Why has farming become unpopular ?

Shankar Venkataraman
4 min readFeb 9, 2017

In my experience for the last ten years as a farmer, I always looked at myself for the first several years of my life as a consumer and the next several years as a producer of food. I tried to answer why farming is quite unpopular for most people, particularly in India where still most of the population does farming for their livelihood.

Here are some answers. First and foremost is the weather. It sucks the life out of farming at times. Most farmers do not have or believe they do not have enough resources to dig their own wells in their lands. As a result, they have taken up the traditional habit of depending on rains and gambling their money to get a crop using seasonal rains. Unfortunately the rain God won’t help us much if we keep destroying everything green around us. Land also does not retain much water because they are left barren during the seasons without cash crop and hence the soil has lost all its life. Such soils have minimal organic matter and won’t be able to retain much water in the top two feet even if they are irrigated well and will require a lot more water continuously to support the life of a cash crop.

Next, I believe is the relative unattractiveness of this profession. A parcel of land that is quite lonely during work and does not produce instant results and instant profits. Lot of physical labor and no attractive remuneration. The allure of the city life. Difficulty to find market for the products grown. Remoteness of the farm from cities where the products fetch a good price. Lack of amenities such as transport. Sheer dependence on another person or groups to sell the products. All these contributes to serious consideration as to whether one should farm or choose a more easier profession.

Farming is considered as doable for anyone and everyone, educated and the uneducated. Because it is assumed that anyone can do it and because almost everyone has a small parcel inherited, they try to do something with their land and call that farming. Usually due to improper background or illiteracy or lack of support from those who know how to grow, the farmers fail too often and resort to shortcuts such as instant chemical fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. They see the value of the crop and not the value of that land that grows it. They do not see the need to preserve the longevity and health of their soils. They all mostly want to use their lands to grow cash. In the worst case, they sell their lands for some family emergencies. In some cases, it is convenient to lease it to someone who can abuse the land even more because it is just a lease for him and he does not own the land anyway. As long as steady lease money is flowing every year, the lease continues.

In a profession that has lost its respect and lost certainties or guarantees, the farmers try to grow with the least labor and least inputs as much as they can and the result is monoculture. Monocultures destroy the diversity above and below soil. The very life of the soil comes from the diversity of life in it. If only one type of plant is grown, the diversity of life below the soil cannot depend on just that one plant above. So they all die off over time, converting the soil into mere medium of growth instead of the life giving force for all plants.

The farmers need a certain price guarantee for their product. Some water to irrigate the crops. Good quality seed. Good quality Cow dung without plastic pollution. Good methods to grow crops and organic sprays to protect the crops without destroying the environment. However the system built around them ensures that none of this is done. So the farmers and farmlands are a deteriorating lot. Soils have depleted their minerals over the last 60 years due to poor and abusive farming practices. Heavy tillage and lack of organic matter inputs to the soil and lack of proper crop rotation practices have slowly eroded the life in the soil.

If you see a lot of crowds in medical shops and hospitals that are now corporations and private owned entities, please do not wonder why. In a Country that does not care about its soil, human diseases and slow or rapid degradation of human health is a certainty. Soil health, Plant health, animal health and human health are four different names of just one thing called Soil health. That is the very foundation of society. If we choose to continue ignoring it, be certain that we are walking toward the end of our civilization and committing a species level suicide.

The key work that need to be done is to catch them young. Those who have farming background through birth and those who are born in the cities but not interested in the herd behavior but want to do something different and are more inclined to nature. These two young generations can be coached to become good stewards of the land. In fact, this is the only hope for a nation where farming is thought on a commercial basis and poisons are sprayed without regulation to make a few paper rupees at the cost of the future of the soil. Education, Training and helping farmers find markets and other resources to do good farming and give them the support they need to continue farming well is the key to food security. Please think about this and you may as well solve your health issues by meeting a good farmer and getting his help.

-Shankar

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Shankar Venkataraman

Farmer, author, farming teacher, public speaker. Areas of Agriculture and technology in Agriculture.