Satyajit and Ajinkya Hange, the co-founders of Two Brothers Organic Farms were bundled off to an Anglo-Indian boarding school in Pune at a really young age by their farmer father. He was keen on ensuring the best possible education for them while he toiled in the fields; he was hoping for them to lead a life better than that of a farmer which was full of unexpected ups and downs at all times, a life subject to the vagaries of weather.
After their schooling, the two brothers Satyajit and Ajinkya stayed on in the city to complete their higher education and took up jobs in the corporate world. They were highly successful professionals who climbed the ladder of the corporate world in their jobs with top MNCs like Citibank, DBS, HDFC and HSBC for nearly a decade.
They were a leading snug life in the city with the multinational organizations they worked with, but over the years they realized that it held no real satisfaction for them. Their weekend trips to Bhodani, their village, around 150 kms away in Indapur taluka, had sowed the seeds of a fondness for farming in them.
Eventually, they took the bold step to leave their sheltered, cushy, and lucrative jobs and switch to full-time farming. Within no time, the voices of the naysayers around them started getting louder - “Farming is not a profitable option. You don’t study in the city and return to your village to toil in the field!” These voices included those of their own father and family; they were dumbstruck by the great opposition to their decision.
But they stood their ground and decided to drown out this noise by paying little attention to it and continued to focus on their passion for the soil.
When the two of them started farming they realized how chemical fertilizers and pesticides were ruining the productivity of the soil by killing the rich microbes, and also affecting the quality of produce. During this time of crisis, the experienced workers and retired farmers within Bhodani village, along with the internet, became teachers for the Hange brothers. Each of them stated how cow dung and urine could singlehandedly ensure good soil health.
The Enormous Correction!
Consequently, they started natural farming with two acres of land, where they grew native varieties of pomegranate with desi tur dal (pigeon pea) and drumstick trees intercropped between the pomegranate plants. Every alternate row of the field is mulched - one row is for the farmers to walk and observe the crop, and the other is full of mulch having pruning of the tur dal, pomegranate, a lot of sugarcane dried leaves along with whatever farm remains they have, i.e bajra, jowar and wheat. The microbiology under this mulch is very high and makes the soil richer.
They also own 70 Gir cows as all natural farming starts with them. Cows are allowed to free-graze for about one/one-and-a-half kilometers in the mornings. The advantage of free grazing is that they get to eat a monocot, dicot, healthy plants and herbs; this is what gets the medicinal value in their milk (A1 and A2 milk) and keeps their health fine too as this ensures the cows get enough exercise.
The farmers do not inject the cows - no hormones, no dosage, neither do they give them any fancy food intake. The cow dung and urine is collected and mixed with water daily which then makes its way to the biogas plant and slurry unit located near the cowshed. This slurry is used to manufacture their own fertilizers, simple tried and tested ones like jeevamrutha, panchgavya, dashparni-ark which are used as inputs to the soil and crops, as the dung and urine contains high amounts of healthy bacteria.
Two acres of various grasses and drumstick leaves are organically grown for the cows’ daily intake. There is no use of machinery, such as tractors, on the farms and instead more traditional means of ploughing such as bullock cart is used, which also does not pollute the air.
Why Gir cows and not Jersey-Holstein cows?
Gir cows are an Indian indigenous variety with a prominent hump on the back. The hump has a nerve called the surya-ketu nadi that runs all the way to the tail - it is said to absorb the rays of the sun and moon; and a dewlap below the neck that helps heat dissipation. These cows have become accustomed to the climate over thousands and thousands of years.
They are far more hardy and disease-resistant than other breeds. Primarily, the dung and urine of the Gir cow has a higher amount of healthy and beneficial bacteria present.
The Gir has longer intestines and digests its food through mastication. Therefore, the dung is in a well digested form.
Research has shown that 40 million healthy bacteria are present in a kilogram of desi cow dung.
The Journey - akin to a bullock-cart ride through rough roads
In the first four years the brothers ran into losses.
“It was a very difficult time. We had left our jobs and also turned the farming model around. The biggest hit we took was when we harvested a ton of desi papayas. As sweet as jaggery, these papayas, when taken to the local mandi (market) near Magarpatta in Pune only fetched Rs 4 per kilogram”, says Ajinkya Hange.
The middlemen had turned them helpless. When they approached malls – vendor codes and documentation was required. But time was running out, and their orchards were already fruiting!
With no logistics backing, the two of them put the papayas in a tempo and turned to the local haath gaadi (hand-cart) vendors under bridges.
“They refused to buy it from us for 20 per kilogram, so we asked them to sample them free of cost. Most customers came back because they loved the quality. We ended up selling the entire orchard at a profit”, said Satyajit Hange.
They worked with the street vendors for eight months, until the head of Star Bazaar tasted the papayas. A meeting with the owners of the enterprise which was slated for 15 mins went on for nearly two hours. They were given a rack at each of the mall outlets at no extra charges or rent!
They moved to have a successful stint selling with top retailers, but over time, they realised how there were hardly any dedicated organic markets which would fetch them the price their top-notch produce was worth.
“On the shop-floor of the mall, our produce was being sold like any other crop which was grown chemically. To us, we were growing gold. So we wanted someone who would sell that gold with the same vigour”, said Ajinkya Hange.
This is how their journey into farmer’s markets began. Apart from selling at existing and popular farmer’s markets over the weekends in Bandra, they set up a farmer’s market at Dadar.
Soon, they distanced themselves from middlemen and retailers and worked for their products to reach their consumer’s doorstep too.
Today, their customer base, in addition to hundreds of organic food enthusiasts, includes top business tycoons and A-listers from the Bollywood industry. Well-known personality, nutrition expert, and author of globally acclaimed book The Great Indian Diet, Luke Coutinho, has recommended their brand AmoreEarth’s immunity boosting powder as the best means to enhance immunity off the shelf.
Freshura and AmoreEarth are the names of the Two Brothers’ online organic store. The name AmoreEarth is derived from the Spanish word amore which means love, and earth meaning soil - both the words come together to re-elect their immense love. This store was rated as the best organic store for curated organic products among Indian brands as well as imported brands in India by Vogue.
The Hange brothers, who started with an annual turnover of Rs 2 lakh, are now making Rs 3 crore annually.
Apart from this, people from over 14 countries have visited their farms to learn their organic farming methods. These include travelers, farmers, media experts and bankers from the USA, France, Germany and Australia.
“We love selling in farmer’s markets, interacting with consumers and telling them our story. Every Sunday, we look forward to the 350 km ride to sell our produce. It was after the feedback from our customers that we decided to venture into processed items like desi cow ghee, peanut butter, jaggery, jaggery powder, moringa powder, wood pressed oils, unpolished dals - all with no additives, preservatives, colour or binders - in their purest forms. Several boutique stores in Mumbai came forward to give our products space, with no high margins. Every time we travel to the city they arrange for our stay and food too!” concluded Satyajit Hange.
The biggest misconception in their village that farmers’ children once educated in cities could not turn to farming as a career and make it a success has been proved wrong by the two brothers. While they now proudly say that educated people can leave their jobs and turn farming into a profitable business, they add that “all they require is the passion and a never-give-up attitude”!
Sakshi Holkar is a management student at the Pune University specialising BBA in Hospitality and Facilities Management. She is also a proud daughter of the soil.
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