“The pandemic has taught us to look at things from a different perspective. We wanted to teach children the process of food production and started a programme called Little Farmer. It is a 15-day WhatsApp session and we have done classes for 4,000 children so far. The programme is primarily about how to grow microgreens with whatever seeds they have at home. Children don’t have patience and they wanted results fast. I believe farming is the best way to teach qualities like patience. The reason why we are teaching about microgreens is that children can see the growth and difference every day. In 15 days, they can grow fenugreek, mustard, green grams, etc,” Hafiz Khan tells us.
In the morning session, children are asked to take a picture themselves with the sapling. “We also give instructions on what to get ready for evening classes. In the evening session, we teach them lessons one can learn from a farmer. For eg, some of the qualities of a farmer are hard work, patience, dedication, discipline, humbleness, team management, hopefulness, open-mindedness and so on. We teach them how to apply these qualities in their lives. They also send us pictures of them holding placards of qualities of a farmer and we make a nice poster out of it. On the 13th day, each student creates a timelapse of their plants’ growth and shares it with us,” he adds.
Hafiz Khan and Kalpana Manivannan
Hafiz says that the parents are also involved in the process and help their kids closely observe the growth of plants. “On weekends, we ask students to take pictures with family members. This will give them a sense of togetherness. We also host online quizzes and puzzles. From the response of the students and parents, I understood that the Little Farmer programme is very engaging and interesting,” he smiles. The Balcony Farmer for adults programme consists of growing microgreens at home and how to manage waste and composting.
Organic farmer Kalpana Manivannan was conducting farming classes for a city school until the lockdown. She has closely watched the enthusiasm of children and didn’t want to discontinue the classes. “I discussed with the school management and have re-imagined an online farming curriculum so that learning doesn’t stop. More than ever before, we have this urgent need to educate our children on the importance of farming, managing our waste and living sustainably. Currently, I am teaching for Class 4 and 5 students from a city school. I provide them a live demo session and also share farming videos. I take classes on how to grow microgreens, how to set up a garden (sowing, watering) and how to manage vegetable/fruit waste. I also discuss composting methods,” says Kalpana.
Not only farming sessions, but the urban farmer also talks about topics that are relevant to the environment. “We need to educate children about things like climate change, how they can contribute to it, what solutions can be done, etc. Children should feel that whatever they are learning, be it waste management or gardening, it is not only benefiting their environment but a larger community. They should understand that each small thing they do makes a huge difference,” she remarks.
Kalpana’s online soapmaking, gardening, farming and bio enzyme classes for adults are very popular among Chennaiites. “After the pandemic, people are showing a lot more interest in learning such things. Everyone is leaning towards a sustainable lifestyle and it is definitely a good sign,” Kalpana sums up.