Urban farmer, Founder of UrbanKhetti
inspiring + real
My interactions with Tanya Khambhojia over the past few years has been few, but each time she made a mark. There is this Zen - like calmness in her appearance and gait – and it took me a long time to pin point the exact word – contentment. What an aspiring achievement that is in my world! One could owe a lot of that down to the fact that she spends most of her time in nature – a mighty power in itself.
Tanya’s journey is incredibly interesting – starting her career in the film industry as an Assistant Director with one of the oldest advertising production houses in Mumbai, then moving up the ladder to DA, she found curiosity in in art and production design and ended up being the head of the department. At the peak of her career, Tanya began asking her self questions about the rat race and what was it that she truly enjoyed. “I would rather design my own life than my work designing my life” was how she began her life in urban farming and started her own company - Urbankhetti. She moved to Ahmedabad to execute it and learnt about farming by staying at different model farms (green house, commercial farm, organic farm) in and around Ahmedabad. She still takes out time to interact with different farmers and spends time reading about bridging the gap between rural and urban areas through farming (growing traditionally, growing real food). Urbankhetti has introduced the concept of 'Feed your workers' for factory and industries to grow food for their workers in their future expansion lands and distribute vegetables every week for their personal consumption. This not only gives the workers a chance to consume clean food but also ensures that they start consuming vegetables and fruits that they can't afford consuming regularly from the market.
Tanya is nothing short of inspiration. Today, I have the opportunity to learn more about her daily life routines towards living a better, healthier lifestyle – this includes simplistic skin routines and regular malish with nourishing oils and her love to start her day with a proper breakfast ! Her attitude and approach to the work-life balance is fairly perfect, and perhaps the most envious is how much time she gets to spend in nature!
READ HER Q+A HERE:
Tell us your relationship with skincare and how it has evolved over time?
My relationship with skin is very simple. I treat it without any extra effort. Since my work is usually outdoor, I use a sunblock (SPF 50), aloe vera and saffron gel when at home and try sticking to quick, hassle free home remedies for de-tanning, acne etc. But I don’t fuss a lot about product application. I usually see a great difference in my skin when I follow my routine - balanced home cooked meals, good sleep and lots of water.
Are there any skincare or wellness tips or rituals that were passed down to you that you methodically follow?
I regularly get massage done (“malish” in Gujarati) at home with a mix of coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil and almond oil. The combination changes as per the season. This was one ritual that I have been following since childhood. I thoroughly enjoy it because not only does it relax one from top to bottom but also nourishes the skin and hair and helps in bone strength.
In the summer I have them about twice a week and in winters I indulge on alternate days.
Do you have a special morning ritual?
Yes, I love my mornings. The first thing I usually do after I wake up is have a cup of lukewarm ginger water with dates. I usually sit in the garden with my pet, it’s such a peaceful time. After this, I go to play tennis. After tennis, it’s my most, most favorite meal – breakfast! I love eating my breakfast which can be considered mundane to some, but for me is the most satisfying – beginning with a big mug of chai with fresh lemongrass, mint and ginger (three essentials for my cuppa). Fresh fruits and coconut water are also a constant. Breakfast during the week includes bhakri or bajra rotla with ghee and jaggery, poha or toast with egg or nut butter and jam. On weekends, I like to go a bit decadent with pancakes or waffles! Only after all of this, I start my work day.
What has been difficult moment for you in this journey? And how would you normally deal with setbacks at work?
I feel there is one difficulty each and every day when it comes to running a small start up with a very different vision. I don’t get affected as much with the difficult moments but I defiantly feel exhausted and irritable at times with human behavior. That’s the most difficult thing to deal with according to me. Thankfully, most of my interaction is with nature.🙂
Setbacks are more often like big learnings. Initially, it feels like a big deal but with time, I guess, one adapts to the situation and figures a way out to move forward. Setbacks also make you more aware, alert and prepares one for all kinds of situation.
Tell us more about your journey from corporate life to farm life
A 360 shift! Not only in work front but mentally, emotionally and physically.
Though, I will give full credit to corporate life for few life and work skills that perhaps I would have taken too long to figure out had I not got the experience before.
Working with a team, working on goals, systematically planning projects and strategically dealing with clients etc. was something I had done enough at my earlier workplace. I can very well implement it in my structure and tweak it according to the way I want, whenever the need be.
The nature of work is completely different but I guess, the discipline, back hand office work, systems, planning, and other small set of skills to run an organization remain very similar.
I am certain that I see myself growing old with the farm life. I consciously choose to do so and believe I will continue enjoying every bit of it.
Who or what inspires you in your work?
What inspired me – I guess, when I was living alone in Mumbai, I use to manage my own grocery, that’s when I discovered that everything that was under the “organic” section was expensive but it also had plastic cover. It wasn’t locally grown and sourced. It was “exotic”.
My curiosity to understand about “organic food” = “exotic food” inclined me to start reading about the idea, philosophy and - Why was it expensive, how different was it from the normal food, everything labeled organic was given preference, what really was the grass root theory.
So, all of this helped me to start my reading and research about growing food and farming.
While, going through this process I discovered that the gap between growing food and urban people was huge. That’s when I thought of the ‘UrbanKhetti’ model- An urban farming service.
Along with this, my parents were super supportive of this plan. They immediately agreed when they read my email. Soon after, I made a move to Ahmedabad from Mumbai to practice this.
So thankful to god, I have never thought of going back to my Mumbai work or life after I started this journey.
What new goals have you set for yourself to achieve by the end of 2022?
For this year my goal is to run a full-fledged, hands on urban farming learning Centre at the farm where people come for a 3-month course. We have 1 session per week and they get to learn, experience and indulge in farm activities.
This program Is not only related to farming. It is a wholesome course which includes- climate, soil, environment, local trees, animals, ecosystem, biodiversity and focuses more on agro - forestry in urban spaces.
#WomenOnTheGo: How do you balance your work and personal life?
One of the main reasons I choose to get involved with farming was because I never saw a work and personal life balance in Bombay.
I wanted my work to be so seamless that I can enjoy simple luxuries of life and at the same time work without the burden of it.
I plan my day. I really like a planned day. I need to know a night before about my next day’s routine.
I make it a point that, I have 1 hour of physical exercise everyday – tennis or yoga or a walk.
I preferer working in the first half of the day. I like to start my day early. I really enjoy my afternoon nap after work. Evening is usually for friends, family and myself.
What one advice would you give young women who aspire to start their own career in a different field
Advice…. Not sure if I will be able to give but I am very confident about few practices that I follow. Maybe that might help in any type and kind of work.
Self-Discipline - to show up every single day on time irrespective of what and how much work you have. Just getting out of the bed and being at your workspace for few hours also makes a lot of difference. Eventually, if you are going to build a team, your employees will learn the same. They will practice this without you telling them. That’s the only self-motivation that works if you run your own business.
Another thing that I feel is very important – DIY everything or at least know the gist of every aspect that your work is related to and ask questions. That really helps if you are dealing with different agencies or specialists. You cannot be blank when you are meeting someone. No one should fool you or take you for granted.
For example, I usually don’t do the actual labor work on site or use the farming tools everyday but when I started off, I did it myself. I learned about each and every tool, its price, its uses etc. even if I am not going to use it. How does it help me, well, when tools break at the farm instead of buying a new one, I usually tell my team to repair it first if not then use an alternate? This way not only will they respect and be careful about a specific thing but they also know that things don’t come easy and value it as much as you do.
Follow Tanya at: @tanyakhambholja - https://www.instagram.com/tanyakhambholja/?hl=en
and @urbankhetti https://www.instagram.com/urbankhetti/?hl=en&__coig_restricted=1