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Apricity (n) obsolete: The warmth of the sun
“You should appreciate everything that comes to your table. A lot of labour goes into it,” farmer and entrepreneur, Sneh Yadav, pulled a grown carrot from the soil with a strong tug and gave us exhibit A.
Dressed in a checkered shirt, jeans, and sneakers, with a pair of sunglasses, she looked just the part for a day in the farm. With the warmth of the winter sun on backs, we toured her farm as she proudly pointed out her crops and vegetables; occasionally, handing out leaves for us to smell, showing us how each copes with the weather.
The Tijara Organic farm is an hour-and-a-half drive from Gurgaon, and when we reached late in the morning, Sneh and her daughter Pratiksha greeted us. Sitting in the garden under the blue skies, we had herbal tea and sampled cheese and fresh strawberries. “The strawberries in the market are huge because they are injected. You’ll see that these are small, but sweet,” she informed.
At the foothills of the Aravallis, the eight-year-old Tijara Organic Farm in Rajasthan serves a customer base that has realised what organic should look, feel, and taste like. It’s not just an organic farm; it’s a biodynamic farm. They follow the lunar calendar and plant seeds and harvest crops based on the phases of the moon as it affects the moisture levels in the air. The farm is self-sufficient—Sneh nurtures enough crops to feed the animals (there are cows, dogs, chicken, and a cat), to use in daily preparations, and to sell to customers including the chefs who come from popular restaurants in Delhi for her high-quality produce. For instance, the AnnaMaya menu at Andaz Delhi proudly says their salad leaves come from Tijara. In fact, many chefs are frequent visitors here.
Sneh is a plant geneticist by training; but, she grew up in a farming family. Bananas, carrots, onions, cabbage, broccoli, beetroot, rocket, celery, kale, mint, pomegranate, chikoo, and basil—most seasonal crops can be found on her land, or in the greenhouses. Of course, no harmful fertilisers, or pesticides.
For a hands-on experience of the rustic, I fed one of her cows and ground chillies on a silbatta. Around, a woman was baking fresh bajra roti in an open-air oven; a portion of the land was carpeted with onions; other helpers were checking on the crops and managing the animals—it was just another normal day at the farm.
The white house—where Sneh and her husband live—has a deceptive facade; but, walk inside and you’ll find it to be as elegant as the host. Here, in their dining room, I had my first real farm-to-table experience. It reminded me of my childhood for two yummy reasons: shakkar roti and shikkanji. Everything on the table was fresh from the soil: Simple cooking, great flavours, and no oil. I indulged in the healthy, all-vegetarian fare of bajra roti with butter, pea sabzi, spinach curry, accompanied with salad, pickles, and buttermilk. Sneh remarked that flavours get lost in the masalas and oil we use these days; on our plate, we had fresh veggies and flavours and that seemed to be enough.
From a cosy corner with glass windows on the second floor, I could see the lush greens of the farm and rising in the distance, the Tijara Fort. The beautiful house has colour-themed rooms, with vibrant paintings and local pottery. No TV. No mini-fridge. On a wall in the corridor, is a collection of works by a calligraphy artist, a friend of the family. His work shows an artist’s view of farming at Tijara. These rooms are perfect for a weekend escape; call up the farm and ask for availability and they will arrange all your meals and activities.
Agriculture-based tourism is a novel concept in India; but, if the experience can teach us to be better consumers and appreciate what’s on the table, it’ll be a big step. What a valuable lesson to learn: Respect the land and those who tend to it.
You can book the experience for Rs 3,000 on Airbnb.