Designing the SB Farm – Tauru, Haryana

About the custodian and her needs: I first met SB at the Gurgaon Organic Farmers Market. She brings produce from her farm. A woman in her 60s, she recently took to farming and started living at the farm itself. Living on the farm is fast becoming a rare phenomenon, with most farmers choosing to live in the village or in the nearby cities. 

SB is a farmer with a passion for sustainability. Meeting her I was struck by her vision to create a self-sustaining mixed farm that could not only support her livelihood, but also generate resources and income opportunities for the women in her village. She even had plans to run a school on her land.

About the Land: SB’s 11-acre farm, located on a higher plateau close to the city, had primarily been used for growing grains and pulses. However, she had also planted a monocrop mango and guava orchard a few years prior. When we delved deeper into her needs, it was clear that we needed to explore a new, regenerative approach to farming.

The design: We introduced SB to a self-sustaining mixed and integrated farming model and began to explore various regenerative practices. One of the biggest challenges we faced was the soil, which was low in carbon and other nutrients. However, the land was blessed with a lot of small trees and grasses, as well as a fair amount of bird and insect activity. We also found that the soil was sandy loam, which had a tendency to hold water during rains.

Our design solutions aimed to connect the dots and create new opportunities. We proposed creating a camping site and ecological weekend getaway, which would generate local employment and consume a sizable portion of the farm’s produce. Earth buildings would be used, which would also double as learning and processing space. An observation deck would be built on the north-western corner of the farm, allowing visitors to enjoy the sunsets and spread out human activity across the land. Pathways lined with herbs and wildflowers would connect various parts of the farm, helping to build a healthy insect population.

In the new plan, we reduced the land allocation for vegetable beds and crop fields, creating substantial space for a variety of new trees. The orchard was also upgraded through the introduction of multiple layers of plants and trees, increasing yield diversity and creating a complex natural ecosystem. The collective produce from the farm could now be used to make pickles, jams, herbs, spices, medicines, and edible oils, increasing the farm’s revenue.

As a designer, I see trees as my partners in building healthy soils, cooling temperatures, and improving the water resources of the land. They provide us with food, biomass, and wood, and also serve as a peaceful spot to spend an idyllic afternoon with a book. With SB’s farm, we’re not just creating a sustainable source of income, but a thriving ecosystem that benefits both the land and the community.