Farm will

Published: Jan 26, 2010, 06:52 IST | Varun Singh and Janaki Viswanathan

Online game inspires youth to venture into the real world of sowing and harvesting

Online game inspires youth to venture into the real world of sowing and harvesting

Cream of the crop: FarmVille enthusiast Sharmila Kamlesh (25) displays the radish she has grown in her farm in Pattiveeranpatti, Tamil Nadu

Two months on a virtual farm and Sharmila Kamlesh (25) was ready to get her fingers into the earth for real.

The FarmVille enthusiast and former Mulund resident, now grows tomatoes, bitter gourd et al in her 1,000-square-foot farm in Pattiveeranpatti, Tamil Nadu. She said, "My husband's friend once said that actually growing crops was harder than clicking on seeds on a social networking website. It was a challenge and I took it up. Today, I love my little garden patch." Kamlesh's success story has led to several of her friends following in her footsteps.

Seeing green: FarmVille enthusiast Sharmila Kamlesh now does the real thing at her 1,000-square-foot farm in Pattiveeranpatti, Tamil Nadu

FarmVille, a farm simulation game, in which players can buy, sow and harvest trees, crops and livestock, recorded 74 million users worldwide earlier this month.

And there have been others like Kamlesh, who want to get into the crop-growing business for real. Aditya Pinto, a Pune-based real estate consultant, observed, "These days, youngsters want to have a little leisure spot tucked away -- probably a house with a garden, where they can do a little farming over the weekends."

Another Mumbai-based realtor, Manohar Shroff, who deals in farmhouses and farmlands, has seen a considerable increase in the demand for fertile land. Shroff said, "Earlier, there were just about six or seven people who would come looking for a farm plot every year… most of them were elderly. However, in the last six months, this scene has changed. I have met 30 farming enthusiasts and nearly half of them are between 28-40." The realtor attributes the sudden spike in interest to FarmVille. He said, "Several of my clients talk of some virtual game that they have been playing, which is what interested them in the first place."

Obviously, Panvel and Karjat are the favourite spots for the new-age farmers. Sulakshana Deshpande (25) said, "I played FarmVille for a month, and I'm looking for my own patch of land," she said. For Deshpande, crop-growing runs in the family since her mother was a farmer too.

Sameep Kulkarni, an IT professional from Pune, has similar plans. "I'd like to buy a farm near Pune. I like the countryside, and would love to have a place where I can spend time with my wife and grow vegetables and fruits."

Farming Enthusiast: IT professional Sameep Kulkarni

On the other end of the spectrum is Samar Gupta (46) of Trikaya Farms, who has been in the business for nearly two decades. And who has heard and seen FarmVille but never played it, because, "I do the real thing, right?"

Growing the Tricolour

The Indian Tricolour has been a part of FarmVille ever since a protest was lodged by nearly 20,000 players last year. And in the last week, several 'farmers' have been busy showing off their patriotism. The online acres of land are full of tricoloured patches of vegetables, trees and crops. Gautam Masand (31) sales manager, would like to do so too, but wonders how to get the 'white' crops to complete the tricolour. Amit Firke (26), who works at a media company, bought a flag last night to prepare for Republic Day. "It's a nice way of showing my patriotism,"  he said.

Just like FarmVille
Disha Direct, a real estate company, owns a plot of nearly 86 acres in Wada, 110 km from Mumbai, called Nirvana farms. The company has reserved 10 acres for community farming. Members get to choose from the crops that can be grown over here and the builder, through a group of people, will sow the seeds and harvest the crops. The crop sale earnings are divided among the members. 

"Mumbaikars mostly can't live their dreams of turning farmers because of the hardships involved. Hence, community farming," said Santosh Naik, managing director, Disha Direct. The rate per square foot is Rs 120.
Inputs by Shree Lahiri

Did you know?

FarmVille players outnumber  real farmers in the US by a ratio  of 60 to 1.

In the USA

The scene is no different in far-off Illinois, USA. To John Reifsteck, a corn-and-soybean grower in Champaign County, Illinois, there are parallels between virtual and actual farming. "Success at FarmVille requires foresight, persistence and a willingness to help others -- just like farming in the real world," he wrote in an online column last month.

Mere desh ki dharti: John Reifsteck, a corn-and-soybean grower

Meanwhile, 31-year-old bachelor Darin Doehring started playing months ago and credits the game with helping him wait out sogginess that hampered harvesting of his 2,000 acres of real corn and soybeans.

"There were more times this past fall I was doing my crops on FarmVille, than I was in the field because of the rain and mud outside," he said.

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