This Sunday (March 21, 2010) we visited what was called Mumbai’s first Farmer’s Market. Farmers had come to sell their produce directly to us. They were mostly from our neighbouring town of Nasik (in Maharashtra) and were selling all kinds of vegetables, fruits, syrups made of sugarcane and even natural household cleaning solutions. We liked the idea very much. In Mumbai, you can find a few shops that sell organic foods – but mostly grains, oils, spices etc. We have yet to come across anyone selling vegetables and fruits.
Though we liked the idea, we felt that the farmers’ stalls were too few and there were too many other stuff like expensive body oils and perfumes, Mediterranean food and household paints being sold. While the idea was okay, but we felt that their numbers were more than the number of farmers we saw at the Farmer’s Market.
Next time we want to see more farmers in the market. And maybe from other parts of the country too. Mumbai holds an annual fair where villagers come from many places in India to sell their stuff. We had once bought rice that smelt so heavenly that the whole house was filled with the aroma when it was cooking. We had bought lovely freshly handmade (and not crushed in a big factory machine) coconut oil steeped in herbs from the southern state of Kerala. We need more fairs like that fair.
Back to the Farmer’s Market — we saw a stall selling organic house paints from Germany. At the same stall, they had a mobile phone charger you could wind manually. It took one minute of winding to get three minutes of talk time. Now you do the math to check how much winding would be needed for one day’s conversations. We figured the best way to do this would be to do your winding while doing some other unchallenging task – like watching TV. We also came across someone selling organic candy floss – for a princely sum of Rs50!
We saw some women who were selling steaming herbal tea in their stall taking a break with some candy floss.
In a corner, a stall was set up by the human rights commission of India. You could watch short films on human rights on a screen. You could also buy books on the subject and subscribe to magazines like Combat Law.
While we were walking around, we were hailed by this very pleasant looking man. His name is Ashwin Bhave.
He asked us what our names were. Then he cut a chart paper into long and narrow strips. Then he took out one tiny bougainvillea flower from a packet and crushed it by rubbing it between his fingers. We saw his fingers were coated in a lovely pink colour. He then made a quick sketch of a flower with his fingers. It looked like a watercolour. And wrote our names in a calligraphic style with a stick, again using colours from nature – this time from an orange stone that he rubbed against a rough surface to get the powder which he mixed with a little water.
He was handing out these bookmarks made on-the-spot to a lot of people. He also makes furniture from recycled paper. They look small but are not fragile. He showed us a photo where two very hefty looking men were standing on a tiny stool.
Now, the farmers.
We met Sandeep Jadhav and Sampath Dhaamne who own two-and-a-half acres of land in Nasik.
They told us electricity was a big problem in their village – it comes and goes frequently. Electricity was available for a total of about eight hours every day. Sometimes when electricity comes in the middle of the night, they have to get up from their sleep to switch the water pump on.
Jadhav and Dhaamne said organic food is very much in demand nowadays. They sell their produce in India – around Nasik mostly as organic food cannot be stored for too long and hence cannot withstand long-distance travel. But they do send some of their produce – soyabeans and cotton and onions (which are hardy travelers) to places as far as Germany and Netherlands.
To grow organic food, farmers do not use the usual chemical fertilizers and pesticides which leave behind chemical residues in foods and which enter our bodies. “We think of the soil as our mother. Who in their right mind would poison their mother?” asked Jadhav. Instead they use natural stuff like gomutra (cow’s urine). Sounds gross, but it works. They make a mixture called slurry from gomutra, jaggery, channa atta (flour made from black gram) cow dung and ferment it for about five days before using it. Sandeep Jadhav said that just like the electricity in their village, supply of gomutra too was unpredictable – because you don’t know when the cow is going to want to pee! So I guess you have to be on stand by all the time!
While we were talking about gomutra, a woman with a child was listening, standing next to us.
She told us that gomutra was available in temples – it was needed for some rituals — and they will give it to you if you ask them. She uses it for composting. Sandeep Jadhav interrupted us saying “Don’t worry. We have made a CD on the process of making this fertilizer. We will give it to you next Sunday. Will you come?” We said yes, absoloutely. Then the woman told us if we wanted to know more about how to compost and grow our own plants at home organically, we could attend a workshop that takes place every Sunday at the Mahim Nature Park in Bombay.
There are many city people who are into composting and growing their own stuff. We had heard about an organization called Urban Leaves which teaches city people how to compost and grow your own organic garden. We will be attending a session soon and will bring you a report.
If you are interested in knowing more about composting, growing a garden or the Farmer’s Market, you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org.