After 32 years of service as a government school teacher, the man had turned to his ancestral profession of farming in a 3.5-acre land. He had inherited 1.5 acres from his family and acquired the remaining two over time.

It’s been more than two decades and he continues to grow chemical-free paddy. But that’s not the only reason the retired teacher-turned-organic farmer is famous. In the last 24 years, the man has trained more than 2,000 farmers on the use of native seeds, organic manure and pesticides at a knowledge and training centre he set up in collaboration with like-minded farmers.

Their group is called the Rajendra Desi Chasa Gabesana Kendra (Rajendra Native Farm Research Centre). It is run by a Trust, Loka Samabaya Pratisthan, chaired by MR. Sarangi. Through this initiative, he has preserved, multiplied and distributed close to 700 varieties of indigenous paddy!

The 86-year-old started teaching in 1960, and had an illustrious career spanning 32 years before he retired in 1992. The pesticide poisoning incident pushed Sarangi to switch to organic farming in 1996.

Each year, they produce 100 quintals of these indigenous seeds and distribute them across Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat.