A new desert song with Mharo Khet’s farm-to-fork experience in Jodhpur

Mharo Khet in Jodhpur is an experiential farm that promises a modern farm-to-fork experience in the Thar desert of Rajasthan, while keeping sustainable living in mind.
Mharo khet
Mharo Khet near Jodhpur promises a farm-to-fork experience with modern Indian and global cuisine. Image: Vernika Awal.

It isn’t everyday that you get a chance to sit under a canopy of guava trees, with a table laid out as immaculately as you would see on an episode of The Crown. Placeholders, ornate tableware, and vintage barnis with dried pearl millet flowers adorn our table. Bright yellow sunflowers and gorgeous vegetable produce extends as far as the eyes can see. All of this, interestingly enough, stretches amid a patch of arid desert by Jodhpur, in Rajasthan.

Mharo Khet, located around 25 kilometres from Jodhpur, is a 40-acre experiential farm that produces more than 80 varieties of nutritional crops, including vegetables, fruits, and herbs. On a recent visit, I got to savour the near-indulgence of Mharo Khet’s farm-to-fork dining experience.

Interestingly, it all starts with a touch of familiarity.

From degenerative to regenerative

“This farm has been in our family for decades, and we used to use it to grow desi vegetables for our personal consumption, until the pandemic,” says Rajnush Agarwal, a bio-molecular engineer by training, and founder of Mharo Khet.

Mharo khet
Varities of bell peppers being grown in the greenhouse at Mharo Khet. Image: Vernika Awal.

It was during the pandemic that Rajnush, and his wife, Vedika, who now had more time to be in Jodhpur, decided to convert the farm into a commercial set-up. This is when they began to grow exotic vegetables and fruits, along with the desi ones. To make commercial sense of their investment, they began supplying to local hotels, restaurants, and even people’s homes, through their initiative of BYOT — Build Your Own Tokri — on their website.

The concept was a simple one: A basket of vegetables that one can order in Jodhpur, and have it delivered to their homes on the same day.

Strawberries in Rajasthan!

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Mharo Khet employs locals to work at their farm, in turn ensuring job security for the villagers. Image: Vernika Awal.

Chuffed by the response to their produce, Rajnush and Vedika took the call of opening up their farm for curated experiences, last December. Today, one can opt to come for a farm tour and stay back to relish a relaxed seven-course lunch by Chef Sejal, the in-house chef at Mharo Khet.

The journey has been a story of slow growth, something that is a bit of a rarity in today’s narrative of hypergrowth among tech-backed startups.

“We once got strawberry saplings from Himachal and thought of planting them in the farm to see how they take to this land. Honestly, our expectations were low, and in the first year, there was hardly any yield as most of the saplings gave up,” Vedika says.

However, there was a surprise in store for the farm.

“The next season we had a bumper crop of approximately 1000 kg! We successfully grew strawberries in Rajasthan!” she says. The elation is palpable. To be honest, it is quite unimaginable, given the surroundings.

A walk through the farm

On a guided tour of the farm, Rajnush and Vedika, whose passion for farming is hard to miss, showed us a room that has now been converted into a suitable biome for cultivating oyster mushrooms. You also find freshly harvested pearl millet, or bajra, kept in the farm.

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Oyster mushrooms being grown in Mharo Khet farm as the demand for exotic mushroom rises. Image: Vernika Awal.

Fresh gourds, carrots, and corn line one side of it, and there is also a chamomile patch being prepared for February… Call it love, and all the jazz of the early-year season! The philosophy, as it is for every agrarian venture, is rooted in thinking forward to the approaching seasons–and what that would demand.

In terms of an experience for guests who visit, a highlight is plucking fresh produce straight off the trees — reminiscent of one’s childhood. I, too, gave in and picked some of the sweetest semi-ripe guava directly from the tree. In the concrete, steel and glass of quasi-luxury urban life, isn’t this truly a niche experience to savour?

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Let your soul bloom in the labyrinth of sunflowers at the flower patch in Mharo Khet. Image: Vernika Awal.

It’s not all luxury, although it isn’t anywhere close to the rigours of kheti. Nevertheless, the extensive farm tour ensures that one earns their meal.

Farm to fork

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An ornate table is set up in the middle of a guava orchard at Mharo Khet for the dining experience. Image: Vernika Awal.

As you settle into your meal, you’re presented with an Indian meal that honours the myriad regions of our diverse land — conceptualised in a modern manner, yet in the most rustic of set-ups. From an amuse-bouche of Shengdanya chi chutney made with farm-grown jalapenos and wheat crisps, to a Chaat-style Matar Kachori in creamy Kadhi with radish rasher and crunchy okra, zero-waste Curried Carrots where every part of the carrot is utilised, to Hulled Sweet Wheat dessert — every ingredient is cultivated in Mharo Khet.

While farm-to-fork isn’t a newfound trend in India’s rapidly growing and adaptive food industry, it is indeed heartening to see it turn into a lifestyle that has many takers today. The concept brings a very grounded practice — that of cultivating a farm — to an urban population that is increasingly disconnected from haathon ki mehnat (a toil of physical rigour).

A step towards sustainability

Connecting to your food, from the root of where it is grown — to how it reaches your table — is a fascinating process, and one that everyone should be privy to. It instils in one the respect for the ingredients, the farmer who toils in the field, and the hands that feed you.

Mharo Khet ensures all of this, while also closing the loop by being a sustainable farm where even the waste is processed and turned into compost, to nurture the soil.

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