A visit to Bhuvaladi and the concept of "Family Farmer"

Something unheard of…

I went to a village called Bhuvaladi today, some 15 kms from Ahmedabad, Gujarat. There, I met Upendrabhai Patel, who has played a pioneering role in launching the “family farmer” campaign in Gujarat. I had heard of family doctors providing personalized care and counseling to patients, but the concept of family farmer was completely new to me! I thought this would be a good topic for today’s blog. 

Away from the hustle and bustle of the city

I was greeted by the smell of manure and the chirping of birds as we neared Bhuvaladi. This was a much-needed relief after the traffic and the stench of chemicals that stretched across the industrial area on the city outskirts that we needed to cross in order to reach the small village. It seemed to me that time passed slower here than it did back home – I could see some old men sitting near the temple chawk, just staring into space with bidis in their mouths, women returning home with cattle, children playing after coming back from school; there was a sense of calm everywhere. 

In the cool interior of Mr Patel’s house, his young daughter Vrinda showed me her books while her father got ready for the interview. Upendrabhai Patel has a degree in commerce and used to work as a manager for a local business. After his father’s untimely demise, he had to take care of the family-owned farms and has been a farmer and trader ever since - for the past 11 years.

He began the conversation by stating that India hasn’t always been self-sustainable in food grains and that there was a time when demand far exceeded supply and we had to import from other countries to plug the gap. In order to increase production, farmers adopted insecticides, pesticides, chemical fertilisers and improved varieties of seeds. While we did succeed in increasing production, it also led to the hardening of soil, decreased fertility, polluted air and water, and released greenhouse gases, thereby bringing innumerable hazards to human health and the environment. Now because of increased awareness, affordability and general lifestyle, many farmers are turning to organic and cow-based natural farming. This has reduced the farm production costs, increased the yield and has improved the incomes of the farmers. 

The concept of family farmer

Upendrabhai explained that family farmer is the one who provides organic, chemical-free food grains and vegetables directly to the kitchens of the families. He says that as consumers, we buy food that comes in packets without any real connection to the farmer who grew it, but as a family farmer, the family would know the farmer, the farmer’s family, the kind of agriculture they practice and in turn, form a deeper connection with the food they consume every day. He further states that for small farmers, organic certification is a difficult and cumbersome process because the land needs to lie fallow for some years to be clear of chemical residue and also because nothing can be completely organic if neighboring fields use chemicals. Cross pollination and dispersal of seeds from the neighboring farms further complicate the process. Through the family farmer campaign, farmers are motivated to practice natural and chemical-free farming and establish their credibility through a personal connection with the consumers. 

Towards the end, Upendrabhai talked a lot about empathy. He said that the pace of the world had become too fast and in this capitalist economy, consumerism knew no bounds and people were losing empathy towards farmers. In this context, the concept of family farmer aims to bring some of that empathy back. In the lockdown period, several consumers from the farmers’ network helped them with their children’s education, rents, and medical expenses. These consumers knew the farmers personally, they knew of their struggles due to the pandemic. 

The interview was followed by a visit to Upendrabhai’s farm. I saw cows, peacocks, and even a rabbit running across the field. It was one of my best trips in a long time!

What do you think about the concept of family farmer? Would you like to have one, if you get a chance? Do share your thoughts in the comments 


  1. Very informative blog making people aware of an innovative, healthy and sustainable concept of family farmers. Please keep on sharing your wonderful experiences with everyone!

  2. Very good concept and slowly will catchup this concept in India

  3. Wonderfully described and a great blog
    to spread the word. 👌

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