When we started thinking about growing our own food, we had actually invested in a 2300 sqft plot size, which would even have a small house, to be sufficient. This was back in 2013. As we evolved in our thinking and learned more about farming and particularly permaculture, the size of the land we’d need also grew. We were inspired by the Dervaes’sand a urban homestead was what we were aiming for. Of course, the ‘urban’ went out of the window considering how steep the real estate prices were, but the homestead remained. And then we were introduced to Permaculture… making a self-sustaining eco system imitating the forests and integrating all forms of life and community to work with and for each other. That’s it. The search for an agricultural plot began.
Finding that ideal farm: It would not be an exaggeration if I said that we searched the length and breadth of the country for that perfect piece of land. We started out with a Wishlist of 6 to 7 acres but had to soon bring it down to 2 to 3 acres. We couldn’t afford anything beyond that size going by the prices we were hearing. Our criteria was – should not be more than 2 hrs. from a city or town, should have some form of roads, water and electricity supply. The reason for these conditions was, which we found out during our search and research, the cost of building roads and getting the basic electricity and water supply to the land sometimes costs as much as the land itself. So any plot which was in a remote location was stricken off the list. This decision also depends on one’s risk taking ability… if you feel you will be able to make the best of a place irrespective of its access, go for it! 🙂 Along we these conditions, we looked at ground water availability, surrounding areas, terrain, weather and soil.
Land purchase laws: We had started our search in 2016 and by the end of 2018, we had looked at land parcels in Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh. We realised it wasn’t easy… one was to find what you were looking for and the other bigger obstacle for us was the paper work. We had not realised that all states in India except Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, MP, some parts of Haryana require a farmer certificate (meaning you have to be an agriculturist) to buy agricultural land. We could buy NA (Non-agricultural) land, which could be of any size, but in most states there is a cap on it too. And, NA land costs more than agricultural land. We were also introduced to a few solutions too…
- Buy a small piece in Rajasthan which will get you a farmer certificate and then use that to buy land where ever you want
- Buy on a power of attorney to develop land (a tough one for a middle class, white collar job person to even comprehend)
- Ask relatives, friends and family to buy in their name but to be transferred off to you later
- Get an approval from the District Magistrate who by the powers vested in him by the govenment can (in rare cases) grant permission to non-agriculturists
- If your family/parents/ancestors own land anywhere then get an NOC and show their land papers as proof that you belong to a family of farmers.
The last option suited us the most. Also, we wanted to take a course of action which was fool-proof and did not allow for any future implications (read hassles).
My father and his parents happened to own a tiny share of farm land in Uttar Pradesh(UP). So, we are trying to get the paper work sorted for us through that route. We also came to know in the process that while in the rest of the country, a daughter has an equal right to ancestral property, in UP, she cannot claim a right to any property bought by the grandfather. Yes, if it her father’s but nope if it is the grandfather’s.
We finalised a parcel of 1.5 acres a 100 kms outside of Pune (that is all we could afford). We are still in the process of getting the paper work done… fingers and toes crossed, we will be able to cross this bridge soon! I also wish that the governemnt makes it easy for people and youngsters like us who want to embrace farming and go back to our roots. Especially now that the country is staring at health, environment and toxic food crisis. Wish us luck! And everyone else who is on this journey.
Love and grace,Swadhaarani Eco Farm Family