“The mountain water, which is used, remains healthy throughout life. I had always heard this from my elders. But, I really understood its meaning when I went to Delhi to study. There, I saw that not only in the mountains but also in the cities, people understand the importance of eating pure and clean. ” This is to say of 25-year-old Karthik Bhatt.
Karthik and his father, Bhuvan Mohan Bhatt (57), who live in Kausani, Uttarakhand, cultivate organic methods. They are distributing their agricultural produce under the brand name ‘Paharwala’ to customers in different corners of the country. However, Bhuvan Mohan Bhatt never wanted his son to do farming.
He wanted to see Karthik working in a good administrative post. Karthik’s plan was the same. Therefore, after completing engineering in 2016, he started preparing for civil services. But, perhaps his destination was the world of farming. This is the reason why today he is farming with his father.
Karthik told The Better India, “I finished my schooling from a college in Delhi NCR. When I went out of the mountains to a big city like Delhi, I saw how much people respect the hill people. Whenever I went home on vacation, some of my relatives and people living in Delhi used to give me a huge list, to get some hill things for themselves. At the same time I came to understand that there are opportunities in the big cities for the farmers of the mountains. Just need, then only to reach the metros. ”
Farming created its own brand:
Bhuvan owns about one hectare of land. However, he does not use this entire land for farming. He told, “My father had bought a house and land in Kausani years ago. This house of ours is almost 100 years old. I was working as a textile engineer in Kanpur. However, I returned home in 2003 due to the closure of the textile mill. After that, I thought of starting farming while living in the mountains. ”
Karthik, along with his father, grows crops such as lemongrass, basil, rosemary, turmeric, ginger, Sichuan pepper. Along with these, he also cultivates Kumaoni Rajma. He explained, “Apart from these seasonal crops, there are trees of fruits like plum, pear, apricot, peach, orange, Malta, lemon and walnut. Also, we also do beekeeping. ”
He has about 250 B boxes and for beekeeping, he visits the Corbett Range gardens. Where he makes three to four types of honey – lychee honey, mustard honey and eucalyptus honey. Bhuvan Bhatt says that earlier he used to give his produce to local shops only and most of the tourists depended on the season. For about 16–17 years, his scope remained confined only to Kausani and the adjoining cities. However, one of Karthik’s thinking changed the picture completely and today his produce is reaching cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Karthik says, “When I was preparing for civil services, I got an opportunity to read in detail about the geographical location of India. During this time, I got a lot of information related to agriculture. After this, when I decided to start farming, I first learned about packaging and marketing. Actually, the farmers should know about all these. ”
In the beginning, Karthik posted some beautiful pictures of some of his produce on social media. He got good response to his post and people started contacting him. He says that he started at a small level and gradually, when orders started growing, he decided to work in an orderly fashion. He started processing and packaging his produce. Today, he is delivering more than 20 types of food products to the people. These include honey, hill salt, herbs, rajma, lentils, herbal tea, jam, chutney, juice and squash etc.
Let’s help other farmers:
Along with him, Karthik also helped other hill farmers. His father, he says, was already working locally with several farmers. All these farmers grow crops through organic methods and they are confident of the quality of their produce. So, in view of the demand of customers, he started buying some things from other farmers like Munsari Rajma, red rice, ragi, wild berries honey, camamile etc. He is directly associated with 14 farmers through ‘Paharwala’.
These farmers first relied on market or tourist season to sell their crop. But, now they are not worried about marketing. Ganesh Tomkayal, a farmer from Munsari, Pithoragarh, says that he cultivates Munsari Rajma. Earlier they used to have a lot of trouble selling it. But now Karthik buys all his produce and that too at a reasonable price.
He says, “This time my farm produced about 400 kilograms of blossom rajma and Karthik ji bought all the produce from me. Because of them, we are getting the right price for our hard work. We have always been doing organic farming. But, never before has we gained so much importance. Now when people say that they like Rajma, they are very happy. ”
Karthik says that he gets around 200 orders every month and about three thousand customers are connected to him. Shaleen Bhabhu, an engineer based in Delhi, says, “I have been buying food products from Karthik ji for the last one year. Initially, I had ordered honey from them, but now I order Rajma, pulses, mountain salt etc. almost everything from them. The biggest reason for buying things from them is the quality of their food product. ”
At present, Karthik is working only in the field of farming and his annual turnover is more than one million rupees. Karthik’s father Bhuvan Bhatt says, “To be honest, I had absolutely no idea that one day our hard work will bear this kind of color. Earlier, we used to earn hardly 40-50 thousand rupees every month, but today we earn one and a half lakh rupees almost every month. We have packaging centers in Kausani and Haldwani, from where everything is packed and sent to customers. ”
Regarding his future plans, Karthik says, “I will work on the handicraft art of the mountains in the future.” I want to give a platform to artisans and artisans. But, we have to take our farming work to a greater level first, after which we will focus on art and craft. Apart from this, I want to convert my 100-year-old house into a homestay, so that employment opportunities are created for the local people. My only appeal to the people is to connect directly with the farmers and artisans as much as possible and give them the right price for their hard work. ”