Working farms become containment’s new vacation destination
After months of confinement, people are traveling again. But now, instead of tour packages and crowded destinations, they’re opting for more laid-back vacations in a rustic setting. Discover the luxury of working on a farm
Lockdown did what years of social conditioning couldn’t: make the outdoors beautiful again.
People are now looking for places to commune with nature while remaining connected remotely to their desks in wifi “anti-stations” in the villages.
Describe this new standard of domestic travel the way you will – farm work, revenge tourism, or a day trip, it is clear that the joys of a simpler life have become evident to a growing number of people.
The people behind this renewed interest in agrotourism are new age farmers and nature lovers keen to create environmentally friendly green spaces near the city.
On-farm restaurants offering ‘locavore’ menus (with locally grown foods) also sprung up during the lockdown.
“There has certainly been an increase in the number of people interested in farm vacations during the lockdown because they want to stay in an environment naturally away from the crowds,” says Kiruba Shankar, a digital professional and Chennai-based speaker. who runs Vaksana Farms in the village of Rettanai in Tindivanam.
Farm stays are an immersion in the rhythm of village life. “The beauty of staying on a working farm is that you can get your hands dirty and help with daily chores. I always encourage guests to get the most out of the farm and not think of it as a timeshare where you come and go, ”says Kiruba, whose 13-acre organic farm grows fruit trees and millets and maintains also livestock and shelter for the abandoned. pets.
Vaksana can accommodate 15-20 people in its current premises, and a “big little house” called Pico recently opened for reservations. A forest of Miyawaki fruit trees is one of the attractions here.
Families as clients
With working from home becoming common practice, more and more rural resorts are creating experiential vacations with families in mind.
Business innovation consultant Shammy Jacob and anthropologist Charlotte Van’t Klooster, who moved into their ‘lifestyle farm’ with their children in Thalambur (20 kilometers from Chennai) after leaving Amsterdam in 2013, found a significant change in the demographics of their visitors this year. .
“Before the lockdown, we had a lot of IT professionals as volunteers; for them, agriculture was both a way to relieve their stress and a chance to live their dream of working in the fields. Now we are seeing more families, especially those with young children, venturing out to picnic at our premises. For many residents of closed communities, collecting morning milk straight from our farm is an adventure in itself, ”says Shammy.
The sustainability of the farm is underlined by the use of solar energy and a collection system to supply the water table and develop biodiversity.
For city dwellers keen to get into farming, Shammy has started renting land (4,800 square feet) on the three-acre farm, which can be used as a trial plot. “We provide seeds and relevant advice on growing crops; it helps people learn all about farming before they get into it full time, ”he says.
“There is a real transfer of knowledge between generations when families use these mini farm plots, because it is usually the parents or grandparents who teach children to plant saplings,” explains Charlotte.
Making agriculture attractive to the younger generation is one of the main goals of Kadambavanam Farm in Cheyyur, 102 kilometers from Chennai. Run by photographer Amar Ramesh with activities curated by Ratheesh Krishnan and SS Sriram of SPI Edge, the farm is open to visitors by invitation only through its Instagram page.
“Kadambavanam is the opposite of a typical village getaway. There is no staff to wait for you, no on-site restaurant or swimming pools. We want to inspire young people in their twenties to understand what farming is, and then we bring them together to learn leadership skills in farming. People who come here have to be prepared to work hard, ”says Amar.
The last moos
Among the many attractions of working farms are their livestock, especially their young. Caring for animals is a way for children growing up in urban areas to experience the intricacies of the natural food chain.
For cattle company, head to Karma Dairy Farm in Chikkamaranahalli, Nelamangala town near Bengaluru, which breeds its 150 native cows using Israeli techniques. “The cows are milked using automated pumps early in the morning,” says Vishwanath Murthy, managing partner of the farm. “The farm sells regular milk and its by-products such as yogurt and ghee. We also use the milk to prepare traditional sweets which are sold in our India Sweet House outlets. “
Coming from a farming family in Vijipura, Murthy was involved in medical transcription and other BPO businesses, before starting the Karma dairy farm in Madikeri in 2013. The 39-year-old entrepreneur co-founded India Sweet House with Shwetha Rajashekar.
In addition to dairy training programs and awareness initiatives such as calf adoption, Karma Dairy Farm also offers overnight stays in luxury cabins made from converted shipping containers.
“Customers can see how the cows are milked and the process of making sweets from farm to fork in less than 12 hours, to understand how fresh, tasty food can be prepared on a commercial scale,” says Murthy.
Farming, biking, and sightseeing are all part of the package at Nannilam Farm House, a 10-acre property in Acchukattu, in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu. Initiated by the former tourist guide Sudhakar Selwyn, in 2015, the resort reserved five of its 10 hectares for organic farming (coconut, mango, millets and fodder crops).
With compressed bamboo timber cottages and tents offered as accommodation, guests can enjoy their stay at Nannilam, while also occasionally meeting “uninvited guests” from the nearby forest.
Maintaining the agritourism facility has been a successful experience, says Selwyn. “We are trying to rekindle interest in traditional cuisine. By exchanging with our hosts, I also learn from them about eco-responsible agrotourism.
Home away from home
To make the stay truly memorable, many farms opt for buildings that are as architecturally distinctive as they are sustainable in the long run.
Karthik Padmanabhan and his wife Shyla started Yash Farms four years ago in Narayanaghatta, six kilometers from Electronic City Phase II in Bengaluru, for personal reasons. “We wanted to improve our quality of life, which we measure by the amount of food we eat, the type of environment we live in, the water we drink and, most importantly, the awareness that we are part of it. ‘a larger ecosystem,’ says Padmanabhan, who works in the IT industry in Bangalore.
Their one-acre property, which accepts guests on weekends and serves as a venue for photo ops on working days, is an example of a sustainable lifestyle – the main house was built with mud and stones, and only 10% of the whole construction contains cement.
“We didn’t use modern building materials and didn’t change things too much to avoid generating pollution while we were building the property,” says Padmanabhan. “The idea is to help people who come here to experiment with concepts like harvesting rainwater, conserving water, farming or using solar energy, so that when they return home, they too can practice a sustainable way of life. “
Transferring the comforts of an urban hotel to the rural landscape in the name of tourism is not really the way to go, as Amar points out. “The pandemic has made us aware of the damage our cities have suffered,” he said, adding “If we have learned the lesson, we now need to take good care of our rural areas and preserve vegetation rather than turning them into luxury real estate. . “