01 Sep True to the soil
The farmers’ market creates a network of local organic farmers and consumers
The smell of fresh vegetables, tang of pickles, the wafting scent of bread, croissants, cup cakes, the smell of clean-washed potatoes not just provoked the nose but all the senses. It was certainly inspiring.
The farmers’ market held at Hotel Le Meridien recently was a spinoff of this extremely popular concept worldwide. This ‘curated culinary experience’ that can so easily be passed off as an urbane idea meant only for niche consumers turned into a great place to source organic, whole foods, and local produce.
The spacious lounge of the hotel, Longitude Extension, was open to farmers from in and around the city on a Sunday morning. Like at any of these markets there were stalls that lined up produce raised without pesticides- milk, buttermilk from grass-fed cows or eggs produced by free-range hens. The stalls were manned by the very farmers who follow the organic farming concept.
“This is the second time we are organising this. The last time it was along with the grape stomping session and somehow it did not get the attention it deserved. This time we were joined by City Farmers, promoters of organic farming, Sammisra Karshaka Producer Co., a farming association from Palakkad, and Lawrencedale Agro Processing India Pvt. Ltd., (Leaf), Ooty, that is a valuable connect for the farmer with the distributor and consumer in the horticultural produce industry in organising this event,” says Vinodh Rodrigoes, F&B Manager.
A farmers’ market is more than a lovely weekend outing. Of course, it is not uncommon that it is considered a new-age food gimmick shrouded with the authenticity of the produce and over-pricing. “You cannot compare our prices to that of the grocery stores. But you must compare the quality of the produce. The vegetables are not what have been in refrigerated trucks for around three days before they reach the stores and then your kitchen. The produce here is unbeatably fresh. The flavours, textures and colours are noticeably better and that comes for a price, which is not really very high,” says Balram of Leaf, who brought a variety of tropical, temperate vegetables and leafy greens.
Biramika Agro Village, Elavoor, near Angamaly, did brisk sale in horticultural products, cereals, milk products and more at their stall. These was just a slice of a slew of products that they grow at their farm.
The market soon got crowded. Hotel guests, some fresh from the swimming pool, others looking out for a quick grab before they check out, hesitant shoppers ushered in by the hotel staff crowded around the stalls. Mangoes from Muthalamada, crispy jackfruit chips, pepper, ginger, coconut chips in various flavours, packaged tender coconut water, palm jaggery, coconut cookies, paneer and coconut pickles, unmarked coconut oil went off the tables in a jiffy.
“By evening most of the stalls had sold off almost all that they had brought. We did not charge anything from the farmers as our aim was to create a better food system that’s better for the consumers and also for the farmers,” says Vinodh.
The market also provided an opportunity for the consumer to meet the farmers. There were many here who while picking up some produce also picked the farmers’ brains. And he were only willing to be picked.
They happily shared their knowledge on how the produce was grown, how to grow them in your own garden, how to store and prepare the food you buy. City Farmers conducted sessions on how to live organic and develop organic vegetable garden in small spaces.
The hotel also organised a wine tasting session and put up a food counter that sold mouth-watering blueberry cup cakes, croissants and a variety of breads.
Palakkad Karshaka Samithy, Kodungallur Coconut Producer C. Ltd., Organic Tree, fresh honey from Beehood were some of the others who put up their products at the market.
Standing back and watching the crowd and the stalls, a whirl of gorgeous colours, one could not help wondering that only a few roads and bridges separated these farmers from having such markets in the city every month or at least twice a month.
“Yes, we are now planning to host a market once every month. And depending on the response we’ll think of having more,” says Vinodh.
One thing I realised as I stepped out was that I really did not know that I could expect so much from a farmers’ market.
And in the end got home with just a ripe papaya, pickles, chips and a dazed expression.