Fruits and vegetables: Organic choices for consumers in Bengaluru

THE FOOD ON YOUR PLATE: MULTIPLE WAYS TO GET CHEMICAL-FREE FOOD

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A lot can be grown in the terraces due to abundant light and rain available in Bengaluru. Pic: Shree D N

This article is supported by SVP Cities of India Fellowship

Shrinking agriculture land, water scarcity and other challenges in traditional farming have made most farmers go for chemical fertilisers and pesticides to maximise yields of fruits and vegetables. This also calls for the need to grow safe, chemical-free food.

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It has led to different approaches, like organic farming and controlled farming practices like greenhouse farming. There are also dedicated farms collaborating with dedicated takers of the produce like apartment residents, for a fixed sum each month. There are different business models adopted by different people.

Urban consumers of Bengaluru have multiple avenues to buy fruits and vegetables, ranging from the familiar options of HOPCOMS, the local vegetable stores, local supermarkets or the street vendors to super market chains and hypermarkets. There are also ways to buy organic vegetables and fruits, ranging from local organic stores to online and offline individual sellers. We try to explore in this article the choices consumers in Bengaluru have, and what it means to buy vegetables from each of the choices.

Growing organic produce can never be zero-cost, but it doesn’t need the astronomically priced products in the market either. Pic: Shree D N

Neighbourhood stores

Many of the neighbourhood stores source vegetables from K R Market or Yeshwanthpur or Binnypet. They may not know the grower of the vegetable or the fruit directly, as the produce passes through middlemen in most cases. It is safe to assume that they are grown using synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, if the product is priced reasonably, because growing organically costs a bomb and it reflects in the price of the produce.

There are shops that sell organic vegetables too. Such stores now generally have WhatsApp groups that inform you of their list of produces a day earlier. You can just pick and order, and even get it delivered to your doorstep. You could even visit the store on the days fresh vegetables arrive, and buy them.

Often, these stores also have interesting tie-ups/ workshops/ events that introduce you to a whole new way of ensuring safe food, good health and sustainability. For instance, a local organic store in Frazer town, Organicz4u, has now partnered with Buffalo Back , another organic collective, to ensure availability of their vegetables, fruits and other products, in and around Frazer Town.

Era Organics, a small chain of organic stores, has farms in Coorg and other areas, and the vegetables and farm products reach Bengaluru regularly from there. They are sold in The Organic State – Greenpath building in Malleshwaram. Greenpath also organises summer camps for children and undertakes other educative trips, to connect people with sustainability.

Metro Hypermarket has a section for organic and pesticide-free staples, from popular brands like Mantra and Pronature. They also have zero-pesticide vegetables on sale.

Metro hypermarket has a separate section for zero-pesticide produce. Pic: Shree D N

For those who cannot step out for whatever reason, there are online vegetable buying options. Zopnow, Freshworld, Terra.in, Daily Ninja are just some of those. Some of these offer organic options as well, for vegetables and grocery.

Grow your own

You can grow the vegetables you want, on your terrace, balcony, front or backyards if you have space. Most people who compost their wet waste take up gardening as well, as means to spend the compost that is produced.

Sureshkumar is an artist working in community space, who got into organic vegetable gardening as a way to process the compost produced in his home. He uses combination of vegetable waste brews as herbal pesticides, while keeping the cost of developing and maintaining his garden at a bare minimum.He harvests rain in all possible ways, and doesn’t let any waste go out from him home.

Not only that, Sureshkumar also asks his neighbours to share their waste, which goes into his garden after getting composted. Not even one small mealy bug is visible in his garden, while the plants keep on growing in their own pace and keep producing greens and vegetables.

Sureshkumar shares his journey of growing food organically, in an easy and cost-efficient manner, in the below video.

You can now grow what you want, even if you do not own land or don’t have any balcony space. Now you can grow in a small patch of land at a community farm, for a monthly fee. There are businesses as well as individuals now, who offer this model. Farmizen is an example of it. 600 sqft area is allocated to each person at a community farm, for a monthly fee. One chooses what to grow in an app. Farm visits can be scheduled and crops can be harvested, or Farmizen team will deliver them at the doorstep. This according to Farmizen is a win-win model that increases income of the local farmers. The app lets the users track how a particular crop came from its seed through various stages and processes.

Straight from the farms

This model functions as farms run either as a business or by individuals who own a farm and share their produce with their own circle of friends/neighbours/ acquaintances. It works typically through Social Media networks where one can join and stay updated on the availability of produce.

Jana Reddy, who along with his partner Chandrasekhar, runs the Living Room Farm, said their idea was to position their produce as the food for mind and body. They offer a complete farm experience for urban dwellers, with an opportunity for the more enthusiastic to even get involved.  They reach out to people who like what they do and have a latent desire to replicate it. They use Social media connections as the primary vehicle for increasing the reach, and build a tight community of well-wishers and consumers.

Jana Reddy says his consumers are aware of how the produce was grown and the person who produced it. “Our platform is encouraging community members to get together and talk about their own experiments with rooftop/balcony gardens, organic composts and rejuvenate defunct farms,” he says.

“We are putting community before commerce. We offer our little produce to the community at a price that is on par with organic produce in the market. We want our consumer to look forward to the produce, with the same anticipation that a farmer does,” he adds.

There are others who follow the same model. Maple Tree Farms regularly hosts a farmer market at Ragi Kana in J P Nagar every Sunday. They put up their stalls at residential areas on request, and deliver produces to apartments when the sale is in bulk.

Buffalo Back is a collective of farmers, and has a few outlets in Bengaluru, where organic produces are available regularly like in any other vegetable shop.

Back2Basics is another collective of farmers. One can visit their stores in Jayanagar, JP Nagar and other places, place orders online, or collect the products from mobile cart. But they serve only select locations and apartments, so check the numbers and information available on the website before making your bookings.

Jivabhumi is a collective of farmer cooperatives with about 2000 farmers, from which one can order staples online, and pick them up at 14 locations in the city. Their website offers traceability for the produces bought.

Navadarshanam is a community-supported initiative, which runs on a membership-based model. They host direct markets in the communities linked to them, and sell vegetables, staples and other farm products.

Organic Mandya is a Mandya-based initiative, floated with the vision of a) help provide sustainable livelihoods to farmers, b) offer 100% honest organic food to people, and c) make Mandya district chemical-free. There are options to buy online, or one can visit the shop at HSR Layout.

Towness is an online-based vegetable, fruit, staple and grocery shopping platform. It has organic options to choose from.

Bigbasket, a popular online platform that serves entire Bengaluru, offers organic options too, for vegetables and staples.

Note: Shree D N contributed to this article.

This article is supported by SVP Cities of India Fellowship. This article is a part of The Food on Your Plate series, that explores food options, availability and food safety in Bengaluru.

About Vinita 34 Articles
Vinita shares tips and experiences about all things related to growing an organic garden.

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