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Veg jalfrezi, from organic farms
In Mumbai, 150 families are on a diet of vegetables grown the way our forefathers would have approved of - no chemical fertilisers, land tilled by bullock, and specialising only seasonal produce. And 600 families are waiting to be added to the lucky list.
Hari Bhari Tokri, a basket of four to six vegetables delivered every week by Mumbai Organic Farmers and Consumers Association (MOFCA), is a niche but important trend in a megapolis fed up of eating produce raised and harvested in dodgy conditions. A kilo and a half of vegetables at Rs 100, says loyalists, is a fair price to pay for guaranteed purity.
Organic food is a rage in the US and Europe. The word 'organic' has, in fact, acquired a great cool quotient there. But in India, organic farming is a fraction of total agricultural production. However, it is a practice that is growing steadily. Reports suggest that in the last two years land under organic cultivation has increased by 200 per cent.
Unfortunately Indians don't see much of this produce as most of it is exported. But what we are seeing are small urban initiatives attempting to acquaint people with the healthier alternatives grown using methods that Indian farmers have used for hundreds of years. In Mumbai, for instance, the most notable initiative was undertaken by MOFCA a little over a year ago.
MOFCA is a collective of both city folk who turned to farming and rural farmers. The spokesperson of the group is Ubai Hussein, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who got interested in where his food was coming from and decided to find out. For the last four years, Hussein has been practicing natural farming techniques on his eight-acre plot in the suburb of Bhiwandi.
"I'm trying to be as self-sufficient as possible, " he says. "That means I don't buy anything from outside. " Even his natural fertiliser is home-made. The two bullocks that provide dung for fertiliser also till the land. Another traditional practice he follows is growing seasonal vegetables. "When they are growing in season they're supposed to grow, there is a certain amount of vitality in the plant. It's pestresistant naturally, " he says.
MOFCA is reluctant to take on too many customers. "I can't take on more because we don't have farmers who understand the concept of organic, " Hussein explains. "They want to export organic. The whole idea is to be ecologically sensitive. If you're going to grow vegetables locally and spend fuel exporting them miles, it defeats the purpose. "
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