Bringing nature back to agriculture

By TheHindu on 27 Feb 2018

The first thing you notice when you get down from the Mantri Square Metro Station is a flash of green. Look closer and your eyes trace the large name board spelling ‘Green Path Organic State’.

Founded by lawyer-turned-organic farmer and social entrepreneur HR Jayaram, the organic destination follows his other ventures – Era Organic, one of the first certified organic stores in Bengaluru in 2007, an eco hotel in 2008 and an eco-retreat in Coorg in 2014.

Era Organic is now integrated with the Green Path Organic State, founded over two years ago, which hosts a restaurant (Forgotten Food), a café (Detox Café), an organic store and a space for workshops, all part of the Green Path Foundation. Jayaram also runs a farm – Sukrushi – near Nelamangala.

“We call it Green Path Organic State because it represents an organic state of mind or existence,” says Jayaram. “Overall, it is an experience for people to know about organic produce. Organic stores are usually not visible anywhere. That is why I wanted to bring organic to the forefront so the ‘common man’ can experience it,” says the activist who is also the founder-secretary of Jaivik Krishik Society, a federation of Karnataka’s organic farmers.

The Forgotten Food Restaurant works with organic ingredients, celebrating native produce. “We only use cold-pressed oils, Himalayan salt, raw (liquid) jaggery, unprocessed millets and flours. We use fresh, organic milk. We don’t use maida, refined oil, sugar or any kind of artificial flavours, colours or fragrances. We also grow some of our ingredients on our terrace garden, including vegetables, herbs and greens.”

The Detox Café, meanwhile, whips up organic produce-based pastries, pizzas, breads and more to cater to a younger clientelle. “The difference here is that we incorporate millet flour into these dishes, using only 15-20 per cent of whole wheat. We make gluten-free breads, cakes and pizzas on request,” he explains.

“And the store has everything needed to make a completely organic meal, including healthy utensils made of stone and mud. We have everything from beverages to herbal teas, oils, snacks, even ready-to-eat food. We are now getting a range of new products.”

The store also features a range of organic apparel, yoga accessories and cosmetics. Jayaram says he is also working to invite customers to his eco-retreats in order to build a network and foster trust and confidence among consumers.

Yet he has no plans to expand the store. “I am not a businessman, I am an activist, I am interested in creating models and empowering people to do this. I want to motivate more people to start such ventures.”

One of the biggest challenges of this model, according to Jayaram, is procurement. “Vegetables, fruits and some other products are not easily available. We have to send a vehicle to our farm that is located 40 kms away. Logistics is an issue,” he points out. “And consumer awareness is also still quite low. Many think that food cooked with organic produce is not tasty, but that’s not true. It is quite the contrary, many people changed their minds after eating at our restaurant. People are also still conscious about the price.”

Organic produce, says Jayaram, still costs over 20 per cent more than chemically-grown produce. “It would help if consumers looked at it as a contribution towards the farmer who is converting his land into an organic farm, and as a premium for good food. Consumers have the responsibility of making our agricultural land organic and of getting the right food. That awareness is still low.”

It is consumer demand, Jayaram points out, that will turn the tide against the agricultural chemical input industries, which form lobbies. “The government still thinks that chemical farming is the only way to maintain food production but that is wrong because it is only in organic agriculture that the yield always grows. The funds they are giving to organic farming, seem like peanuts, compared to the funds allotted for chemical farming,” he says.

Green Path Organic State is located at 185/1, Sampige Road, Rajeev Gandhi Circle, Malleshwaram (opposite the Mantri Square Metro Station). For details, call 23569777.

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