On December 6, 2015, I took a drive of about 1.5 hrs (65Kms) from Vijayawada reaching Ghantasala Palem Village around 10.30AM. It was pleasure meeting this 54 years young Mr Uppala Prasad Rao- managing over a well diversified farm of over 150 acres with passion. He was busy giving instructions to the farm workers, while attending numerous phone calls and visitors, mostly the farmers from neighbouring villages. The farmers from far & wide visit his farm seeking advice on farming matters & buying farm produce including seeds, he told. Growing promising varieties of paddy, pulses, millets, sunhemp, green & black gram, mango orchard, fodder crops, along with raising buffaloes, cows, goats, poultry, ducks, fish in his 12 acre own land and around 140 acres leased lands, is no ordinary experience. Popular almost like movie hero, I wondered how he could do this much, when many farmers were struggling in many parts of India.
“I never fear trying new agricultural technologies”, since “farming is my passion & livelihood”, he says. A strong urge to do something new and better in farming coupled with hard work and dedication has made me what I am today, he told us. Having just 2 acres of land and two cattle, he would have remained a poor small scale farmer living in poverty, what he inherited in early 1980s. But for his determination, innovative thinking, risk taking attitude and entrepreneurial instinct in him, he is a highly acclaimed & accomplished farmer in the state of Andhra Pradesh today.
Mr Rao speaking to Mr Chandra Babu Naidu,
Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
It’s a fascinating journey from owning just 2 acres of land and 2 livestock to managing nearly 150 acres of mixed farm with over 300 livestock (buffaloes, cows & goats), poultry, ducks, fish etc. In his success, the rural advisory services including agricultural extension and rural development agencies too has played a role, he explained. These agencies keep him informed about new varieties, farm machinery, new schemes, agricultural practices & policies etc. He suggests that the farmers big or small must seek to be in contact with these agencies to be updated on changing technologies, practices and policies. He is a regular visitor of these agencies and programmes like Farmers’ fairs, exhibitions, crop/ livestock yield competitions etc. organized by them, he told.
Mr Uppala Prasad Rao talking to Livestock
extension specialists from Veterinary university
He shared many of his good farming practices during my stay of 4 hrs at his farm. He humbly said, “I just don’t grow anything for the sake of growing”, but like in any other business, “I always keep an eye on market”. Truly, his focus on quality, organic farming methods, branding, direct marketing, using latest and promising varieties, farm diversification, online visibility including media coverage are good indicators why he is a successful farmer. Availability of farm workers/agricultural laborers is a nagging problem in India, but he maintains very good relations with farm workers and their families too, to enjoy their continuous loyalty to him.
The Agricultural Universities in the region have not only awarded and felicitated him but also utilized his farming experience in training programmes and demonstrations for farmers. The research institutions have used his farm for research, on-farm trials of new crop varieties and multiplying breeder seeds into foundation seeds, under buyback arrangement.
Mr Uppala Prasad is an early bird in the area, on many farming matters. Eyeing on rapidly growing market of organic agricultural products, he has further streamlined his organic farming venture to cash upon the emerging opportunity. Appreciably, to maximize his profit margin, he does direct marketing of his farm produce, eliminating middlemen. He pays good attention to labeling and packaging of farm produce to promote and develop himself into a brand (UPR) guarantying quality. Growing crops & raising livestock is fine, but a good idea about market is the key, where many Indian farmers still lag far behind. His success, thus lies partly to organized sales and his marketing strategies too.
Labeled bags of certified organic rice
Over the years, he has been diversifying his farm by adding many crops and livestock species. Besides buffaloes & cows producing over 1000 liters of milk per day, he has recently integrated poultry, goats, ducks and fish in his farm. Venturing into livestock, he is expecting better returns, since most of the feed and fodder for livestock can be produced on-farm including crop by-products. His innovative farming including switching to certified organic agriculture attracts people from different walks of life. No wonder, the top officials of the Indian Ministry of Agriculture Including the Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) were among the visitors to his farm.
Dr S Ayyappan, Director General, Indian
Council of Agricultural Research visiting rice field
A large number of experts, university professors, scientists and farmers visit his farm individually, in groups as also through organised farm tours by the agricultural development departments. He has acquired huge knowledge of pest and diseases of crops and livestock and practical methods of controlling them without applying harmful chemicals. His knowledge and achievements inspire and motivate the farmers in the state, told us one of the visitors to his farm.
Appreciably, he has nurtured his next generation into agripreneurship too. When many youth are losing interest in agriculture all over the world, Ms Uppala Vijaya Lakshmi, daughter of Mr Rao is successfully running a shop-SAHAJA KRUSHI ORGANIC'S. She sell branded UPR Organic Farm Produce directly to consumers including home deliveries from UPR Organic Farm, while promoting it using social media. He has plans to motivate and train rural youth on agriculture and animal husbandry, so that they don’t migrate to cities searching employment.
True to the Indian tradition of serving the guests, Atithi devo bhava meaning a guest is like God, he served us simple but sumptuous organic meal prepared from his farm products, including honey, butter milk and sweets made of milk from his dairy. It was an awesome and enlightening experience for me at his farm, thank you Mr Rao for making it a wonderful experience (https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=uppala%20prasad%20rao).
When leaving his farm, I was thinking, such Agriprenurs could be wonderful resource to the Rural Advisory Services as role models for experience sharing with other farmers (https://blog.gfar.net/2016/05/03/agripreneurs-the-emerging-role-models/). I wish to invite him soon to my institute to benefit from his rich farming experiences!
by Dr Mahesh Chander
Head Division of Extension Education
ICAR- Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar