Choosing this road
The inspiration to follow this path starts off really simple- empty unused pieces of land here and there, the craving for that fresh taste of food you had in your childhood or just to find an excuse to get closer to nature. Whether it is to let the work steam off or even earn a little bit of extra money, soon enough, agro-farming becomes more than just a pastime.
Enthusiasts often grow a variety of vegetables depending on the soil quality of the land. For example, while the soil in Uttara may be more suitable for pumpkins, spinach, bitter gourd and so on, the land in Gazipur may be more suited to the production of cabbages, eggplants and cauliflowers. However, almost all agro-enthusiasts have a soft corner for seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Agro-farming does not have to be limited to just Bangladeshi fruits and vegetables. Core hobbyists often bring seeds of a variety of foreign berries and flowers when they go abroad, specifically picking those that are sustainable in tropical countries. Alternatively, plenty of nurseries in Dhaka also sell foreign shrubs such as Dahlias and Petunias, and even vegetable plants like broccoli. So, do not be surprised if you find a mini greenhouse with strawberry sprouts and cherry trees, and various orchids and cactuses on the rooftop or balcony of an agro-farming enthusiast. Since these do take a lot more effort and often require additional minerals and vitamins, do research a bit on the breed before you start planting.
Agro-farming is hardly limited to just planting. Many hobbyists also rear animals such as cows, ducks or even own a small poultry. Farming fish such as rui, katla, mrigal and tilapia in a pond or a small lake is also quite popular, especially
among those who own mini farmhouses either right outside the city or in their home villages, where there is ample space.
Bringing the community together
The agro-lifestyle is the perfect way to bring families and communities close to each other, and create a positive impact on today's ecosystem. You could encourage those around you to help you out or start agro-farming themselves. Exchange the different fruits and vegetables so that you can enjoy the fresh taste of produce instead of relying on market produce that are often too dried out or infested with chemicals!
Distributing the produce among friends and families is one of the biggest joys of agro-farming for many. Thank someone that did you a favour with mangoes or papayas from your own tree instead of just a curt phone call. Or, if you happen to have a farmhouse right outside the city, why not arrange weekend getaways and picnics with your loved ones where the children can learn more about nature and adults can finally take a much-needed break for the hustle-bustle of the city?
On to commercial levels
Agro-farming gives the agro-enthusiasts the opportunity to explore with different combinations of pesticides and fertilisers, and also innovate with different breeds. Many people also sell the excess off in local markets, even earning as high as around Tk15000-18000 per season. While it is no surprise that this lifestyle can provide a bit of a side income, the rewards are far more than just monetary. Plenty of people also take this chance to give back to society and help those that are financially worse off, either by letting them keep a part of the income or helping them with resources such as suitable machines and so on.
For the beginners
One advice any enthusiast would give is to start with as much as you are comfortable with. You don't need to cultivate a huge 5-acre land if it is mentally and monetarily draining for you. Start small with fruits or vegetables that are easy to grow, and then keep at it. Instead of trying to grow crops such as tomatoes that need a lot of effort, why not opt for chillies that are easier?
While a bit of pesticides and fertilisers every once in a while is inevitable, try to promote eco-friendly practices that will be sustainable for the environment. Enough of clouding the sky with smoke and corrupting the soil with overuse of chemicals! It is truly high time to treat Mother Nature with the respect she deserves. Agro-farming may just be a small step, but a step nonetheless. After all, its only initiatives as such that will turn 'make the world greener for a better tomorrow' from just a phrase to a reality.
By Adiba Mahbub Proma
Photo: LS Archive/Sazzad Ibne Sayed