Producer Spotlight: Jahan Jhala of Wild Jai Farm
From Design in London to Biodynamic Farming in India
The journey to become a farmer has been a transformative one for Jahan Jhala, who along with his family, has built Wild Jai Farm.
One of the first things he communicates to me during our interview is the contrast between his life “before” and “after.” There is a past and current Jahan—and even though they overlap, they are very different people.
“Past” Jahan worked and lived in London. As a design student in the UK, he had a strong belief in the medium’s capacity to create tools for real change in the world. Inspired by grand ideas at university, he became disheartened by the realities of the industry. He was dissatisfied with his limited impact in his occupation.
Jahan set out on his path early on. He attended a British boarding school, an experience that gave him specific ideas of what his life was meant to look like and the type of career he was meant to follow.
“Farmer” wasn’t on the list of possible occupations. Jahan shares with me about the boarding school experience during our interview:
“You are kind of, very silently, pushed to send your kids that don’t exist yet to that same school, or to a similar school. So I was already looking at careers starting at certain salaries, because I was going to have three kids, and they all have to go to private school—and that’s going to cost a lot of money.”
So he chose the design path—over a career in finance—with the goal of becoming successful, earning a good salary, and also generating positive change around him.
He calls that last part his “old me’s mantra.”
“There was this whole kind of narrative that was pushing me in my old life: A high-paying career, being able to balance that high-paying career and a successful job with purpose and doing something good,” Jahan laughs. “I found that actually really hard.”
He openly reflects on a major difference between past and present. These days, Jahan no longer believes that a clean balance between money, success, and meaning is possible while benefiting from an old system and the inequalities calcified in it.
It wasn’t farming exactly that pushed him in a different direction; rather, it was the bigger picture regarding food. He went quite deep in his old work, analyzing the psychology of marketing and the subtle art of fabricating need for profit.
He realized that marketing went beyond alcohol and energy drinks; there were also organic and healthy foods with great brands behind them. Jahan recognized the value of presenting these healthier choices as desirable for consumers.
This became a source of deep interest, even if it was the alcohol that brought in more money at the end of the day.
Jahan’s mother has also been a great influence on Jahan, as she is a small food producer herself. She has been making organic raw milk kefir for a little over a decade now. She’d always been interested in organic nutrition and food as a pathway to health.
Being organic in the 90s, she learned that the “organic standard” was hit or miss, and that quality fluctuated heavily. This drove her to take matters into her own hands and look beyond pesticide-laden ingredients. Jahan’s mother decided to prioritize biodiversity and get involved in biodynamic farming; her holistic approach influenced Jahan’s own journey.
While Jahan was born in India, his family moved to New York when he was seven, and then to the UK when he was 10. He lived in London from that time until a couple of years ago. Now he is back in India, where he is reconnecting with his roots, learning the language, and taking his mother’s interest in biodynamic farming to new depths.
It has become increasingly clear to Jahan that our broken food systems are calling to him. He tells me how “Food is a space I needed to do something in.”
Jahan has an 86-year-old grandfather in India who has a farm and increasingly talks about retirement. He began to consider going into farming, growing food, and learning about the role that soil plays. He didn’t just want to produce amazing food, but also support carbon sequestration and potentially reversing climate change.
After going back and forth for a few months, today he stands on the other side of that internal conflict. Jahan is the happiest he’s ever felt, satisfied to generate a small ripple of change.
“It’s not about me changing the world. It’s about, can I have a little impact around me? And can that have a ripple out effect?”
That brings us to present-day Jahan, who is interested in fixing food systems one step at a time, shifting from traditional farming models into regenerative ones starting with Wild Jai Farm in Saurashtra, India.
The farm, which is really more of an orchard at the edge of the Gir National Park (which is why it didn’t get sucked into the Green Revolution), is already organic and resilient.
In Jahan’s own words, “The approach to the future is through a very biodynamic lense.”
Check out Wild Jai Farm’s producer profile to learn more about their story and products: