Rahul and Jigna Shah, a doctor-couple in Surat (Gujarat, India) have transformed the life of their family by making a habit out of a hobby.
Rahul’s father used to grow vegetables. As practicing doctors, Rahul and Jigna didn’t get a lot of free time, though Rahul still enjoyed caring for his ornamental plants as a hobby. He was particularly fond of his cacti and bonsai trees.
This began to change once Jigna attended some courses several years ago, and learnt of the importance of organic food. Ever since then, the family has been practicing organic farming within their home compound, meeting large parts of their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.
The family’s farming area comprises of their 1500 square foot rooftop and some land around the house. After waterproofing the terrace, the family began growing many different things on a regular basis. While all their plants start in grow bags and pots, the ones that would grow to become trees, are eventually planted in the land around their house. Everything else is grown on their terrace.
When they started farming, they experimented with a few different vegetables. Early success encouraged them to diversify, and work towards bringing more farm-fresh organic produce to their table. With time their farming operation started to include flowering plants to attract butterflies and encourage pollination. Their set up is home to a variety of birds and insects. Even an old bathtub can now be found, repurposed as a pond that houses fish and water lilies.
They have grown chikoo (sapodilla), mango, Indian gooseberry, pomegranate, banana, papaya, black mulberry, dragon fruit, star fruit, tomato, brinjal, okra, bitter gourd, chillies and other varieties of fruits and vegetables.
The Shah family’s experience shows how growing even a few vegetables that are part of the daily diet can lead to healthier living with a step towards self-sustenance. They go months at a time not needing to buy tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. They also say that the taste of their organic produce is far better than whatever they’re able to buy.
On a daily basis, the couple spend 2 hours of their morning time working on the plants. Jigna cares for the fruits and vegetables. Rahul cares for the flowers and ornamental ones. Their teenage son also likes to help out. In an interview the couple expressed the happiness they feel towards their son’s fondness and awareness about plants and being in nature.
“My clinic functions on the ground floor of the house. We have planted mango and chikoo trees there. There are many other trees outside, due to which the indoors of the house remain cool even during summer,” Jigna shared, during the interview.
Their story is proof that busy schedules aren’t the ‘end-all’ for hobbies or even a healthy lifestyle. As a way to share their love for organic living, Jigna has also made practice out of gifting saplings to family and friends, encouraging them to start farming as well.