24 Y.O. Agro-Preneur Niharika Takes Us To Her Little Farm Where She Grows Non-Polluted Food Culture
- IWB Post
- January 9, 2018
In partnership with her nature-lover Dad, 24-year-old Agro-Preneur from Delhi, Niharika Bhargava, is determined to revolutionize the organic food market and take India back to its traditional food practices!
A marketing strategist from the Cass Business School of London, through her company, The Little Farm, Niharika is promoting the use of organic food products, and with all her production unit employees being women from the socio-economically disadvantaged section, she has also found her way to give back to the society.
“The Little Farm Co’s niche product line is to get back to the traditional foods. And our selling point is not just about going organic, but about returning to natural and non-polluted food culture, like how it was in the 1950-60s. It is the need of the hour!” shared Niharika
Come, let’s take a quick round of The Little Farm Co.’s 400 acres of lush farmlands in Madhya Pradesh, and also find out what they’re growing this winter:
To begin with, what led you become a “Green Thumb” Entrepreneur?
I have a marketing background, but after having worked at a digital firm, I felt that I wanted to do something of my own. We had a land lying in the Paharapurwa village of Madhya Pradesh, and I began to wonder what I can possibly do with it. From past some time, my dad, who’s always been connected with agriculture, had been getting pickles made from the little produce and gifting to relatives, so that’s where’s the dots began to connect.
I am all ears to what happened from there?
Ha-ha. So initially we started with making small batches in Delhi itself, and alongside planned to cultivate our land in the village. It was different from regular farming, as we don’t simply do pickle-centric farming. And the fact that women in Madhya Pradesh are known for pickle-making worked to our advantage. Their pickles are amazing, and regardless of whether they sell it or not, all of them make pickles at home.
Tell me about your early memories of farming?
My dad has been involved in farming since 2010, so I used to visit with him earlier also. Moreover, both my dad and mom are very close to nature, so I haven’t been far either.
So how equipped are you with the knowledge of agro-practices?
Not much, but now that I’m doing its business, I keep learning. Though I manage the R&D, and the production end is mostly handled by my dad. New products that have to be launched, NGO tie-ups, coordinating with teams, etc, I look after all this.
How does your day go like when visiting the farm?
Aah, MP is too far from Delhi, so I am not able to visit regularly like now I’ll be going in 15-20 days. But there are so many things to look after and check during these visits, that one thing takes up one whole day. All the production processes need to be planned one year in advance, so I am, certainly, there every summer and winter.
Since you’re not always present there physically, what is your managing strategy?
Well, when you’re running a business, you can’t be there to look over and supervise all the departments all the time. What is important is to have a proper system in place, so that if and when there is an issue, you can trace the line and reach to the problem and address it accordingly.
Makes sense! Would you introduce me to your team?
Our production team in Paharapurwa is managed by one man, and under him, there is one other man and 15 women workers. All of them are mostly single and are working to support their family, and our supporting NGOs help us in recruitment. The R&D team of six works with me from Delhi.
Any striking memory of a personal interaction with the women that you’d like to share?
Sometime back we collaborated with this NGO, Ashay, and through it, we got in contact with a lady who used to make very unique red chutney. That product with a few innovations is now available on the Little Farm as Jalapeno Garlic Dip. But when I met this lady, for two days I was there, I didn’t get to know that she didn’t have legs. She wore prostheses, but I was amazed to see that it had no impact on her daily life and enthusiasm level, and she makes a lot of things including amla candy and murabba, to earn a living.
And who’s the mastermind Pickle-Chef behind the recipes?
My dad has a huge hand to play in that. He’s well researched, and even the 5 recipes that we’d started with, were his concoctions. But now the women at our farm and the ones we collaborate with through NGOs also contribute their recipes, we provide them with all the fruit/vegetable and spices from the farm, and they take care of the production.
With the onset of winters, what all have you planned to grow?
During winters, the major produce is green chilli and lemon. Amongst others, there are jalapenos, cauliflower, and carrots. And this time we’ll also be experimenting with Amla. On the other hand, summers are all about mangoes, and garlic-ginger are all-season favourites.
Brief me a little about the ‘Organic Farming Practice’, too?
It is basically about not using fertilizers and any synthetic chemicals for the produce. We use either cow dung or Gabra. Also, clean water supply keeps an equally important role, which is the one thing that most people who are into organic farming, don’t have; especially in North India where all possible water supplies are polluted. In our case, we were fortunate, because our farm village is rather untouched, so we have the clean and natural water supply. And also, our land had never been cultivated before, so it never saw the use of fertilizers.
But for the farming of organic products, the APEDA (Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) Board gives a certificate after three years, and since we’ve been in the market for only a year and a half, we are yet to get it. That’s why I say that our focus is solely on “keeping it as natural as possible”. Like we only make use of organic sulfur-free gur (jaggery), and the pink Himalayan rock salt.
But what do you think, is it easy to follow an “organic lifestyle” living in a metro?
It’s not easy. Because not always can you procure the organic alternatives of the packed food items, and neither can you trust any and every source. So adopting an organic lifestyle is a long journey, and it calls for filling of a huge gap, which in a way is what we are trying to address.
What is your Marketing Strategy?
The Little Farm Co’s niche product line is to get back to the traditional foods. And our selling point is not just about going organic, but about returning to natural and non-polluted food culture, like how it was in the 1950-60s. It is the need of the hour!
And how do you ensure fair trade for the farmers?
The wage rate in Madhya Pradesh is far less than Delhi. But we pay our workers 30% more than the existent rates. Our motive is to keep them happy and to encourage their growth.
Would you like to give the readers a quick glimpse of what you’ve planned for the future of the not-so-little Little Farm?
There is a huge demand for natural pickles and marmalades from NRIs, so we’re looking forward to expanding our export. And also, experiment in the modern retailing niche, as our prices are rather high and can’t be made available at every store.
The Best of Both Worlds Hamper : A pefect collection of Sweet and Spicy Dips paired with super yum seeds and berries. This box features : Jalapeno Garlic dip , Sweet Mango Chutney, Dried Mixed Berry , Trail Mix. . . . . #tasty #healthy #organic #yum #achaar #foodie #delhi #ncr #corporate #festive #gift #diwali #india #FARMTOFORK #exclusive #mumbai #chennai #foodgasm #foodtalkindia #eattreat #healthy #lifestyle
37 Likes, 2 Comments – Thelittlefarmco. (@thelittlefarmco) on Instagram: “The Best of Both Worlds Hamper : A pefect collection of Sweet and Spicy Dips paired with super yum…”
Oh and, I saw this beautiful gift packaging on The Little Farm’s Instagram, just curious, is it your creativity?
Ha-ha. Yes, that’s my department, and I take care of it completely. It’s a huge part of our revenue, and we always have continuum for gifting purposes. Recently Diwali went, and even otherwise for Corporate gifting or for family and friends.
Lastly, your advice to the aspiring young Agro-preneurs?
Please ensure a clean water source; it is THE most important requirement. Apart from that, I think venturing into agriculture sector really asks for patience. Everything requires minimum one-year advance planning, you can’t come up with an idea today, and implement it tomorrow itself. So yeah, patience is the key!