#Farmstagram is offering trapped urban Indians some peas and quiet

Hindustan Times | By
Oct 24, 2020 05:04 PM IST

Why doomscroll when you can stroll through Instagram accounts that offer lush landscapes, fresh produce and a sense of escape.

There’s an Instagram obsession that’s made it to India in the pandemic — #Farmstagram, posts that showcase farm life, offering a vicarious escape to those who are city-bound, and wishing they weren’t.

Sanjay Austa says he wants his farm account to be educational, so he’s honest about the harvests, discoveries and mistakes he makes at his orchard in Meena Bagh Ratnari, Himachal Pradesh.
Sanjay Austa says he wants his farm account to be educational, so he’s honest about the harvests, discoveries and mistakes he makes at his orchard in Meena Bagh Ratnari, Himachal Pradesh.

Globally, #farmstagram throws up tens of thousands of results, usually seasonal; there are a lot of giant pumpkins right now. Also, horses, rivers, rosy-cheeked children, life lived in the outdoors.

In India, the visuals are sunlit and stunning. Mountains and blue skies; rustic scenes of desi food being cooked outdoors; cows and bountiful harvests. And lots and lots of fresh produce.

“We believe in a no-edits account,” says Ajinkya Hange of Pune, who runs the account @twobrothersorganicfarmsindia with his sibling. “Whether there’s a storm on or it’s raining or we’re just petting our cows, we keep our photos raw and real.”

Sayajit and Ajinkya had corporate jobs until around 2014, at which point they gave up the city life and move to the family’s 32-acre farm in Bhodani village.

The account is a family affair, like the farm. There are photos of their sister, Durga, cooking farm-grown bajra, methi and raw mango and holding up a plate that got 989 likes. The account was started in 2017 and has 41.1K followers.

The brothers also sell their produce, and are passionate about the farm, the account and their business, so comments are responded to with prompt and warm feedback, invitations to visit the farm and news about when they’ll be arriving at local farmers’ markets next.

You see real farm life on this account; things you don’t see usually see on Instagram, says Shalini Santhosh, a customer from Pune, and a fan. “I loved seeing the video of their cows drinking buttermilk. It’s also very educational. I’ve learnt much from them especially about making honey.”

Educational is what Sanjay Austa, a photographer, part-time orchardist and farmstagrammer in Ratnari, the apple belt of Himachal Pradesh, aims for. He began posting @sanjayausta in 2015.

“I think a farm account should be more than pretty pictures,” he says. “I talk process, offer solutions, am open about my discoveries and my mistakes.”

There’s an element of the vicarious too. A basket of tomatoes and leafy greens standing in a field as the sun goes down, is the stuff of dreams for those scrolling in the concrete jungles of urban India. Beswa, the farm dog, is a big hit too. And a video of newly hatched chicks has the most views of any of his posts so far — 2,168 views and 259 likes.

“What I’ve learnt in these five years is that you have to be interested in the science of it all, really know the soil, the climate. All this reflects in the photos and posts,” Austa says.

Off in the Tirthan valley of Himachal Pradesh, Sheena, a digital creator who goes by only one name, posts videos of camping trips, close-ups of farm-grown plums and strawberries, eggplants and pumpkins interspersed with rows of aloe vera “cos good skin is important”.

Sheena (@thebluesheeptirthan), who moved back to her hometown of Banjaar from Delhi in 2018, has 22.7K followers — half of whom have clicked Follow since March.

“The landscape does most of the work,” she says, laughing. The mountains in the background are truly stunning. “You just have to keep in mind Insta’s algorithms – post everyday!” she adds.

That’s what she did during the lockdown. “Other Instagrammers come from the city to the mountains to create content. This is my home,” she says.

“The pandemic has forced us to confine our lives in all sorts of ways. Farmstagrams offer voyeuristic pleasure for those of us stuck in our city boxes: the sense of the great outdoors, luscious fruits and vegetables, all offer a sense of escape from our boxed-in reality,” says author and food researcher Anoothi Vishal. “I enjoy seeing pictures of the farm life; it’s a life I like but don’t think I would choose. The handles offer a temporary holiday that also looks and feels healthy.”

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    Paramita Ghosh has been working as a journalist for over 20 years and writes socio-political and culture features. She works in the Weekend section as a senior assistant editor and has reported from Vienna, Jaffna and Singapore.

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