Published: 26th September 2018
How Archana Stalin's myHarvest is getting school children to learn farming will surprise you
myHarvest is a start-up that helps people grow their own food and reconnect with nature, especially school children who need the right approach to organic food
With the rising number of diseases owing to food and lifestyle, organic food has suddenly become a fad across the world. But one of the major concerns that still remain is how reliable these organic food brands are -- are they completely free of pesticides and hormones? Imagine if you could just go back to the time when you could walk out of your house and pluck the vegetables or fruits you need. Healthy and affordable. Well, that's the culture Archana Stalin and her husband are hoping to bring back through their start-up myHarvest.
Started in 2017, myHarvest helps people set up their own terrace gardens or real farms and also educates students on the basics of farming. Archana and her husband, both engineering graduates, decided to quit their corporate jobs and establish this enterprise. However, they had little knowledge about entrepreneurship. Their only tryst with running a company was during college when a couple of them started visiting villages, identifying what issues the villagers face and helped them resolve them. "We helped them with medical health, education and other problems. That was our first tryst at the grassroots level," says Archana.
The dream team: myHarvest has set up about 180 kitchen gardens across Tamil Nadu
The duo eventually moved to Virudhunagar to set up their company. Virudhunagar happens to be the second driest place in Tamil Nadu and so, farming was the biggest problem for the villagers. "We focused on environment-friendly projects. We started with water reservation. There are large abandoned water bodies called Ooruni, which if properly used can cater to around 5000 people. We called the local people and cleared all the bushes, desilted it and restored the pond. It was a big success. After that, we started crowdfunding and kept growing more," says Archana, who has her own kitchen garden, where 80 per cent of her family's food is grown.
A lot of people in metro cities want to do terrace farming, but don't really know how. Archana's team helps such people set up their gardens. "My team will bring all the required materials, set it up and plant whatever you want and even provide the support you need to sustain it," says Archana. She adds, "One of the things we realised was that people were lacking knowledge of farming. So we decided to take it to schools. We prepared a year-long curriculum called 'Reconnect to Nature', where we have a school garden and teach children to plant seeds, water them and sustain them." Currently, the programme is running in three schools in Tamil Nadu.
Harvesting for good: On the scheduled date, myHarvest's garden experts bring all the gardening materials including the soil and set up the kitchen garden
myHarvest also delivers a gift box which contains saplings with customisd packaging according to the occasion. However, the duo's biggest and most important mission at the moment is helping people grow food in a real farm, not just in their homes. Recently, they launched myHarvest Farms which lets people rent out a nearby organic farm and grow their own veggies by joining hands with farmers."One acre of farmland is enough to feed 40 families. We have our own farmland, and we allocate plots for each family. Some of the vegetables they grow are tomatoes, brinjal, ladies finger, bitter guard, bottle gourd, all the spinach varieties, etc.
When asked how they managed to accumulate the knowledge, Archana says, "We had to do a lot of research and reading. But we learnt most from spending time with the farmers and observing them."