Agriculture

An Agriculture Officer Uses Facebook to Win New Converts to Farming

Farmer's Notebook.

As young professionals in India tire of their daily ‘cubicle’ life and look to social media to ‘cultivate’ new interests, a dedicated agriculture officer in Tamil Nadu is using Facebook to promote the idea that they should set their sights on farming.

Madhu Balan, an assistant agriculture officer  from Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu has started the Vivasayam Karkalam community page and more than 16,000 Facebook users have become members. Nearly half of them are between the ages of 35-42 and many are professionals like doctors, lawyers and chartered accounts doing part-time farming as a hobby.

“Right from seeds to marketing, I have tried to give the right information and taken care to see that the page is full of relevant information and photos,” says Balan.

10462835_1462091280705639_3206022840916355697_n

A photo from the page.

Vivasayam Karkalam – most of whose content is in Tamil – has become popular among farmers, young professionals and students of agriculture in Tamil Nadu, who browse the page everyday for new information being posted. “Working in a government office for the past three decades, I always wanted to do something worthwhile and useful. But there was nothing challenging coming my way. I have another two years to retire. I started this site a year back and expected a lukewarm response as there are many pages on different topics. Honestly, I never imagined we would get so many members involved. This only proves how hungry people are for good information on farming and agriculture,” he says.

The most interesting thing about Balan’s site is that a majority of its members are young farmers who are new to this area.

FNB pic

A typical question on the farming community page

Balan uploads information on different aspects of farming. “There is something for everybody connected with agriculture,” he says. If there is some information on a progressive farmer, then his complete contact details are given to enable users to contact him directly. Unlike many government agriculture officers who spend their weekends at home, Balan travels to different places and meets farmers and others associated with farming in search of new information for his community page.

Compared to 15-20 years ago, young people today are interested to try their hand in agriculture, Balan says. Many youngsters, especially from the IT sector, have actually quit their jobs for farming. Thanks to WhatsApp, Facebook, etc., information on practically any issue or subject can be shared across the globe free of cost. “And that is not all. On social media, you don’t need to worry about advertising revenue to run a page specifically on agriculture/rural issues,” he explains.

A contraption for the direct sowing of paddy

A farmer using a drum seeder for paddy. Instead of manual broadcasting, this device helps them sow seeds in uniform rows, reducing the need for manual work. A single person can use it for an acre. In a day, one person can use this device to sow up to 3 acres. Credit: Vivasayam Karkalam

“I started this out of my own interest and the response has only encouraged me to do more,” he says. Under his guidance, millets growers in Dharmapuri have started a federation to market their items. “I am on Facebook for two hours every day and anybody can contact me regarding their doubts and I am only too happy to help them.”

Balan offers not just farming advice but also practical information on where to source seeds as well. He also posts the requirements of his FB friends and has created an interactive portal where marketing has also become a little easy for farmers. In short, by using a freely available social media platform, he has been able to bring in a big change among both rural and urban internet users. The information sought could be on setting up terrace gardening and its implements or where to buy a particular variety or what type of organic or inorganic fertiliser to be used – there is something for everybody interested in crops.

Farmer's Notebook logo.For more details, interested readers can contact N. Madhu Balan, No. 351, HIG, TNHB, Vennampatti, Dharmapuri – 636705, Tamil Nadu. His mobile number is 0-97515-06521, Skype ID: madhubalan2006, and email: balmadhu@gmail.com.

  • Rasheed

    Looking forward to more such interesting stories from the field

  • harri prakash

    i have been following this page for a long time. this page has given me many useful information especially ” terrace gardening” . There are people who do things for money but Mr.N.MADHUBALAN, ASST DIRECTOR OF AGRICULTURE, DHARMAPURI is doing it as a social service. a very big thanks to him and may his work reach world wide soon.

  • Anacra

    Great Move. Its a good effort to improve agriculture.

    Anacra from Bizbilla

  • shakthi guru

    It is a great initiative by Mr.Madhubalan sir. I didn’t find these kind of information in any books or in any forums. He is providing info which is in commercial aspects. So I will recommend his page to all the Agratarians. Also, In the country like India, Due to monsoonal failures, Farmers suicide, Crop failure, etc.., are the problems which affects country’s growth also. But he is directly helping the farmers in all these aspects which is the contemporary need of our country. Please keep up the responsibility which you had undertaken. Hats off to you sir.

  • Paul Lambert

    Agriculture offers a new challenge everyday, however the joy that comes from overcoming those challenges would be hard to put into words. To have a piece of land and be able to grow or raise something on it is truly a blessing!

  • Nam

    Thanks to Mr. Madhubalan for sharing us this valuable information towards the Concepts how to improve and Over come the issues from day to day in Real life of Farming…its really great idea especially for those who involve in Agriculture Business and works..