Live The Natural Way At Chennai's Jacob And Klooster Farms

For Shammy Jacob and wife Charlotte van't Klooster, their city farm is not a business but a way of life
Shammy Jacob and wife Charlotte van't Klooster with their two sons
Shammy Jacob and wife Charlotte van't Klooster with their two sonsJacob And Klooster Farms

If you are driving down Mk Stalin Street via the Thalambur main road in Chennai, you might stumble across a sprawling urban farm, complete with animals. Finding Jacob and Klooster Farms is a bit like discovering the closet hiding Narnia.

For Shammy Jacob and wife, Charlotte van't Klooster, their farm is a way of life. Having worked in the fashion industry and lived abroad, Jacob grew disillusioned with the way we do city life. Realising how the clothing industry is one of the most polluting in the world, he and his wife decided to move back to India and create their own natural paradise.

"I lived in the Netherlands for 14 years. That's where I met my wife," says Jacob. "After we had our two boys, I wanted to move back to Chennai and raise them somewhere closer to nature," he says. The family would visit Chennai over the holidays and then go back to the Netherlands. But in 2013, they decided to move base permanently and set up the farm. Their main purpose for setting up the farm stay? "To inspire the next generation to live in harmony with nature."

Their two acres of ancestral land is now a thriving, fully functional lifestyle farm, complete with a cute cafe and a one-stop shop that sells the local produce and also provisions from friends and neighbours who grow their own food.

The couple converted two shipping containers into guesthouses, with running balconies
The couple converted two shipping containers into guesthouses, with running balconiesJacob And Klooster Farms

The couple converted two shipping containers into guesthouses, with running balconies and all the facilities needed for a comfortable stay for visitors. One of them is suitable for up to four guests and the other for up to two guests. Recently, they have also started giving out tents to guests who want to camp out under the stars. Utilising all their farm's open space, they also offer day bookings for picnics at Jacob and Klooster. 

All this, with the added advantage of being just two kilometres from the city, makes Jacob and Klooster Farms truly special.

"When we first moved here, the city was 20 km away. We had no internet, not much connectivity, but everything has gradually grown around the farm now," says Jacob. "The kids' school is nearby, and everything is within accessible distance, which is rare since there are hardly any full-fledged running farms within city limits. This is what has garnered an interest from the schools as well." They have a four-hour programme wherein kids from local schools would visit the farm to learn about how it is run. "We have facilitators who take them around the farm and tell them about everything–from cows to chickens, composting, planting and permaculture." Their school field trip programme has seen significant success, with students from special needs schools also participating. But when it comes to spreading the word about the programme, they do it the old-school way. "We often wait outside our gates, watch the school buses pass by, and hand out personal notes to the drivers to deliver to the principals. We don't send out emails, but this method works wonderfully," says Jacob.

Shammy Jacob lived in the Netherlands for 14 years where he also met his wife Charlotte
Shammy Jacob lived in the Netherlands for 14 years where he also met his wife CharlotteJacob And Klooster Farms

With their two kids now well-versed in the farm lifestyle, the duo are perfectly content with their lives. "We wanted our kids to live with raw nature and understand everything from seasonal fruits to the birth of a cow or identifying and relocating snakes. This is an experience they could not have gained anywhere else in the city," says Jacob. He shares that even though they are happy to go to the Netherlands for holidays after a few days, they want to come back. "This is home."

With their weekends usually booked, the couple does most of their farm work on weekdays, from milking cows to looking after the vegetables and working around water stagnation every monsoon and how to deal with that. Jacob is the president of the Rotary Club and is actively involved in various social projects with them every year. From building toilets to refurbishing orphanages to supplying nutrition for HIV+ children, the couple do their bit for their community. 

An innovation centre and a coaching centre are also part of the farm. Jacob, a certified Marshall Goldsmith coach and creative executive leader, helps individuals and organisations maximise their creative potential. Charlotte has a PhD in traditional medicinal plants and teaches anthropology to students in the Netherlands. With her knowledge and expertise, she holds various healing and meditation sessions at the farm.

One of the bedrooms in the cottages
One of the bedrooms in the cottagesJacob And Klooster Farms

Beyond their successful farm venture, they are a close-knit family who enjoy spending time together. "When it's just us, we love sitting around a bonfire with our friends and watching the kids playing under the night sky surrounded by the sounds of nature. The innovation centre turns into a place for music, and it is honestly heavenly," says Jacob. When asked if he would like to give any advice to people wanting to start their own farms, he says, "You have to create your world around your farm and not the other way round. If you choose it to be a priority and not just a hobby on the side, only then this lifestyle could work out well."

Address: New 6/122 – Old 1/300 Mk. Stalin Street, Chennai-600130


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