Dheeraj Garg is a busy IT professional but he finds time to engage in a ‘hobby’ every weekend. Every Sunday, Dheeraj drives to Badshahpur on the outskirts of the city, where he – along with over a hundred other Gurugrammers – works as a farmer in his own farm, growing everything, from tomatoes and strawberries. Community organic farming is finding popularity among the professionals of the Millennium City, who are not averse to getting their hands dirty in the mud and engage in farming. Currently, over 100 families from across the city are engaged in the practice on leased farms in Badshahpur in a project started by the District Horticulture Department and supported by a local NGO, Green Leaf Initiative.

The project was started in October 2016 by the Gurgaon District Horticulture Officer Deen Mohammad Khan, and was expanded after it gained popularity. Khan says, “We offer technical support and expertise to farmers here. The residents have formed a community on WhatsApp, leasing 52 farms in Badshahpur, where they grow all sorts of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and varieties of flowers. The idea was to create a space where Gurgaon residents could be closer to nature and promote organic community farming.” Khan’s department provides the technical expertise and advice to budding farmers and has also facilitated hiring of 10 labourers to assist the residents in their farms. They are all paid using the fees from the residents. All the practices of farming are completely organic.

All the ‘farmers’ involved in the project are Gurgaon-based working professionals. “Some are IT people, some are senior corporate professionals. We even have doctors and engineers,” says Khan.

South City 2 resident Shikha Gaur says, “We read about all the poison we are ingesting through pesticides and growth hormones used in the vegetables and fruits available in the market and we wanted an alternative to that.” Shikha Gaur is a corporate event planner and prefers her self grown fresh vegetables and fruits over the market’s produce.

These urban farmers say that over the months, their farms have become so productive that they are now reaping about 20kg of fruits and vegetables every week. Rajeev Arora, a Phase 1 resident who is retired from the IT sector, says, “I grow close to 15-20 kg of vegetables every week. That is much more than what we can consume. So we even distribute it to our neighbours and family members. My neighbours are very happy about this. I have become their wholesale vegetable supplier!”

For many, this has become an opportunity for family picnic or some alone time. Sushant Lok resident Shekhar Bharti says, “More than the financial benefits, it is also the joy of creating something that makes this so fulfilling. Plus, it’s a good family outing where you can sit in the clean air and have a picnic.”

Asha Johri, a consultant and a Golf Course Extension Road resident, says, “Weekends now mean a drive to the farms and getting our hands dirty. This is more fulfilling.”

Source: Meet Gurgaon’s urban farmers!