Pero Schilter was in his mid-70s when his family had to move to a farm in the southern part of India.
After spending more than 50 years working in the fields, he was ready to retire and start a family.
“We had a lot of money in the bank.
We were living on a farm,” he says.
“My parents worked hard, so I had to work hard too.”
But as Schilters farm grew, he realised that he was no longer able to feed his family.
So he started selling his produce and started working on his own farm, in the remote southern state of Chhattisgarh.
He bought wheat, rice and potatoes and sold them on the open market.
“At one point, we were selling wheat for around $60 [US] a kilogram,” he recalls.
“In those days, the price was around $40.
Now, it’s around $100.
It was really tough.”
But in the 1980s, Pero’s farm became the epicentre of a new crop boom, as farmers and government officials realised the potential of producing a crop of wheat for cheap.
“Our crops were producing around a billion tonnes of wheat a year.
So in the 80s, I realised that we were producing wheat for export,” he remembers.”
So I started selling it on the market, and people were buying it.
That was very important.”
But while Schiltingers wheat was growing, the government in Chhatti went into crisis mode.
Farmers had been receiving subsidies for the past two decades and the government was trying to cut them off.
So farmers were forced to move their crops to other regions.
Pero had been growing wheat for the family since it was a young boy.
He says that as the drought worsened, he had to sell the crop to pay off the debts.
“My family was not able to pay my debts because I was the only one.
We had no money, so we had to turn to selling our wheat to pay our debts,” he explains.”
At the same time, we started selling rice because rice was very expensive.
I started working as a rice vendor.”
But Pero says that during this time, the crisis hit home.
“The government gave us the green light to sell rice to pay back our debts, and then they cut the rice subsidy to about $50 a kilo,” he recounts.
“When rice prices rose to $100 a kilodel, I started asking around for money for my family.
I didn’t have any money, but I got money.
That’s when I started to think that we have to sell our rice, but we had no other choice.”
So, after years of selling rice, Peros family decided to open a farm.
“I got a loan of about $400 and sold the rice to sell on the street.
People were buying rice from me and I started paying my debts.”
After selling the rice, the family had enough money to buy land, build a farm and begin producing wheat.
“But then the crisis struck again,” he continues.
“I started selling our farm and people started coming to buy our wheat, and we had more wheat than we were able to produce.”
But the crisis was not over.
Pero says he was forced to sell his farm and move to the US.
“We were forced out of the US because of the drought, and the farmers from my farm had to go to the south of the country,” he reflects.
“Now, I live in California, but the drought is very severe here.”
But despite the drought and the challenges facing farmers in Chhhattisghar, Pera and his family are optimistic about the future of their business.
“With wheat prices being so high, we hope that we will get wheat to the world market in the near future,” he notes.
“Because of the current situation, I have no money to pay debts, so our only option is to sell wheat and sell on a market.”