The Ambalavayal police station in Kerala's Wayanad district looked just like most police stations in the country -- a run-down building surrounded by a few cents of barren land.
Three months ago, Sub-Inspector Abbas Ali, wanted to do something with the parched 40 cents of land around his station and thought of an idea - to grow fruit and vegetables in the front yard and backyard.
He rounded up his officers and proposed the idea of an organic farm around the station. To his utter surprise, most of the 34 personnel who reported to him showed overwhelming support. This moment, when all the officers happily agreed to become farmers, was a historic moment for the Ambalavayal station.
In the days that followed, the station was bustling with several discussions on how to go about cultivating the farm.
"We knew that we first had to till the land around the station. We carried mounds of soil from parts of the yard and spread it. For the potted vegetables, we got grow bags, filled them with dung powder and cocopeat and sowed the seeds," says ASI Chami of Ambalavayal station.
The land tilled, farm tools bought and seeds procured, the khaki force began to labour on the station premises to realise their vision of a vegetable garden. Every day, 3-4 officers who were off duty would water the saplings and tend to the needs of the growing vegetation.
"Those who did not have to go on active duty on a particular day would tend to the garden. We all participated eagerly as it was mostly a way to unwind ourselves. You know, our job can get quite stressful at times," Chami adds.
Every single day, the officers farmed, sometimes in plainclothes but mostly in their uniforms as they were still on duty. Months passed and little-by-little their labour, quite literally, bore fruit. Today the station farm boasts of 40 different vegetables, including 500 plants inside grow bags in the compound - a thriving farm in every way.
"We now have four kinds of chillies, three kinds of brinjal, pumpkins, white pumpkins, spinach, beans, okra, bitter gourds, snake gourds, tomatoes and cabbage. We even grow colocasia. Some of these are grown in the bags while the others have sprouted from the land that we tilled," Chami adds.
What is even more inspiring than how these officers turned a barren plot of land into a healthy farm is the camaraderie they have established in the process. Chami says that unlike at work, there is absolutely no hierarchy when it comes to their farm. Everybody owns it and loves it equally.