As Covid-19 wreaks havoc not only on those infected with the viral disease, but also on those confined to their homes since the start of the pandemic, the vast expanse of agricultural land in Gautam Budh Nagar has opened the doors to the agricultural tourism in the district, offering a refreshing break to those who wish to free themselves from the grind of their city life and reconnect with nature.
Agrotourism involves inviting and attracting visitors to agricultural land, usually for recreational purposes. These farms are run by locals, who either bought the land or rent it out. Visitors can walk along the farm and also learn agriculture from the owner or local villagers in the fram. Many families organize their picnics on these farms, which also sell the organic products produced by the locals. Some farms also serve food made from locally grown vegetables.
Located in Sector 126, Beejom is one such sustainable two-acre farm that started in 2018 but gained popularity after the lockdown. Aparna Rajagopal, a resident of Sector 20, who owns and manages the farm, said that since they reopened to visitors following the easing of Covid restrictions, there has been a resurgence of interest in agricultural tourism.
“Most of the visitors we had before the pandemic would get to know Beejom through word of mouth. At the end of 2019, we welcome at least 50 people every weekend because entry remains free. After the lockdown was imposed, we were able to reopen in January of this year and then close again in March after the second wave. After our reopening in September, we welcome almost 100 people every weekend, ”Rajagopal said adding that they have now started charging an entrance fee of ??100 per person every day, except Saturdays, in order to keep the Covid protocols in place.
“Since this location is easily accessible, it is a convenient place for people to spend their weekends. Although restrictions are relaxed, many still work from home, and schools are not fully open either. As a result, going outdoors has almost become a luxury and people are now looking to reconnect with nature, ”added Rajagopal, who is a lawyer turned farmer.
Nandini and Manish Gupta, residents of Sector 52 of Noida, came to the farm on Saturday with their 2-year-old son, Shael. “Our son was born just before the pandemic and we never had the opportunity to connect him to nature. We show him animals and plants in children’s books, but in city life, we never manage to show him these things in real life. We got to know Beejom through social media and decided to come here. It was a pleasure to see him beaming with joy watching the chickens, ducks, rabbits and other farm animals here, ”said Nandini, who works at a multinational.
Puneet Tyagi, owner of Prodigal Farms in Sector 131 and who has been welcoming visitors here since 2017, said footfall to his farm doubled after the lockdown. “Right before the 2020 lockdown, the number of visitors to the farm had started to increase as people were interested in spending time with nature. After closing in March 2020, we were able to resume operations from October of this year and the response has been better than the pre-Covid era, ”he said.
On the other hand, there are also those who took up the concept during containment. Area 104 resident Sanchaita Mazumdar quit her job after the Covid outbreak in June 2020 and found herself searching for land in Noida to grow her own organic produce.
“What started as a lockdown hobby to grow our own vegetables on rented land has evolved into a family farm, which started welcoming visitors in October 2020. The farm is filled with vegetable crops that we let’s plant and harvest. My mother prepares them for visitors in a small kitchen here. Due to Covid, we only take advance reservations and no appointments are allowed. We are overwhelmed by the response from people, who are looking to reconnect with nature and have a rural experience, ”said Mazumdar, who runs the Baagh Bagicha farm and nursery in Sector 135.
“Although the restrictions are relaxed and we can go on vacation, going to the farms on the outskirts of town seems like a more convenient alternative. I recently discovered such a farm near my residence, which opens to visitors on weekends and I have been going with my family for three weeks, ”said Atul Rathore, who lives in area 137 and visits a farm called Baagh Bagicha in the area. 135.
Having experienced the worst during the Covid pandemic, visiting farms is also therapeutic for some. “After recovering from Covid in June and staying home for months, the two negatively impacted my mental health. I got to know one of the farms here through acquaintance and a visit here felt like it healed. The wind is totally pollution free and it is refreshing to visit the fields. I’m trying to learn a bit of farming and connect with nature, ”said Rakhee Vashisht, a resident of Greater Noida West who has been visiting Baagh Bagicha for the past month.
Vikrant Tongad, an environmentalist from Greater Noida, donated his land in the village of Kheri Bhanauta for community farming in 2014 to a group of environmentally conscious professionals in Noida. Today visitors throng to the farm, located about 15-20 kilometers from Noida.
“While a group of visitors also visited earlier, queries and visits increased after Covid. Whereas previously those who visited the farm were mainly from the environmental conservation community, now those who are busy with their busy schedules also visit the farm, learn agriculture and teach their children the same. children, ”said Tongad, who invites visitors via social media.
However, he added that the concept of agricultural tourism still works in a disorganized way and needs a boost from government agencies to gain popularity.
“These farms are located in rural villages in the district and those who maintain these farms and work here all week are themselves local villagers. It becomes difficult for them to work here when there is a lack of basic amenities like public toilets, a regular supply of uninterrupted water and electricity. If the district authorities ensure these basic necessities here, it will be easier for workers as well as visitors to have a good time, ”he said.
There are about seven to eight other such places in Noida and Greater Noida that are used for agricultural tourism. District Magistrate Suhas LY said, “There are various government policies under which rural and agricultural areas are developed in the district. In addition, if the villagers and farmers face any problems, I will ask the relevant authorities to resolve them. “