Natural Systems Farming

I farm like what my grandmother did 50 years ago. Not too far back in time, really, but light years away from the soil-and-soul destroying methods of contemporary chemical-industrial agriculture that has led to the rapid destruction of India’s millennia-old indigenous farming traditions. We apply the North Indian peasants’ 2000 year-old artisanal methods – along with knowledge gained from modern science and appropriate technology – to develop healthy soil, produce healthy food, build healthy animals and human beings, while being deeply mindful of the environment we inhabit.

Here is our story till today: Five Years of Natural Systems Farming at Aman Bagh: 2012-2017. And here is a presentation on our natural farming practices in the spirit of sharing for organic farmers, aspiring farmers and mindful consumers: A presentation on Practices of Natural Systems Farming at Aman Bagh, 2017. 

Aman Bagh reclaims a time when land, work and life were one and were not monetised, and were fiercely protected as the foundation of a way of living. For, what was a peasant without land to till in the village he and his family had lived in for generations? This was a time when cattle manure was the only one and there were no chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides; when pests were controlled by bio-diversity of crops, by crop rotation and multi-cropping; when desi methods were used to control those pests that did end up destroying crops; when intercropping and keeping land fallow for intermittent periods kept the soil fertility high for millennia. This was when cattle were fed wholesome farm produce, and their dung was the most powerful source of manuring the soil to keep it rich, healthy and teeming with hundreds of billions of microorganisms in species and quantity.

खेती धर्म है केवल व्यवसाय नहीं

खेती धर्म है
केवल व्यवसाय नहीं

Rural relationships were close-knit and inter-dependent; and the settled-agricultural village was a self-sufficient socio-economic unit where man, animal lived in a fine balance with nature. The ‘market’ was not the defining paradigm it has become today, and subsistence was the rule with all its attendant benefits. Simultaneously, though, village life was unequal, feudal, caste-ridden, and communal. India’s rural social structure always demanded a revolution, some of which is perhaps underway though too incrementally. Village India has too-easily given up the rhythms of our well-established natural farming traditions, and has not mindfully developed new ones in harmony with nature to take their place. Our civilisation will pay the terrible price, and so will we.

Aman Bagh does away with hand wringing and attempts to find a balance in relationships between man, woman, animals and the ecology that are neither discriminatory nor dominating. Our common humanity binds us to nature and to each other through a new understanding of our mutual inter-dependence. While we re-learn and build on our traditional peasant farming practices, we have eliminated barriers of caste and community. We increasingly practice the artisanal methods our ancestors did, and our peasants are quite willing to unlearn what they now know to be harmful and destructive.

“Artificial Manures lead inevitably to artificial nutrition, artificial food, artificial animals, and finally to artificial men and women”  

An Agricultural Testament, Albert Howard (1873-1947).
Howard is considered to be founder of the organic farming movement in the West, that ironically is coming back to India (the original home of abundant natural agriculture for thousands of years) in our times. He was in India from 1905 to 1931, was President of the Indian Science Congress in 1926, and always readily admitted he learnt more than he taught the Indian peasant. His many books are truly worth reading, and will engender in the reader a deep respect for the Indian peasant, and in the extraordinary capability of individual Englishmen – though they clearly laboured for the benefit of British colonialism.

Artisanal farming

Aman Bagh is a little less than 2 hectares –  5.5 acres – (80% of India’s peasant tilled farms are this size or smaller), on soil that has been pesticide and chemical fertiliser free for ever. The location is spectacular, in a mostly-undiscovered valley surrounded by the low hills of the Aravali range 14 kilometres from Gurgaon, especially bountiful each year from the onset of monsoon in July till the start of summer in April. The ancient Mangar Bani, a rare 200 hectare forest of indigenous Dhau trees, is 10 minutes away; as are the Dhauj rocks. Our land is undulating and is on multiple levels, ideal for ploughing by bullocks: we retired the tractor in 2012 in favour of our own hali.

Our mud-gobar walled and thatched roof one room home, the adjoining cow shed, the gobar shed and the room for the farm hands on the farm are as authentically 50 -year rustic as current local construction capability allowed. When you visit, you will be struck by the 10 degree difference of temperature between the outdoors and our one room, protected as it is by roof and walls covered by the Saccharum Bengalens grass.

The Aman Bagh Five Kallu, Sattar, Momi, Nooru and Rajan

I decided that I could not do better than watch the operations of these peasants, and acquire their traditional knowledge as rapidly as possible. For the time being, therefore, I regarded them as my professors of agriculture. ” 

Albert Howard

We rear desi Hariana cows who lead a peaceful life under the deep shade of Bargad, Goolar & Jamun trees and are fed on farm produce; the ghee we produce is extracted by hand from wholesome dahi set in baked mud utensils. Our grains, lentils, oils and vegetables are grown from desi, open-pollinated seeds and are free of chemical pesticide and fertiliser. Our bio-pesticides (which we increasingly rarely use as our natural predator-pest balance doesn’t need us to) are based on garlic, ginger, chilies, neem oil and cow urine; our bio-fertiliser (appropriately named Amrit) is rich with micro-organisms created from fermenting cow dung, urine, and lentils; and our gobar gas plant provides a steady source of organic manure and methane gas for all our cooking.

Limited quantities of our natural (and Organic Certifiedsee certificate here) produce – ghee, mustard oil, whole wheat and other whole cereal flour, many kinds of lentils, Indian spices, some fruits, jams, pickles – are available for direct sale to consumers preferably those living  in Gurgaon. We do not deliver. Once you join our e-mail group, you will be informed of the availability of produce and you can then pickup from Laburnum in Sector 28, Gurgaon. Please write to amanbaghorganics@gmail.com.

Our free ranging desi hens – Punjab Brown – add to the ecology and ambience; and are often chased around silly by our desi dog (named – what else – टाईगर).

We have planted 1,500 plus trees – a rich biodiversity of fruit, flowering and shade. Not all are local to the Aravali ranges, some of the flowering and shade trees have adapted to Delhi and its environs over the past century while fruit like Guava and Citrus are a more recent commercial import that do well in our sandy and quick drying soil – and extremes of hot and cold. Of our ~350 fruit trees,  250 are citrus (नींम्बू, चकोतरा, किन्नू); 45 Guava (अमरूद); 45 Mango, 15 Anaar, 5 Shahtoot, 5 Anjeer, Jamun, शरीफा, कटहल, बेल, बेर, केला, पपीता । In addition to fruit, we have over 1,150 trees of Shisham, KikarNeem, Jamun, Papri, Semal, Khatta, Bargad, Goolar, Sagwan & Dhau and more, all local to our ecology – that grow in groves; along the farm periphery; as well as randomly on the farmland; dry, sandy soil varieties like ronjh, jhinjheri, kareel, barna, bistendu, kankera, kadam, pilu and urban flowering varieties like kachnar, amaltash, gulmohar, jacaranda, alistonia, casuarina, maulseri.

Aman Bagh has an extensive network of drip & sprinkler irrigation to balance the groundwater wells, and we have a water harvesting borewell. We use appropriate technology and machines (automated feed cutting machine, curd churning motor) where we can to reduce the drudgery in repetitive labor. There is no romance in hard labor, though there is much good health. 

The uncounted of species of insects, butterflies, worms, bees, birds and other animals  have multiplied manifold since we commenced farming in 2012; drawn by the food and shelter they find in abundance. The sense of peace of Aman Bagh is accentuated by the continuous chirping of birds, the occasional call of the peacocks and the crowing of the rooster, by the mooing of the cows and their bells as they gently eat, and all the other warm sounds of a village home at work and in repose. Or then the occasional rumbling of the tractor or motor vehicle on the adjoining village road, reminding us it is indeed today.

Here is a perspective on Aman Bagh, in someone else’s words –         http://www.isayorganic.com/blog/aman-bagh/

Handcrafted

41 Responses to Natural Systems Farming

  1. A noble effort by a great leader & mentor who has transformed my personal and professional life.

    Like

  2. Acky Kamdar says:

    In all of us, there is a farmer somewhere. Reading this article, reminds me that there are many exciting possibilities besides what we do on day to day basis. The difference is that Harsh has made it real in Amanbagh for all of us, and I hope to someday share the experience with him.

    Like

  3. Muriel & Mario says:

    Wow Harsh! Cannot wait to get to Amanbagh, though it does seem like a distant dream, with the loads of things we have on our hands.

    And talking of dreams, you are doings the things that we only dream of at the moment.

    Much success and lots of solidarity, in a common mission.

    Your organic and Permaculture neighbours in Goa,

    Muriel & Mario.

    Like

  4. Proud of you bhai – planning to get kids over so they get a touch of reality.
    Rahul

    Like

  5. Jasjit says:

    Proud of you my friend. You are following your dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alok Sharma says:

    Harsh Sir,
    This narrative is very nostalgic. Seems like I am looking over my shoulder 50 years distance and watching my grand parents actually living what is described.
    it is indeed unimaginable for today’s generation. Establishing a community and the whole secured ecosystem around it; this only a leader like you can envision and practice. Still learning from you in many ways.
    Aman Bagh, is emerging as a motivational center for the society, I can see, Have been fortunate to be in your proximity and mentored.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You have gone back to your roots Harsh and are inspiring us to go that way- through supporting your efforts and partaking of the organic produce of ‘Aman Bagh’.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Aloke Paskar says:

    Harsh, This is back to the roots. Finally we all do and you have led the way. Looking forward to visiting the farm when I am next in India.

    Like

  9. Mohit Goyal says:

    Harsh, wonderful to have had an atleast 180 degree view of your life progression and your committment to every phase of it. You always had a great human quality & temperamant and one just knew you would not be content to rest on your laurels post HS. I’ll definitely check out some of your products! Take care, Mohit Goyal

    Like

  10. Sarita Vij says:

    Harsh, it was an amazing experience to visit your farm and see what you are doing. The location and ambiance of the farm is great. Some of the organic produce that i tried was very good indeed. Would love to visit again soon.

    Like

  11. Sandeep Sahai says:

    Follow your dreams
    Great to see this
    Have fun

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Rohit Baswani says:

    Real proud of you bhaiyya. Have to get the kids over soon.
    Harika and Rohit

    Like

  13. Nikhil says:

    Hi, what an achievement!!! The world aspires to be so close to mother nature but very few are able to do it. All the very best!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sudeb Mandal says:

    Harsh,

    We had a wonderful time when we visited your farm last year. You have once again setup a great thing and this time in a different field altogether. Really privileged to have worked under your leadership and you continue to inspire.

    Regards,
    Sudeb

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Rekha Gupta says:

    Harsh,
    This is amazing. You have been an inspiration always and your passion is infectious.
    You do things with a style and that’s visible here too!
    Rekha

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Karthik says:

    Harsh,
    Such a joy to read this.
    Aman Bagh shows the leader, patriot, artisan and the entrepreneur in you. Your hand-print is clearly visible. Your efforts inspire us.
    There’s so much for all of us to learn and you keep re-iterating that through your endeavors.
    It’s a privilege to have worked with you.

    Regards,
    Karthik

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Murty Eranki says:

    Dear Harsh,

    This is really a great work. Even though many of us came from agricultural back ground, going back village and doing something like this is not an easy job. Your passion and leadership always inspires me.

    It was a great opportunity to work under your leadership.

    Regards,
    Murty Eranki

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Salina says:

    Wow Harsh, Aman Bagh seems to be absolutely amazing. Took me back to my childhood when I would visit my grandparents in Kerala during summer vacations. Never thought this could be recreated in this era. Hats off to you, Harsh. Admire your passion towards the environment we live in.

    Regards
    Salina

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Jeevan Pant says:

    Incredible, Inspiring, Nostalgic .. all at the same time. You have always been a true leader Harsh

    Regards,
    Jeevan

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Radharaman Lath says:

    So very thoughtful! Heartfelt admiration for a genuine leadership!! I wish Aman Bagh to become a true change agent in making Mangar a model self-sufficient unit.
    Sincerely,
    Radharaman

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Yash Mishra says:

    Aman Bagh is indeed a great tribute to mother earth by adopting traditional organic farming aiming at village community self sufficiency for all round cohesive development and progress.

    In todays world where commercialisation and HYV’s are deep rooted in the the Agriculturists, Society, Technocrats and other preachers of the like, I personally feel that the endeavour of the promoters of the Farm need a NOBLE SALUTE with a sincere wish that there are more such motivators and followers.

    Warm Regards

    Yash P Mishra

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Aakash says:

    Sir,
    You are really a true leader. you have transformed and inspired the lives of so many people in around the world and you are still continuing the same. You are born to lead
    With all my best wishes in your new journey.

    Regards
    Aakash

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Varun says:

    Hi Harsh,
    Wish you and yours a very Happy and prosperous New year 2014,
    Had been meaning to do this for a while, really wanted to say Hats off to you for such an initiative. My love for Organic is quite recent specially when I moved to US but now can really appreciate how great this is. I really wish I get an opportunity to come over to Amanbagh someday!
    Regards and best wishes,
    Varun

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Kapil says:

    Harsh is a great personality ! I SALUTE him. A man who followed his dreams and went back to his roots. Reminds me of the book ‘The monk who sold his Ferrari. ‘

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Varsha says:

    Wow Harsh, Amanbagh sounds like a dream. I want to visit you there when we come to India in Dec 2014. We were in Lucknow in Feb. and mourned the ugly colors they have used on those magnificent buildings, and the neglect of our beloved city makes me want to cry. Hope you and Rabab are both doing well. Varsha

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Vani Narayan says:

    Hello Harsh, this mail might sound funny to you. I was with E&Y and had a chance to meet your wife and her beautiful Mother;they visited us at our wedding (way back in ’97) just wanted to know if Ammamma is doing well. Cheers, Vani.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Vishal Sareen says:

    Harsh has really proved that Great leaders have Super Great Thoughts and implementation..
    Salute to Harsh!!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Atthihally devraj says:

    It is nice practice. our ancesters done only this, our modern scintists brout all these chemical practice. when i was a member in board of regents in University of Agricultural sciences Bengaluru, I was asking the scintists cant w do it without chemical use? can we controll isects in organical methods? Even i put these questions to national level scintists ? The were unanswerable for my basic questions.
    Fortunately UASB preserving 1500 types of paddy varieties
    In karnataka so many people came back to organic farming, And also doing zero farlng or natural farming. Using desi seeds also
    Thank you AMANBAG FAMILY

    ATTHIHALLY DEVRAJ
    Hassan
    Karnataka

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Varun Gera says:

    Hi Harsh….very inspiring and now a benchmark!
    Varun Gera

    Liked by 1 person

  30. shekhar vajpayee says:

    Hi Harsh…. You have done a great job, being close with the nature only can be experienced.

    Like

  31. nitin babbar says:

    Great work Harsh,

    You have always been a phenomenal leader and innovator….
    Feels great to have worked with you and even better to know of the new initiative that you have taken after leaving headstrong…

    Great going Sir!

    Like

  32. Amit Ghosal says:

    Great going Harsh,
    I do look forward to catching up with you as soon as possible.
    Best wishes as always.
    Regards,
    Amit Ghosal

    Like

  33. shekhar vajpayee says:

    Harsh Ji,
    Very much motivational and I would like to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. harshlohit says:

    Sure, you are most welcome. Call me on 9810032223 to schedule a visit.

    Like

  35. Shivangi says:

    Great endeavour Sir. We all know farming is a big gamble and you tossed your super job for farming… is astonishing for most of us! I have heard so many good things about you from my husband (Abhishek) and I am too glad to find you here. Your life sort of reminds me of the famous lines from IF by Rudyard Kipling –
    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss…
    All the best Sir… may you pave the path for others to follow…

    Liked by 1 person

  36. saltnpeppernlife says:

    Harsh….bow to you …what can i say more …a dream for me .. a reality by you …….a meaningful and worthy way of living and livelihood ……for which one now longs every moment …..amanbagh.org ………..a bliss and blessed way of life …..
    Regards,Shivani Srivastava

    Like

    • Shivani, thanks for your sentiments. Lets us both be careful, however, not to romanticise Aman Bagh as the problems humans have created are too vast and deep to be addressed by organic farming. Our whole way of consuming life needs to be reset, I get tired at the complexity of the endeavour.

      Like

      • saltnpeppernlife says:

        Yes completely agree with the line ‘Our whole way of consuming life needs to be reset, I get tired at the complexity of the endeavour’…

        Like

  37. Amit Tyagi says:

    Hi Sir, I am in IT right now. I live in Ghaziabad and work in Noida. About 50 Km Away I have close to 60 Bigha of land in UP. I am looking forward to move to Farming and leave IT job. I want to get some guidance and what are the pitfalls of leaving the job and doing farming.

    Regards
    Amit

    Like

    • Harsh Lohit says:

      60 bighas – assuming 15 acres – can provide a living, but that will mean giving up your job and living with fewer conveniences, and living in or near your farm. Most probably you will not earn as much cash on the farm as you do and can in an IT services job. The benefits will be more than financial though, health and a certain way of life come to mind. You need to think this through very carefully as the comforts of city life are difficult to give up. As your home is close to your farm, maybe you can find a way to setup the farm while remaining at your job and staying in Ghaziabad on the weekdays. These are all thoughts you need to mull through, with your family. On the farming plan, yes I can suggest what can be done.

      Like

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