solar panels to generate electricity and worked together to build mini mock farms that were based on realistic farm scenarios. The groups discussed amongst themselves and planned every detail of their farm from scratch; from irrigation to the boundary of the farm. They had to calculate the input cost and arrive at the annual earnings. The winning teams were then awarded, and the farmers were felicitated for joining the TAFE – Be a #FarmDost ‘Day on the farm’ event.
The event saw an eclectic mix of people – students, professionals working in IT, textile, banking, HR, construction and manufacturing. Children as young as 4 years gleefully participated in all the activities with ease. We had 4 spritely senior citizens who put the younger generation to shame by leaping off the tractor while alighting, planting saplings and harvesting vegetables like professional farmers.
All the activities of the day were planned such that the participants got a deeper understanding of the farmers’ life and hence, renewed respect for them and the profession of farming. Post the activities an interaction was held between the participants and farmers, where the guests spoke of their perception of farmers and farming – before they attended the event and after spending the day on the farm. The day ended with a performance by the Vasu Dixit Collective, who performed songs in Kannada with a rural appeal that had both the farmers and urban residents singing along.
One of the participants, Aishwarya – a student, along with her family decided to celebrate her birthday by participating in the #FarmDost event. She cheerfully remarked that it was the best birthday she ever celebrated and she’d remember this for a life time. Pawan, a young IT professional said that the #FarmDost event was beyond his expectations and said it made him realize how much the farmer is to our society and nation.
People who had come to spend a day on the farm from Bengaluru returned as #FarmDosts for life with a new found respect for the farmer and the profession of farming. They truly realised that the farmer is deserving of all our gratitude and admiration.