“Pure organic food should not be a luxury, only for the elite,” begins 68-year-old Dr Dwarkanath Kharde, who left his medical practice to go back to the roots, quite literally.
A crusader of a healthy and harmonious lifestyle, Kharde realised that the key to good health is from what you eat and hence discovered his calling as a vegetable-seller!
This Pune-based doctor-turned-vegetable-seller has been selling organic fruits and vegetables for the past ten years to create a healthier and prosperous future for consumers and the farmers.
Speaking to The Better India, he says, “As a doctor, I knew the impact of food on your overall health. And, with more number of people resorting to hybrid vegetables and fruits filled with chemicals, leading this healthy life was far from possible. That is when organic becomes crucial.”
He continues, “But, the problem was that the existing organic stores were selling them for exorbitant prices, only affordable for the elite. And that’s wrong, because every family, even those living in slums deserve to have access to organic vegetables.”
Hence, unlike most sellers of organic products, Kharde does not believe in overpricing and so sells them at a fair market price, equal to regular vegetables; and sometimes even at a cheaper rate.
He says that this is meant to serve both the consumers and the producers, that is, the farmers.
“For Re 1 spent by a customer, the farmer usually gets only 20-25 paise. I wanted to change that ratio and bring it up to 70-75 paise,” says Kharde.
He has been eliminating the middlemen and providing the farmers with their deserved earnings from the sale, without giving customers an expensive choice; thus, increasing its demand and making organic the new normal.
Each morning begins with travelling over 40 to 50 kilometres to the outskirts of the city to procure fresh organic produce directly from the farms.
This idea had its inception in 2008, during his visit to Nashik. In an exhibition, Kharde, then a retired Naturopathy doctor, met a farmer who was exporting high-quality organic grapes.
Yet, it was not something that impressed him.
Instead, he posed a simple question to the farmer, “While you are selling these high-quality grapes to foreign countries? Why not give the best produce to your citizens? Why should the people in your country be deprived of it, while you are growing it here?”
Narrating the incident, Kharde said that, to his surprise, the farmer was unaware of such a platform that could yield good demand for organic fruits without facing exploitation.
And so, the journey began when the doctor followed his impulse and made an offer to provide such a platform.
“I became an organic vegetable-seller by accident, the moment the farmer entrusted me with fruits and vegetables worth Rs 50,000. I was taken aback but was up for the challenge. Although most of it went waste in the beginning, I saw the stark difference in quality and the potential market it could have if sold at the right rate,” says Kharde.
He launched his venture, Chaitanya Organic, in 2011, under the Lions Club of Pune Ved Vasudev.
After ten years, he has been reaching out to several locations of the Pimpri Chinchwad area of Pune. Working with 50 farmers, he has been able to procure collaboration with the Pimpri Chinchwad Co-operative Housing Societies Federation to sell vegetables across 70 societies in the area.
An inspiration to many, Kharde hopes that his unconventional choice of career sends out a strong message to the young generation, about the need to look back to our roots and use the best technologies and innovations to create the best version of nature’s simplest gifts.
“Farming is what helped humans create a civilisation and sustain it for ages. We cannot abandon the soil. So, whatever development comes and goes, farming is that one profession that should always stay in vogue!” signs off Kharde.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)