Have you ever tried growing vegetables or fruits on your balcony, but didn’t go ahead with the same? Most people answer in affirmative to this question. Perhaps it is due to lack of adequate space in your house or apartment, or knowledge about how to fertilise the soil and plant the seeds.
If that’s the case, then you should organise a family holiday to visit “Smell of The Earth”. Located near Shantiniketan in Birbhum, Smell of The Earth is a gorgeous farm stay run by a couple named Aparajita Sengupta and Debal Mazumder. This couple gave left the US for good to become full-time farmers in the land of Tagore. After coming back to India, Aparajita and Debal bought land and built a beautiful nature-friendly house. Over the years, they have also set up a self-sufficient farmstead. They promote permaculture through the farmstead and lead their life in an eco-friendly manner. In simple words, they grow everything they eat.
Having spent some time in West Bengal by eating fresh, seasonal produce, the couple could not make sense of the strange taste of the food in the US as they were sprayed with pesticides and fertilisers. They consciously switched to organic produce soon and started grocery shopping only at the designated organic food stores. But it turned out more disappointing as the organic harvest was carefully curated in plastic packaging, inside the air-conditioned, fluorescent-lit departmental stores.
Consequently, they started losing the faith in the fruits of the foreign soil, longing for the fragrant rice, tender potatoes and fresh river fish of Bengal. This goaded them to return to their native land. Finally, they moved back to India along with their little daughter in 2011. Initially, they stayed in Kolkata and engaged with a community-supported agricultural farm. But in 2014, the duo moved to Ruppur in Birbhum district and started living in a sustainable two-storeyed mud house while nurturing their two-acre organic farm ‘Smell of The Earth’.
The farm does not require groundwater as the crops are predominantly rain-fed. The duo sticks to rainwater harvesting in ponds and the fields are irrigated during the dry seasons from them. Additionally, they use a minimum number of organic fertilisers and turn all their agricultural and household food waste into compost and use them in farming.
They grow a variety of vegetables like potatoes, onions, garlic, turmeric, mustard; paddy, wheat, millet and lentils like Masoor, Moong, Bengal Gram and Pigeon Peas. Seasonal herbs and spices are also grown at the Smell of The Earth. Aparajita and Debal even grow oilseeds so they could maintain a completely self-sustaining consumption pattern. They raise ducks for eggs and rear fish in their own ponds.
If you visit the farmstead, you will get to meet some like-minded people who indulge in healthy organic food from the farm and stay in natural buildings.
The couple also holds workshops for families and kids. Visit this lovely cottage located 10 km away from Shantiniketan along with your family over a weekend to make it more meaningful.
The Smell of the Earth offers a cottage facility with a separate kitchen, a modern bathroom, and a balcony that you can rent throughout the year.