What does Back to the Land mean?
There is growing discontent and fatigue amongst today’s city folks, and people are beginning to recognize that to find new meaning in their lives they need to re-connect with nature, to go back to the land. Many people are in different stages of thinking about, and actually pursuing, a life close to the land: There are weekend farmers, gardeners, tree-planters, food-growers and farm volunteers. People are doing this individually, as families and as communities.

Is this something very new and experimental?
Unconferences are not very new, especially to technology workers. But, yes, such unconferences outside the technology areas are somewhat new and experimental.

Well, it sounds idealistic. Is this practical?
The great thing about an unconference is that it is both idealistic and practical at the same time! We haven’t heard of a failed unconference. People who attend unconferences, leave feeling like they temporarily lived in a different kind of a world, empowered to dream and work further in that direction!

What does a conference with no structure or agenda look like?
We have a theme for the conference, but no pre-framed agenda or programme. This gets co-created by the participants at the event. After an introduction and a larger gathering of everyone, there is opportunity for participants to offer various kinds of sessions in the available time-slots. Offers can include a skills-workshop, a session to collectively explore questions and possibilities, a session to share stories or ideas, etc. All sessions are posted on a bulletin board, much like a railway-timetable, allowing people to see what is being offered and then choose to attend what interests them. Those who are not particularly interested in any of the sessions are free to hang out and connect with others! Here are some possible topics we have thought of. This list is only suggestive and not exhaustive.

  • permaculture
  • natural farming
  • organic farming
  • green building techniques
  • why farming?
  • global warming.
  • desertification.
  • globalization and its impacts on food security in India
  • creating an intentional community
  • regional flora
  • access to nurseries
  • What to grow — trees, crops?
  • Growing a food forest
  • Working with volunteers
  • Farm animals and their management
  • Off the grid — power generation options
  • children on the farm
  • livelihood options
  • children’s schooling
  • waste management — toilets, plastics
  • access to medical facilities
  • challenges of connecting with the local people: language, culture, caste, other?
  • Dealing with labour issues.
  • dealing with local politics
  • making the farm a fun place
  • water harvesting — open wells, borewells, earthworks etc.
  • “I have land an hour from Chennai. I can’t spend much time on it. How can it be used meaningfully?”
  • seed bank
  • Spiritual and sustainable communities on the land
  • financial sustainability of natural farms
  • In which areas are farming lands relatively cheap? (Sub Rs.3 lakhs/acre)
  • What are the Do’s and Dont’s while buying a farm land?
  • How to market the farm produce effectively? (or how to ensure there’s good profit)
  • How to build a living fence?
  • Organic pesticides and how to make them.
  • Showcasing the best small farms and how they made it successful.
  • Difficulties faced by city folks when they enter farming.
  • Selling organic produce.

Food & Stay:
Healthy vegetarian food and simple stay arrangements will be made from Friday August 7th evening. We will be staying in shared accommodation, using floor mats. We will not be able to provide individual or family rooms.

Is there a registration fee?
The space (venue) is offered to us as a gift. We will be sharing the expenses incurred for food, snacks, and in case they are needed — shamiana, sound system and miscellaneous. Once we have a better idea of the expenses we will update you and we welcome contributions at the conference to pay for these.

What should I bring with me?
Bring anything of relevance to the theme of the unconference that you’d like to share: Photographs, movies, posters, brochures, etc. Please bring along your collection of stories, questions and answers to exchange with others. More than anything, please bring your conscious presence. (If you’d like to screen a movie, please let us know in advance so we can make appropriate arrangements.)

Can we bring our children along?
Of course, please bring them along! We need inspiration from them! If they are interested, they can participate in the different sessions. Otherwise, we plan to have some activities just for the little ones. Pandeswaram has lovely trees to climb and play under, as well as pump-sets to bathe in.

Can we bring pets along?
Sorry it will be difficult to manage pets and so you cannot bring them along.