Friday, June 17, 2011

Our tomatoes don't get squashed anymore

They seem to be built of steel. I didn't see this myself but apparently a few days ago, there was a news report on the telly on how hundreds of kilos of tomatoes are stuffed inside trucks and then a hundred people sit on top of them and even then they keep their shape (the tomatoes, not the men). Like you, I have also seen hundreds of tomatoes stuffed into plastic crates in supermarkets that don't show any sign of wear and tear. Quite naturally, these same tomatoes also don't burst open and send forth juicy trails that need to be wiped off with a napkin or the back of a hand, depending on how you eat. They have thick skins and no flavour. They look pretty, cut into perfect slices for a plate of salad but they do taste quite, how we say this politely, crappy.

I crave for the tastes of my childhood. The gobhi that doesn't taste like plastic. The kheera that can be bitter sometimes. The papaya that has not been artificially ripened. The brinjals that don't have an unnatural, waxy shine to them. The tarbooz (watermelon) that does not leave a bitter after-taste in the mouth. I picked up some veggies from a farmer's market in Bandra recently and I wanted to cry with happiness at just how divine they tasted.
I have forgotten how to eat according to the season. I have forgotten the amazing taste of new potatoes. Melons are not ripened by the hot loo winds and so they are as readily available while it's pouring here as they are in the hot summer months. Mangoes are around in winters too but damn, they don't taste the same. California apples, kiwis, figs and fruit from all over the world is available at the premium food store around the corner. I get a twinge about my carbon footprint but stash it away with the rest of the things to be guilty about and put the pack of 'foreign cherries' in my shopping basket anyway.

Pesticides in everything. We know that. We are a third-world country with too many hungry mouths to feed but still, this may not enough to justify the killing fields of Punjab.

I have been trying to switch to organic fruit and vegetables, more so ever since I found this wonderful website run by the amazing Raj Ganpath who advocates eating real food (I hope to post my own success story about fat loss and strength gain soon). 

The thing is, even leaving the expense part aside, the options in Mumbai seem to be limited. Thanks to Brown Paper Bag Weekend, I learnt about MOFCA sometime back. What is MOFCA?
 MOFCA is Mumbai Organic Farmers and Consumers Association (MOFCA)
MOFCA is a cooperative association of organic farmers (working within a 200 km radius of Mumbai) working collectively with consumers from Mumbai towards the betterment of local seasonal organic food grown and consumed within our region.

I tried to register for their Hari-Bhari Tokri last season. Unfortunately they had already reached their numbers. This season though I have registered and am quite looking forward to getting some real bel-waali (vegetables that grow on vines) subziyaan like bhindi, gourds, lauki and karela. I attended a meeting last evening and they seem to be doing some good work. They don't have a website yet but here's a concept note that they had mailed across that will explain their ideology. 
Hari Bhari Tokri- Version 2.0
From the experiences and learnings of the first season we would now like to present you with an updated proposal; Hari Bhari Tokri - Version 2.0

Before we get into the details we would like to reiterate the goals we had set before ourselves at the beginning of the first season; i.e. the promotion of sustainable farming methods in the Greater Mumbai area through;

Demonstration and sharing of sustainable farming techniques.
Creation of an alternative market model with shared risk and fair
prices for farmers and consumers.
Consumer education in order to create and sustain the demand for
Seasonal Local Organic food.

At the onset of our next season, we would like to keep these goals as
primary and try and stay away from becoming “just another vegetable

Starting this season we propose the concept of “Farm Sharing”.

20 farmers have pledged their lands and labour to the practice of sustainable farming methods of cultivation for this upcoming monsoon season (2011).
MOFCA will support them with sharing of technical know-how and other
farming resources, creating an assured market and a fair, consistent price for their produce and creating and managing the supply chain logistics.

In order to sustain this project MOFCA is looking for shareholders for
the upcoming season. As shareholders you will be helping to promote
sustainable farming throughout the community. In return you will have
access to part of the produce grown by the farmers.

We have available to us a total of 4 acres of farm land, cultivated by the 20 farmers partnering with us for this season. We are estimating a yield of 100 kg. / week from each acre which will give us a total of approximately 400 kilos. We have 200 farm shares available this season for public issue.

Being a Shareholder means:

You share both risks and rewards

Traditionally, farmers have borne the brunt of nature's vagaries while
consumers have become increasingly disconnected from the process of
food production, and from the human and ecological communities that
support this process. Shareholding is the first step towards restoring
the balance and harmony in our local food web.

As a consumer-shareholder, each week during harvest time you will
receive a share of the harvest. The cost of this is included in the share
price for the season and is fixed for its duration so as to be fair to
both farmer and consumer. Variety and bumper yields are our shared
rewards and scarcity and losses, our shared risks. In all situations, an
uncertain and variable harvest is the medium through which we learn
to respect Nature and to live in community.

Consumers and farmers have the opportunity to know each

The farmers will know who’s eating the food they are growing; and
the consumer will have some peace of mind, knowing exactly how and
who is growing the food that their family is eating.

You help partnered farmers to better plan their growing cycle.

Wastages that occur from excess produce not being sold will be
minimized, which in turn will reduce losses to the farmer and keep
costs to the consumer under control.

The liabilities of large projects are shared

The liability of larger projects which need to be undertaken for the
long term running of such a project are shared amongst all the
shareholders and not the responsibility of a few individuals.

You get weekly supplies of organic vegetables at a fair, pre-
determined price

Your share as a partner entitles you to quality organic vegetables
grown on the farms. Without intermediaries, you benefit from
reasonable, predetermined prices that will be paid direct to the farmer;
these are not subject to economic fluctuations or false scarcities. In
order to make this possible we have factored the cost of vegetables
and logistics for one season, into your share value.

The coming growing cycle is the monsoon season which begins in May
with sowing and we expect a harvest from July to October. For this
season we have 200 farm shares available for public issue, each worth
Rs 3,000/- (Rupees Three Thousand Only). This share amount will be
taken on registration and the shareholder will not have to pay weekly
for the vegetables.

For more information, you can get in touch with them at

People in Mumbai, the final orientation meet will be held on 19th June, Sunday at 10:30 am at Peddar Road, 701 Prabhu Kunj, Next to Cadbury House. 

Do go if you are interested. Hear Ubai talk passionately about the work he and his friends are doing and sign up for the Hari Bhari Tokri if you like. We need this community of green citizens to grow.

People on Twitter, err, Tweeple, please tweet this post. Share, spread the word, link to this post, mail to your friends in Mumbai. Let's get this thing going. Thank you.


The knife said...

Tomatoes particularly piss me off. I rememeber growing up on tomato sandwiches and their distinct taste. Made one yesterday morning. Nothing!

Prachi said...

Hey! This is a nice and green initiative. Is there a Delhi leg?

Aneela Z said...

yup, remember the time when farm houses didnt mean weekend parties.

Travel Bug said...

I have been part of a CSA (community supported agriculture) here in the US for the past 7 years and I support a local organic farmer. I stop by once a week to pick up my share and chat with the parents, the farmer's wife. Its fun, my son gets to see where his food comes from and its pestcide free and tastes darn good.
I am glad that India is reverting back to the basics. Inorganic farming is not sustainable as reasearch has shown. A good book to read is Vandana Shiva's"stolen Harvest".

dipali said...

Sounds wonderful, this initiative.

Anonymous said...

hi Parul, a very informative post. This concept is quite popular in firang lands-bounty basket or nature's bounty is the name they use ...hope it catches on here as well. N bhindi is nt a bel waali sabji's a paudha.

Anonymous said...

The problem is continuous availability and variety of organic vegetables. While it is true that organic vegetables taste and do good, unless it is freely available and there is choice, even urban consumers would revert to the pesticide sprayed alternatives.
- Meera

Choxbox said...

Totally agree - was in a friend's mango orchard last weekend and hogged more than 25 mangoes in two days. Ate little else, and yet I was fine. I dare not eat more than two mangoes of the shop-bought pesticide-spiked carbide-ripened variety, but here even twelve times that left nothing other than heavenly taste that lingers on and on and on..

Choxbox said...

and we have attempted some kitchen gardening, amazing how much yield a car-sized plot gives!

Simply beautiful - By Tani. said...

Same query as Prachi, is there a Delhi Noida leg?

Minal said...

Read about you wanting a dog on facebook- you should check this one out

you would not be confused after you see that picture :)

Selena said...

Agreed! I want real fruit!