A farmer’s market was held on our campus for the very first time this December. Farmers practicing organic farming from remote areas like Dahanu, Wada, Amravati etc. arrived at IIT Campus and set up stalls offering fresh farm produce for our campus residents to buy. It consisted of lemons, chikoos, brinjals, leafy vegetables, rice of different varieties, turmeric etc.
This farmer’s market was the brainchild of Professors Ganesh Ramakrishnan, Saketh Nath and Krithi Ramamritham of the Computer Science Department and Prof. Vishal Sardeshpande of CTARA.
The initiative saw a great response from the campus residents and the who’s who of IIT Bombay was spotted at the market with their family, purchasing fruits, vegetables and other groceries. The farmers chatted with the InsIghT team with wide smiles on their faces, watching their produce sold out completely in a span of just two hours. The farmers also interacted with the IIT residents and shared their views and interests in growing organic foods, in spite of it yielding lesser profits than inorganic farming methods. Feedback was collected from the participants and residents, most of whom wished the market to be organised regularly.
[pullquote]A direct conversation with the farmers exhibited their conviction in the superiority of organic food even though their profit margins are lesser at present.[/pullquote]
Mr. Vishal Godke, who helped organise the event, is a member of Nature’s Gram, an initiative that delivers organic foods at competitive rates. He spoke to InsIghT about the two-pronged benefits of organic foods. One is the quality of produce providing higher nutrition, taste and health to the consumers. Secondly, it provides freedom to the farmers who can cultivate from indigenous (or desi) seed and now be independent of companies and governments that sell genetically modified seeds. Mr. Godke also claims that while organic foods are at present about 20% more expensive than the market, they can be brought down with sufficient demand lowering the fixed costs.
A direct conversation with the farmers exhibited their conviction in the superiority of organic food even though their profit margins are lesser at present.
The organisers claim that a regular schedule of market would benefit campus residents in:
- Providing an opportunity to purchase fresh, organic fruits and vegetable directly from local farmers on regular basis.
- Serving as a platform to interact with farmers to help cultivate useful produce in our under-utilized lands.
Efforts are on to make it a regular event to benefit the campus community.
While the other residents have most certainly benefitted from the market, it is unclear what difference it could make to students. Would organic foods be able to financially and quantitatively sustainable for use in our messes? Perhaps our mess councils should take the initiative to find out.