School staff turn urban farmers

School staff turn urban farmers

Vishwa Vidyapeeth in Yelahanka grows organic produce on its campus and keeps its staff gainfully employed

A team of bus drivers, canteen chefs, cleaners and teachers was formed to use empty plots on the campus to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Vishwa Vidyapeeth, a school in Yelahanka, has turned a part of its campus into an organic farm.

With schools being shut since last year, this transformation has ensured work and sustenance for school staff.

Suseela Santhosh, director of the school, says the staff, many of them hailing from neighbouring villages, feared losing their jobs.

“These people have been a part of the school for years, and we did not want to fire any of them. We contemplated taking a loan to pay their salaries but we also wanted to keep them occupied. That is when we came up with the idea to start farming,” says Suseela. 

Soon, a team of bus drivers, canteen chefs, cleaners and teachers was formed to use empty plots on the campus to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Harvested rainwater and greywater from the kitchen is used for farming. While a few staff members had prior farm experience, others learned on the job. 

“Some of us come from a farming background, so it brought back fond memories,” says Arun Kumar, transport coordinator.

The huge terrace of the school kitchen was also converted into a garden.

The staff wove baskets and filled them with mud and manure to grow vegetables like tomato, pumpkin and brinjal. A herb garden with 40 varieties was also set up.

“We saw the fruits of our labour in just a few months. This turned us into a self-sufficient green campus. There were heaps and heaps of produce, but we had to figure out what to do with them since our kitchen was shut,” says Suseela.

The team started distributing some of the produce at the villages nearby and also opened its kitchen to cook meals for the staff on ground.

“Soon word spread and we started receiving requests to supply food for Covid patients in home isolation. We used our fresh produce to cook meals and deliver them at nominal charges,” she says. The team is also supplying free meals to NGOs and frontline workers in the locality.

“When schools reopen and students return, this will be a lesson for them. When they see the vegetables growing every day, not only will they respect the produce in their meals more but also get a better understanding of how plants grow,” adds Suseela.

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