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Back to Their Roots

How a couple of electronic engineers traded in their suits for a simpler life

By Lauren Finnegan, Public Affairs SpecialistFarmer Manish Chand poses with tomatoes he grew in a high tunnel, installed with assistance from NRCS through an EQIP contract.

At the end of a meandering, tree-lined drive in Warren County, New Jersey, sits the culmination of the dreams of two electrical engineers and their hopes for a simpler life. Their organic operation, aptly named GreenBytes Farm, is a nod to their former lives. Despite challenges, the operation has brought more contentment and joy than the couple thought possible when they set out on this adventure six years ago. After more than 20 years in IT, owner Manish Chand found himself tired of the daily grind and thinking about the fond memories he had back on his grandparent’s farm in India. It was then that he realized he was missing something in his life.

“There was a point when I asked myself, ‘What am I doing and is it working [for me]?’ When I started looking for an answer to that, I realized that we all came to this beautiful planet and we have so much to see, so much to touch, observe and smell. And it was at that point that I decided to get out of that corporate mess… And what better way to do that than to get into farming and back to my roots?”

After purchasing land in Oxford, Chand and his wife Kiran set out to build a haven full of fresh, chemical-free food, flourishing wildlife, and all the beauty nature has to offer. Once the farm was up and running and Chand learned as much as he could through books and YouTube videos, the first-time farmer reached out to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to continue growing his operation.

“When I first met Manish, I could tell right away that he had a passion for farming,” said NRCS Soil Conservationist Xanvith ‘Bea’ Sabouathone. “He’s conservation-minded and is always looking for ways to better manage his property.”The high tunnel on Green Bytes Farm.

Chand first partnered with the agency in 2017 through an Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) contract to install a high tunnel, which has extended the growing season for his vegetables such as kohlrabi, kale, tomatoes and peppers, and to create a pollinator habitat.

“The pollinator habitat was a very big thing for me because I’m a beekeeper. I’d plant flowers which aesthetically looked nice, but it never occurred to me until NRCS told me, that you can have a pollinator habitat and how to stagger the flowers. I’ve realized from them, that there’s so much to learn, so many conservation methods that you never realized.”

A bee on a flower in the pollinator garden at Green Bytes Farm.Since that first meeting, Chand has continued installing conservation practices for both the benefit of his operation and the surrounding environment. A second high tunnel will be going up in the Fall, and after developing a Forest Stewardship Plan, he has started implementing forest stand improvement practices, including installing birdhouses, owl boxes and creating a brush pile for wildlife.

“[NRCS employees] are just amazing, amazing people,” Chand said. “They always have something for me to learn… All of this promotes sustainable living, so it’s not only good for us, it’s good for everyone who comes to the farm. When I started this, I promised my wife, I may not be able to give you money, but I will always make sure you never have less food on the table. And year-round we have chemical free-good food and a good life.”

NRCS offers a variety of programs to help agricultural producers and eligible landowners address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits. For more information about NRCS programs and services, contact your local USDA service center.