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The emerging organic marketplace – Some Observations. Part-2: Know your farmer

We do so much research while buying any gadget like a car, TV or phone. We check reviews, compare specs, ask acquaintances, check service and so on. So why can’t we put in even a fraction of these effort to know our farmer whose produce we are consuming everyday of our life. How do we do this.

  • Buy Direct. As far as possible buy directly from farmers in physical or online marketplaces. When it’s not possible, buy from trusted known neighbourhood organic shops and not big faceless corporate chains. In shops insist on knowing the source.

  • Visit your farmer. Get to know the farmer you are buying from. Visit them, check out their farm, build a relationship. We regularly take off on weekends, relax in homestays – why can’t one or more of these visits be to the farm from where we are buying our food?

  • Keep your eyes open. Thirdly, while buying and visiting the farm look for some tell-tale signs of natural farming.

    • While visiting a farm look for signs like presence of desi cows, mulch around plants, weeds/grass growing around along with crops in farms;

    • while buying look for signs like produce which does not look even and same.

    • Signs like soil which looks clean without a shred of grass or any weeds (typical when weedicide has been used), absence of cows, homogeneous looking produce etc. are warning signs.

  • A clear Red Light. Another sign you need to watch out for is when a supplier is able to provide unlimited supply and the supply keeps scaling with demand. Some examples I have witnessed are

    • A particular large corporate type organic retailer is able to supply literally unlimited vegetables. He has scaled his business exponentially and keeps meeting the growing demand. His own farm has very limited capacity. So, from where the scaling is happening, what are checks maintained to ascertain genuineness – is anyone’s guess.

    • The second is the case of A2 milk suppliers who linearly scale up supply to meet growing demand. I have Malnad Gidda cows and the milk they produce is less than 10% of what a hybrid (A1) cow. While some desi cows like Gir are better, they no way match the A1 variety in milk yield and are so expensive and difficult to get that they constitute a tiny fraction of the desi cows around B’lore. So how and from where are these suppliers able to get unlimited supply of A2 milk?

So linear scaling of supply of organic food is simply not possible without making compromises (atleast in the current scenario where only a small fraction of the farmers are practicing organic farming).

Ensuring farmer gets a fair share

I was witness to an incident at the Organic Krishi Mela held at the Palace Grounds in Bangalore, where a farmer was loudly complaining how the organic sellers were duping people like him. Upon enquiring I understood that an organic brand at the Mela, selling millets between Rs.150 to 200 per kg had actually bought the same from him at Rs.30/kg. This is largely the reality of the small organic farmers. On one hand organic wholesale does not exist and in case of bulk produce of a particular crop a farmer is forced to sell it in the regular mandi along with chemically grown produce. On the other, even when a farmer sells to an organic retailer, especially the big guys, he hardly gets a fraction of the end premium retail price.

How can you help?

  • Buy at the regular periodic organic marketplaces like Bhoomi Santhe or Ragi Kana in Bangalore or similar events in other cities.

  • If not possible try to buy from local online marketplaces like or or similar initiatives in other cities. In such marketplaces you are buying directly from a farm visible to you and marketplace only acts as a platform to bring together sellers and buyers.

  • The third option is to buy from neighbourhood organic shops like Nisarga, Eco Store or Gramina Angadi in Bangalore or similar other local shops. Here insist to know the source of your food.

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