60-year-old farmer earns lakhs and leads the way by making his own clothes!


Eevery year India product an average of 5,770,000 metric tonnes of cotton, making it the world’s largest producer. The first one evidence Cotton use has been found in India and Pakistan, and dates to around 6,000 BC. Scientists believe that cotton was first cultivated in the Indus Delta.

One of the indigenous cotton farmers is Surendra Pal, 60, from Dhingwali in Fazilka, Punjab, who also grows grains, pulses and oilseeds. In 2012, he started processing cotton into natural clothing.

Surendra, who graduated from grade 10, says that in his village people enlist in the military or go into farming and cultivate the family lands. Speaking to The Better India, he said: “Like a few others in my village, I also tried to get into the Indian army, but I was not successful and it pointed me to the ‘Agriculture.” Since Surendra lived in a common family and had a large area of ​​land already cultivated, it was only a matter of joining them.

“I have always been inclined to natural agriculture and never felt the need to use chemical fertilizers. Even when I used chemical fertilizers, it was in very small amounts. Since 1992, I have been practicing organic and natural agriculture.

Surendra Pal

On the family lands, Surendra grows fruits like tangerine and guava as well as grains and legumes like wheat, bajra, jowar, corn, sesame and cotton. “The majority of our own family needs are met with what we grow. Now we also make our own clothes, ”he says.

Cotton cultivation journey

Biological
A look at cotton and the end product.

Speaking about growing cotton, Surendra says, “I grew cotton on my 4 acres of land. While native cotton was cultivated in North India and then spun over chakras to make fabric, this process is long gone. Today, farmers who grow native cotton are a rare breed. Most farmers grow a hybrid ‘Bt Cotton’ variety, but Surendra says he has never planted hybrid cotton.

“One of the main reasons cotton seeds were harvested was for the cattle. Besides the green fodder and mustard meal given to them, cottonseed is also part of their diet. Once the cotton is harvested, only the cottonseed remains which is used as animal feed. “Even though farmers now feed their cattle with the hybrid cotton variety, it is not good for the cattle and therefore the reason for growing native cotton organically is even more relevant,” he says.

Cotton is sown in May and cultivated in October. To grow cotton, the land must be well plowed. Speaking of this process, Surendra says, “Once we plow the land well, we leave it vacant for up to two weeks. On 1 acre of land, about 3 to 7 quintals of cotton are produced. In addition to cotton, Surendra also plants moong and moth, which helps the soil get enough nitrogen.

He continues: “For a good cotton crop, pollination plays a very important role. This requires enough birds in the area, and to encourage the birds, rows of bajra and jowar are also cultivated on land interspersed with cotton. The flowers of these plants attract birds. The outskirts of the earth are filled with marigold flowers as an additional means of attracting birds and bees. This method helps promote pollination and keep pests away without the use of chemicals.

Organic cotton clothing

Biological
Cotton plant

A turning point kind of happened in 2009, when Surendra decided to use the cotton he grew and make his own clothes. He says, “There was a time when every village had weavers who used cotton to make clothes – that has changed now. All cotton produced is sold to larger companies who add chemicals to the process.

It was then that Surendra decided to stop selling cotton to these big companies.

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In 2013, Surendra found a power loom and decided to start making fabric from organic cotton. As a farmer, Surendra had no knowledge of making clothes and it was a learning experience for him.

He says: “One quintal of cotton can make over 100 yards of fabric and the amount of fabric also depends on the thickness or fineness of the fabric. An ordinary farmer gets between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6,000 by selling a quintal of cotton on the market. We earn up to Rs 19,000 from the sale of a quintal of cotton fabric.

Since cotton cultivation is a labor intensive process, Surendra was also able to employ several women’s groups across Punjab for this work. At any given time, there are around 45 people in the field harvesting cotton. Considering the increasing demand for organic cotton clothing, Surendra has managed to connect with customers from all over India and other parts of the world.

Besides cotton, there is also a demand for its organic cotton duvets, mattresses, cotton rags to use as a makeup remover and clothing. “Because we don’t use any harmful chemicals in what we make, there’s no way people will have a reaction to our clothes,” he says.

The 60-year-old farmer says that while he doesn’t sell his produce through a website, people contact him directly, after which he ships the items to them.

Its cotton also reached England, where a mother-daughter duo wanted to buy organic cotton duvets. Surendra is now earning lakhs month to month, but says he’s not in it for the money he’s making. “The amount we charge for the products depends on the amount of cotton used in its manufacture and also the price of cotton at the time the product is made,” says Surendra.

In conclusion, he said: “Agriculture is not our business, it is our way of life. Almost all of our needs are met by farming, so it doesn’t matter to us what our annual income is. We live well and by providing employment for others we feel that we have gained a lot.

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)