A farm-fresh carnival in Chennai

By TheHindu on 23 Jan 2018

Within an hour of setting up his stock for sale, Udagamandalam -based farmer Prakash A has completely sold out three different vegetables. The mechanical engineering graduate, who has been cultivating multiple crops on his land for the last four years, says, “I had brought in 1,000 kilograms of potatoes but put only 500 kilograms up for sale today. We fell short.”

By 4 pm, the 27-year-old had only 70 kilograms of potatoes left, and had run out of red and white radishes, as well as carrots and beetroot leaves, punctuating sales talk with tales of his farm and home town when asked by friendly shoppers.

“People in Chennai are familiar with beet, but the customers here hadn’t seen betroot leaves before. It got sold out within one hour,” he says, attributing the speed of sales, in part, to the freshness of his produce. An elderly shopper nods in agreement off-handedly, preoccupied with checking out his stock of peas and broccoli with an eagle eye. Prakash is not the only one to have seen unexpectedly good sales on Sunday. A host of farmers who travelled in from various States to be part of the Santhai organised by SunnyBee in Nungambakkam saw their sales numbers crossing the canvassed roof. The brand has made a reputation for itself in terms of responsible cultivation practices, and farmers at the event — all of whom are suppliers or partners of SunnyBee — are ready to be up front about their process whenever asked. While Prakash states outright that his produce is not 100% organic, a team of two onion farmers from Nashik take their time to explain the broad levels of chemical exposure in different pesticides, and the rules therein.

Flowers and more

Sandeep Javade and Roshan Jadhav are the head and the chief executive, respectively, of a farmer producer company that comprises around 4,000 farmers in and around Nashik. Javade describes the crop as “semi-organic”, explaining, “There are certain pesticides which have been proven to have no traces left on the crop after 60 days or so. While they aren’t as organic as natural pesticides made from cow dung as such, they leave as good as no chemical residue in the crop beyond a couple of months.”

“We’ve sold around 5 tonnes of the crop since morning,” he adds with a smile.

There are farmers from in and around Chennai at the market as well, and some produce — like apples — have been flown in from as far as Kashmir. In the midst of the all the bustle, an elderly man stands juggling simultaneous sales at two stalls: a cart full of flowering plants and a table of micro-greens.

He identifies himself only as “Bala from Bengaluru”, and says his occupation consists of consulting for SunnyBee at their setup in Vadapalani, growing micro-greens indoors in his urban setting, and spreading awareness among agricultural students every once in a while. His table is stacked with little pots of wheat-grass and saplings of fenugreek, and he patiently explains their detoxifying benefits to customer after customer, suggesting they consume it as juice for the healthiest impact.

For the health-conscious who take their food and its sources very personally, the place is like Disneyland. A group of retirees are clearly having a blast — long queues and uneven grounds notwithstanding — swapping jokes, laughing out loud and helping each other carry multiple cloth bags overflowing with greens. “They really should do this more often,” gushes Roshni Edward, adding, “The prices are quite reasonable and everything looks fresh: the okra looked like it just came out of the farm. We’re enjoying this experience.”