It is around 6.30 am and probably for the first time, almost 80 per cent of the residents of Garden Estate, Mumbai, are wide awake so early.
The excitement is palpable and their long queue is proof.
45 minutes of wait and a farmer finally says, “The market is open.”
From exotics like red cabbage and broccoli to all kinds of leafy vegetables, the stock of the three farmers gets sold out within 20 minutes.
No leftovers and no farmer slashing the rates of his veggies just to sell off his stock.
“There was no food wastage and we got paid 20 per cent higher than usual. But the best part is that these people took home naturally-grown, healthy produce,” Bhagwat, an organic farmer based in Maharashtra’s Nashik district, tells The Better India.
Bhagwat, in his forties, is leading the farm-to-fork concept initiated by a farmer’s group in Nashik.
Called ‘Vasundhara Sendriya Shetmal Sampadak Shetkari Ghat’, a collaboration of close to 200 farmers that sets up organic farmer’s markets every 2-3 days a week in Mumbai.
How Farm-To-Fork Started
In 2016, the government-led Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) trained many farmers in organic farming. Bhagwat’s team was one of them. They were also walked through some marketing techniques and tips on eliminating the middle-man.
“I always wanted to sell my produce in urban areas and Mumbai was my first choice. So I formed a group of organic farmers and looked for people in Mumbai who would help us set up,” informs Bhagwat.
After a lot of search for the right person to guide them, Bhagwat came in touch with Joseph Pinto, a retired army personnel. Pinto offered his help free of charge.
“With the help of Pinto sir’s Sharan Organic Farming Market, we set up our first stall three years ago in Juhu’s Pushpa Narsee Park. Since then, we visit the city every Sunday and sell our produce from 10.30 am to 1 pm,” shares Bhagwat.
How Organic Farmer’s Market Works
Bhagwat has formed a WhatsApp group for his customers for faster and direct communication which helps eliminate wastage.
Whenever demands arise, he organises them and accordingly, the farmers harvest the veggies.
A day before the market, Bhagwat sends the pictures of the produce he will be carrying to the market to the Whatsapp group. As per the responses, Bhagwat and his team load the truck (with a carrying capacity of 2 tonnes) with the fresh vegetables in demand for the day.
Now that there is no middle-man, farmers get to sell their produce without having to shell out commissions. The farmers make sure their rates match the market price.
“We know that there is a high demand for organically grown vegetables in city areas. However, we maintain a reasonable price as we want as many people as possible to buy. So we charge only 3-4 rupees extra per kilo,” informs Bhagwat.
Bhagwat has set a target of Rs 2,000 per day per farmer for these farmer’s markets and so far, they have, more or less, been able to make it.
To find out how the customers are responding to the whole process, TBI spoke to two residents of Garden Estate society in Goregaon. Here’s what they said:
Samina: For the last three years, I have been purchasing veggies from Bhagwat and I can vouch for the quality. So, I decided to introduce him to our building committee and they immediately came on board. As anticipated, the response was overwhelming. It is not every day common citizens like us can help farmers directly and we are fortunate to do so.
Prachi Pal: I stocked up my fridge with broccoli, mushrooms, spinach and other vegetables without burning a hole in my pocket. Vegetables were at the standard price and some even got them at wholesale price for bulk purchase. The taste is completely different.
How Can Your Society Access Organic Farmer Market
If you wish to procure organic food directly from these farmers, you can get in touch with Bhagwat at 99753 24498. People residing in Mumbai and Thane may contact Sameena at 89760 10649 for further details.
You will need to give him a list of the residents and an approximate quantity of vegetables needed.
Bhagwat will then chalk out a plan along with his team members and get back to you with the launch date.
Farmers who work hard and ensure they provide organic food to end consumers do not often get a fair price and the demand for organic produce is increasing daily in urban areas. This initiative led by Bhagwat is a feasible solution that bridges the demand and supply gap helping many along the way.
Featured Image Source: Bhagwat
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)