Meenakshi Kishore has bucked the trend and traded her corporate job to try her hand at an organic farm-to-fork model four years ago.
Kishore, who holds a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree from the Symbiosis Institute of Management in Pune, took to organic farming in Agra in 2016 after holding several senior-level corporate positions in multi-national companies (MNCs), private equities (PEs) and venture capitals (VCs).
Kishore, who is in her 40s and spent her better part of her formative years in a boarding school, made a conscious choice to give up her cushy corporate job and attractive monthly paycheque for healthy living and a union with Mother Nature.
“I was in the quest for inner peace that was missing in the corporate world. I knew my penchant for a slow-paced life and also wanted to do something more meaningful in harmony with nature. Corporate life is an existence that thrives on excesses and it had ceased to have any meaning for me,” she reminisced.
Her father Ajay Kishore, who is a partner-in-arms in her daughter’s unusual mid-life journey, is supportive of her entrepreneurial endeavour.
“On her return to Agra, she wanted to do something different. Conventional farming was not to her liking. Health and the environment are key thrust areas. She spent the next two years researching, travelling across the country, and training herself under several farmers to learn new principles and best practices of farming. She learned about permaculture and regenerative farming,” said Kishore senior.
“Regenerative farming explores the concept of nutrient-dense foods, where essential vitamins and minerals remain intact within the food structure. Nutrient-dense foods can only be grown on well-nourished soil and with the use of bio-insecticides and bio-fertilisers. The variants of food grown are unpolished, handmade, machine-free, or minimally processed, cold-pressed, and hormone-free. Ideally, they should be tree-ripened as well,” she explained.
Her labour of love has come to fruition at Advait Living, a 40-acre farmland on the banks of the Yamuna river and on the Mathura-Agra border. The farmland was originally barren, and it took years to become fertile.
Initially, the farm was used for traditional cash crops such as wheat and mustard. Now, it is designed as an integrated regenerative and bio-dynamic entity that has found a life of its own and whose popularity is growing, thanks to word-of-mouth publicity.
Kishore cited that the farm integrates all beings — from farmers, livestock, birds, insects, plants, and micro-organisms into a single working unit, each interdependent upon another.
“The farm has adopted a regenerative approach to build soil health, biodiversity, micro-climates and water management to grow nutrient-dense produce. Cow-based farming is another core pillar of our farming method. The cow manure and urine are used to make bio-fertilisers and soil-boosters that enhance the soil’s nutritional content,” she added.
The farm produces oilseeds, wheat, millet, fresh vegetables, and fruits, among other things. It also processes raw produce into ghee, oils, spices, flour, jaggery, etc.
“Advait Living also works with small and marginal farmers to provide expert training to convert traditional agricultural practices into regenerative farming and bio-dynamic systems that support the farmer’s access to better revenue, prices, and critical know-how. Farmers are also able to access new markets under the Advait Living brand and through our retail outlet and partner alliances across the country,” she said.
“There is a growing awareness and our clientele is increasing with ‘immunity’ being the latest buzz amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak. Consumers are coming to us for organic products that are free from adulteration. There is a huge demand for mustard oil and jaggery. Many homemakers are asking for natural products and consumers are selecting foodstuff on the parameters of health,” said Kishore, who is a photography buff and also fond of cooking.
Advait Living has been retailing Bilona A2 cow ghee, cold-pressed cooking mediums such as mustard oil, sesame oil, and coconut oil, unpolished dals, whole wheat flour, honey, jaggery and non-genetically modified (GM) rice variants and spices from its outlet at Bagh Farzana in Agra.