Indore: Much like Benjamin Mee in the movie ‘We bought a zoo’ based on the memoir by Benjamin Mee who bought Dartmoor Wildlife Park, 56-year-old Colonel (retired) Anurag Shukla bought a farm in 2005 to seek new challenges. Talking about his life, Shukla said, “I joined the Indian army seeking challenges and adventure, but as I became a middle-level officer, even army became less challenging and much like a sedentary, office job.”
Hoping to do something new that can benefit all, he decided to retire from army to explore fresh challenges. “I had to feed my family and the direct way was to produce our own food,” Shukla said. He brought an acre of land for housing and farming. “We build a house and I transformed rest of the land into a forest,” Shukla said.
His farm is located between Indore and Mhow where he researched, learnt and experimented to produce maximum organic food in limited land. “I learned a lot of lessons because of my love for challenges. Also, thanks to my family and our worker Champa that we could discover and explore new techniques of farming,” Shukla said. For instance, he uses a solar dryer for fruits instead of buying dried fruits from markets.
Techniques Col (retired) Shukla uses:
- Bring forest to farm
- People do farming on open land away from forests. But they need biomass from forests and open pastures.
- With shrinking pastures, we do not have source for biomass. Agro-forestry brings forests to farms. So, I randomly planted trees just like in forest within distance of 20 feet.
- These trees bring up water and nutrients from below earth to surface for vegetation. I never pick up dried leaves because they are rich source of nutrients and should decompose naturally.
- Beat the heat with step farming
- I tried building a pond of 70 feet by 30 feet, which was 15 ft deep because water is major problem in MP. However, water would not stay and it kept sinking.
- Then I decided to grow plants in the pond to utilise land. I realised that the land I had was 1.5 times of the flat land. Sadly, seeds would not stay on the curved surface, so I decided to make steps like on hills. These steps increased area up to twice of original land.
- Steps also ensured that plants didn’t get destroyed by hot winds and provided favourable environment for crops.