The Punjabi City Farmers Nurturing Their Connection to the Land

The Punjabi City Farmers Nurturing Their Connection to the Land


Words and photographs by Hark1karan

Photographer Hark1karan documents the connection between the Punjabi Sikh community in the West Midlands and their community gardens as they reclaim their emotional and cultural relationship to farming and the land.

In the residential heart of Smethwick, a Black Country town in the U.K.’s West Midlands, is a small collection of community gardens. Stony Lane runs straight through them, eventually  leading walkers up the main road to the Guru Nanak Gurdwara. The allotment community here comprises Punjabi Sikhs who settled in the Midlands for work in the 1960s and 1970s. 


Many of the retired men and women come here to harvest crops like their ancestors back in Punjab, India. The space they’ve created is unique to them with small, decorated huts where they spend time either in solitude or with friends. It keeps them connected, stimulated, active, and more importantly talking to one another; it is a community and a home away from home in more ways than one. 


I remember when one of the daughters of the gardeners asked me to capture her father and friends at the allotments. For me, it was a no-brainer as I’ve already spent years capturing the community. At the time I had no idea how special this place was—so much so that I had to make a return visit to do the project justice.


The photos might be surprising to those outside of the community as they may not associate Punjabi people with agriculture. Yet, farming and the land are the source of our culture. It has informed what we eat, which season we eat it, the way we speak, sing and even dance (bhangra actually refers to how wheat moves and is performed during the spring harvest). This energy demonstrates self-reliance, respect for the land and a sense of communal care. 


The photos were so warmly received it made sense to release them as their own project and what better place than Birmingham-based independent publisher Out of Place Books.

A farmer is sitting down in a field of leafy green crops facing away from the camera.
A Punjabi Sikh farmer sits down with a gardening tool in his hand.
An older Punjabi Sikh farmer stands in a field of leafy green crops.
A close up of a bright yellow sunflower.
A Punjabi Sikh man with a white beard and a yellow head wrap stares plainly into the camera.
The hand of a Punjabi Sikh farmer rests on their leg.
A brown liquid boils in a small pot on a stove.
A Punjabi Sikh farmer shovels the soil on a farm.
A Punjabi Sikh farmer wearing bright colored clothes stands in the road.
The hand of a Punjabi Sikh farmer grips onto a group of mushrooms.
The hands of a Punjabi Sikh farmer rests on their legs.
A Punjabi Sikh farmer tends to his crops.
A Punjabi Sikh farmer sits in a chair inside a home.
An older Punjabi Sikh farmer with a long white beard and a bright orange head wrap stares into the camera.
A symbol carved into a wooden door.
An older man sits down while frying food in small black pan on a small stove.
Three Punjabi Sikh farmers clean up a farm.
Two plants sit in a bathtub outside a farm.
The hands of a farmer clasps their hands together.
The belt of a farmer holds a small golden tool.
A Punjabi Sikh farmer stands among leafy greens in a garden.
A Punjabi Sikh farmer bends down to tend to a row of crops.
A farmer stands on a tarp with their hands on their hips in front of a farm.

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