When farming becomes a chic and trendy business

Dechen Wangmo at her mushrooms and vegetable farming in Chhokhor, Bumthang

23-year-old farmer Dechen Wangmo plans to reap big and turn her mushroom production unit into a bustling modern business

LHAKPA TSHERING | Thimphu

With farming shaping the lives of thousands of individuals who have the passion and toil on the farms and don’t mind getting a little dirty, farming is becoming the new trend for many, including many young guns, who are increasingly appreciating the nuances and economic returns of farming.

One such enthusiast is 23-year-old Dechen Wangmo from Chhokhor in Bumthang, who is pursuing what she always wanted – farming. She grows organic mushrooms and a self-sufficient organic vegetable garden to earn a living and also support her family.

After studying till class 12 at Jakar Higher Secondary School in Bumthang in 2018, this young girl who was raised by a single mother wanted to do something more meaningful.

“My mother and sister wanted me to continue my studies, but I decided to leverage my skills in farming,” she said. “I had an inclination towards farming since my childhood.”

By taking up farming as a career, Dechen thinks ‌it can ensure a stable income and meet financial obligations. “It is hard to get a job even after university graduation,” says Dechen, referring to the youth unemployment crisis in the country.

Coming from an agricultural family gives her an edge over others and exposure to rural social dynamics early in life. “Until I completed my high school, I used to work in fields, helping my mother,” she says, adding that it helped her to push further and take up farming.

She adds that her elder sister made all efforts to turn her dream unit into a successful venture. “My sister always wanted to take up farming, but she had to leave for her job. She supported me with financial assistance to set the farming.”

If passion defines you, Dechen believes, it is worth putting it into action. “Farming works are looked down upon even if they have unique skills, but I feel content as it gives the feeling of having some sort of contribution to society,” she added.

Dechen’s love for farming led her to receive 3-month training in oyster mushroom cultivation from the Gross National Happiness Center – a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Thimphu and subsequently established her own business venture at home.

Though she did not have any expertise in it, she says, she gained the confidence to take up mushroom farming and she is keenly putting all her learning.

“The training has been a skill that I will always have forever. I learned how to grow mushrooms and I feel empowered to support my family,” Dechen adds.

“Before this mushroom farming, I grow only vegetables in the greenhouse for self-consumption. Now I ventured into oyster mushroom cultivation,” Dechen said, adding that the plan is to turn her mushroom production into a bigger business and extend vegetable farming into cash crops cultivation.

In the greenhouse, she grows a range of vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli, verities of beans, asparagus, chilies, saag, and onion including ground apples, among others.

However, just like many other entrepreneurs, Dechen Wangmo says, she is worried about the marketing as the harvesting season nears. “But I expect a good product and remain optimistic for the mushroom as there are just a handful of oyster mushroom growers,” she said.

Meanwhile, the dzongkhag agriculture sector provided the required support with free seeds of vegetables and mushrooms to start farming.