Last year, when a knot of foreign delegates visited Kashmir as part of G20 tourism summit, a young lawyer turned integrated farmer from an outlying village of south Kashmir's Shopian district got a chance to showcase her agri-products at a stall installed in Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC).
Syed Shaziya Lateef’s journey from law to land began soon after she got married in Mool Chitragam village of the district. Her in-laws own large swathes of land, but the family would largely pursue conventional style of farming.
In 2020, Shaziya was in Jammu along with her husband, a law officer with Jammu and Kashmir government, when the COVID-19 virus gripped the world, forcing the authorities to impose restrictions to stave off the transmission of the virus. During the unprecedented restrictions, they faced a plethora of difficulties as they had to scramble to buy food items and other essentials.
After spending a few days in Jammu, the duo travelled back home amidst an intense lockdown.
However, when they showed up in their native village, all their worries vanished suddenly.
“We had enough fresh homegrown vegetables, eggs, fruits and other eatables available at home," said Shaziya.
That day the young lawyer, who has majored in law from University of Jammu, realised the significance of farming and toyed with the idea of taking it to the next level. For the next few months, she worked on it and finally started integrated farming.
Shaziya set up a fish and poultry farm on large expanses of their agricultural land, availing different government schemes.
“For me it was quite a new experience and it marked my tryst with the integrated farming system," said Shaziya.
The progressive farmer also cultivated high-density and medium-density apples on her farm and continued her experiment with grapes and kiwis.
“My experiment with high-density varieties was wonderful. You could grow more trees in less space. Additionally, the space between the two rows of fruit trees could be used to grow vegetable," Shaziya said.
She cultivates a host of traditional and exotic varieties of fruits and vegetables. Currently, she cultivates traditional apples on 15 kanals of land, high-density and medium density apples on 10 and 6 kanals respectively, while 3 kanals are under the cultivation of grapes and kiwis. Moreover, she grows exotic vegetables like broccoli, Chinese cabbage and sweet corn.
Shaziya also raises a number of exotic bird varieties, eliciting the curiosity of those visiting her farm.
She has American Silky, Brahma, Golden Polish and other varieties. However, Shaziya recently had to incur losses as she lost many of her birds to bird flu.
“I still have a few of them and we are taking good care of them," said Shaziya.
Enumerating the benefits of integrated farming, Shaziya said that she had not to wait for a specific harvesting session as she did in the past while practising conventional farming.
Harvesting , according to Shaziya, goes on well-nigh round the year with one or another crop being cultivated consistently.
“There is a recurring income. We have not to wait for money as we harvest back-to-back crops more or less in all seasons," she said.
She also said that one of the key benefits of integrated farming "is that the input costs are low and dividends are high".
Shaziya uses animal excreta as vermicompost and it not only saves her fertilizer costs, but also helps her to practice organic farming.
Shaziya provides regular employment to at least 10 to 12 people with her farming pursuit clocking an annual turnover of Rs 3 to Rs 4 crore.
Her farming achievements were recognised by the government and she was awarded by the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha in 2022.
Shaziya said that her recognition stemmed from her involvement in land and not her connection with the law.
“I am satisfied with my agricultural pursuits and a satisfied life is more important than a successful life," Shaziya believes.