There is a reason why so many youngsters are leaving high-paying jobs to pursue organic farming; work satisfaction and the opportunity to earn a good livelihood.

With all the hullabaloo about eating healthy, organic farming is emerging as the hottest new career avenue that youngsters are pursuing in this day and age. For the Northeast, it makes even more sense as the region is home to some indigenous crops, fruits and vegetables that have innumerable health benefits besides being a good source of income. Many states in the Northeast are currently competing with each other to ensure more and more farmers take to the organic way in a way to become financially stable and also add to the organic production of the country.

States in the Northeast have formulated organic policies in order to help farmers make the change and also to encourage more youngsters to opt for organic farming as a career. In January 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Sikkim to be India’s first fully organic State. Soon after, Mizoram announced that it will not allow the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

To develop the Northeast as an organic agricultural hub, the Ministry of Development of North-Eastern Region set up the ‘Mission Organic Farming North- East’ to develop traditional ways of organic cultivation. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare launched ‘Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North- Eastern Region’, in which Rs 115 crores was allocated to link farmers in the Northeast to their consumers, and to support the availability of organic inputs. In addition to that, around 572 organic clusters have been developed under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare’s Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) scheme in partnership with the State Governments for the self-certified Participatory Guarantee System of India (PGS-India) farmers.

Even then so much has been done in this field, organic produce is still low from the region. This means that we need more skilled and experienced individuals working in the fields to ensure supply equals demand. For those looking to pursue a career in organic farming, you need to plan ahead to ensure that every step you take helps set up a strong foundation so that you can reap benefits of your hard work, sooner rather than later.

GETTING THAT CERTIFICATE

In India, there are many agriculture colleges and universities that offer certificate courses in organic farming. You should pick one that suits your needs and requirements. If you don’t want to move out of the region to pursue a course then you can always look for courses by open universities.

Here are some options that you can consider –

Indira Gandhi National Open University is a good option for those who cannot travel outside the region for different reasons. There are many centres where you can pick up study material and also access study centres. They offer Certificate in Food Safety, Post Graduate Diploma in Plantation Management and Post Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Policy.

You can also opt for a Certificate in Organic Farming from Sri Sri Institute of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Trust. You will learn the basics of organic farming, economics, and viability of organic farming and case study with different crops, government schemes and scheme on capacity building for organic products, basics of marketing, marketing channels and its functions for organic farming business and more.

Another open university that offers a Certificate Course in Organic Farming is Uttarakhand Open University. They teach about the basics of organic farming along with organic farming practices and the way to monitor organic produce.

For most courses, you need to pass 10+2 from a recognized board.

THE AGRICULTURE ROUTE

Bachelor of Technology in Agriculture Engineering is also emerging as a popular course in the country. Career avenues in this field are increasing because of the increased demand for agro-products as well as the global standardization of agricultural products and equipment.

In the public sector, you can find work in central government firms as well as in State government-owned organizations. Public sector banks such as Central Bank of India, NABARD, Regional Rural Banks and United Bank of India recruits graduates in agriculture engineering as Agriculture Finance Officers with a basic pay of Rs 18,700 to Rs 20,100 per month. Graduates can also work as junior scientists in reputed organizations such as ISRO and VSSC. Interested candidates can even apply for the post of Junior Research Fellow in CSIR – CMERI Centre of Excellence for Farm Machinery.

Food Corporation of India recruits graduates in agriculture engineering as Technical Officers across the country. State level public service commission also recruits agriculture engineering graduates to various posts such as Forest Apprentice, Assistant Executive Engineers, and Forest Range Officers. Opportunities are also available in national institutes such as the Indian Agriculture Research Institute and Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which recruits agriculture engineers as Maintenance Engineers. State Farms Corporation of India recruits degree holders in agriculture engineering as Management Trainees with attractive remuneration. Fresh graduates can join these government sector jobs by qualifying the entrance test.

As for the private sector, aspirants can find employment as Automation Engineer, Utility Engineer, Agronomist, and Design Trainee in private sector agricultural companies. Tata Tea Ltd, Camson Biotechnologies, and ITC, etc are major recruiters. Candidates with industry experience can join as Product Development Executive in Signature Staff India Pvt Ltd. Candidates with industry experience of about 4 to 6 years can apply for jobs at global firms. Companies such as Caresoft Global Private Limited recruit experienced candidates as Senior Design Engineer in Harvesting Design.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR MSC IN AGRICULTURE GRADUATES

Masters of Science graduates in agriculture can work as Research Scientist in Central Silk Board and Indian Agricultural Research Institute. They can work as Junior/Senior Research Fellow in various institutions such as Anand Agricultural University, National Centre for Integrated Pest Management and Central Plantation Crops Research Institute. The average salary package for a research fellow in these institutes ranges from Rs 8,000 to Rs 16,000 per month with other allowances. Anand Agricultural University recruits postgraduates in agriculture in the post of research fellow and junior research fellow. They can earn Rs 8,000 + HRA per month as a starting salary. MSc holders in agriculture can work as senior research fellows in the National Centre for Integrated Pest Management (NCIPM) with a salary package of Rs 16,000 + HRA per month. Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) in Kasaragod recruits postgraduates in agriculture in the post of Technical Assistant, Field Investigator and Farm Assistant. They can earn up to Rs 5,200 to Rs 20,200 + Grade Pay of Rs 2,800 per month. Apart from this, they can apply for the post of senior research fellow in Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture with pay scale of Rs 16000 per month + HRA. Candidates can apply for the post of junior research fellow in Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI) with basic pay of Rs 16,000 per month. Candidates can work as Research Scientist in Central Silk Board with Rs 15,600 to Rs 39,100 + Grade Pay of Rs 5,400 per month. Indian Agricultural Research Institute recruits MSc Agriculture candidates as a senior research fellow.

Private firms such as Dabur India Limited recruit MSc agriculture candidates as Research Scientist. Those who have experience of 3 years are preferable. FIL Industries Limited recruits postgraduates in agriculture as Area Sales Manager/Sales Officer. Experienced professionals can earn up to Rs 30,000 per month. Indofil Chemicals, Sudarshan Chemical Industries Ltd and Ajeet Seeds Ltd are other firms that recruit postgraduates in agriculture. Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture recruits MSc graduates for the post of Project Assistant.

THE NE ADVANTAGE

Youngsters from the Northeast will have a lot of advantage in this field because the region is rich in niche crops that are much in demand all across the globe. Crops like KajuNemu (indigenous variety of Lemon from Assam, Joha Rice, Black Rice, and Passion Fruit have high market demands. It is also very interesting to note that Sikkim is the largest producer of large cardamom (54 percent share) in the world. You should also be aware that some of the best quality ginger is cultivated in the Northeast. This means that Northeast has a lot of potential for organic farming and what more, there is a lot of demand for local produce from the region not only in the country but also in different parts of the globe. The only thing that is needed is the passion to unearth the potential.

SUCCESS STORIES

First and foremost, we look at the story of Hemal Patel. A computer engineer, he left his job to pursue organic farming. He always had a passion for the outdoors and when he used to take trips to the villages during weekend trips, organic farming caught his fancy and he decided to learn more about it. It wasn’t a cakewalk though, it took him around three whole years to learn everything that he needed to know. He understood that although many people in cities wanted to learn how to start their own organic gardens, they didn’t really know how to go about it which is why he decided to set up Urban Soil to help promote the growth of tiny farms within the urban jungles. For a fee, he conducts a two-day workshop wherein he transfers three years’ worth of knowledge to participants. Those attending are also handed out starter kits and certain ready materials.

If you thought that farming is just ideal for men then you would be wrong and this story of Vallari Chandrakar will prove as one of the best examples of a successful agripreneur. This Chhattisgarh girl left her well-paying engineering job to seek a future in farming. She is now farming on 27 acres of land. What is most interesting about her farm is that the vegetables grown on the farm are exported to other countries like Dubai and Israel. The vegetables are currently sold to multiple cities across India, namely Indore, Nagpur, Bengaluru, and Delhi. On her farm, she grows vegetables such as green chillies, bitter gourd, and cucumber. She is not an agripreneur for nothing, she has done her research and learns new techniques in farming off the internet. What more, she even picked up the local language as well to communicate with villagers effectively. Vallari also conducts workshops on new agricultural techniques for farmers working on the land.

Imagine leaving a good job abroad to pursue farming, sounds like a joke but it is actually true. Suresh Babu, a software engineer gave up a well-paying job in Australia along with Australian citizenship to be a farmer back home. He graduated in engineering from Coimbatore Institute of Technology and went to Australia to completed his Masters. He was working in Australia as a software engineer but he decided to come back home to pursue a job that would not only be a way to earn a livelihood but also give him the job satisfaction that he wanted. He actually had to spend Rs 15 lakh to make his land cultivable as it had been lying barren for more than a decade. But as soon as he was all ready to start cultivating, he had to come to terms with the fact that there was no electricity. He didn’t let all the challenges stop him and he started plating 5,000 areca nut and coconut trees. As for the problem of electricity, Suresh uses solar energy for the fence and irrigation. He has been felicitated with Young Achiever and Young Progressive Farmer awards.

Then there is the story of Vinoth Kumar, an engineer with an MBA degree who has been farming since 2014. He left his high paying job to listen to his heart and reconnect with his roots. Farming is in his blood as his grandfather was a full-time farmer. In 2011, he was still working in the city when he decided to do something out of the ordinary and travel across India, he observed that even though industries were thriving, the condition of framing and farmers was still quite dismal, and that is what motivated him to take his first step into farming. He grows millets, pulses and oilseeds in his fields and pays his bills with the profits made through farming alone. The reason why he chose these particular crops is that they require very less water.

But those in mainland India are not the only ones benefiting from organic farming. Naara-Aaba, founded by Tage Rita Takhe from the Northeast, is India’s first and only organic kiwi wine factory. Arunachal Pradesh is home to wonderful kiwis, they are especially bountiful in Ziro Valley. Tage Rita Takhe is from Hong Village in Ziro. Although the production was a lot, the fruit didn’t reach consumers due to challenges in connecting villagers to the right markets and also because they fail to compete with imported fruit even though they are equally delicious, if not more. This entrepreneur knew that she couldn’t let this tasty fruit go to waste which is why she decided to set up the factory. It took her her husband, TakheTamo, six years of careful research and planning to get the boutique factory off the ground. The winery officially opened in the fall of 2017.

Another example of local entrepreneurs utilizing the NE tag to their advantage is Été Coffee, which is Nagaland’s own first coffee roasting company founded in 2016. They only use organically grown coffee beans. The founders not only wanted to promote organic coffee from the State but they also wanted to empower unemployed locals with the potential to contribute to society. They not only sell all across India but also to other parts of the globe. The coffee is available in select outlets in Nagaland and in addition to that it is also available online.

All in all, we can say for sure that organic is a possibility worth exploring. One of the best things about this field is that the government is offering many different schemes to aid agripreneurs in the region, which will help you get a head start. If you are looking at a career where you can get your hands dirty and also add to the organic produce of the region then organic farming is the path that you should seriously consider.

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