Colaba homemaker Lakshmi Rangaraj had grown tired of eating flavourless, pesticide-laden produce, but didn’t know where to find any alternatives. Then she heard about Hari Bhari Tokri, an organic farm cooperative started by the Mumbai Organic Farmers and Consumers Association (MOFCA). Rangaraj instantly signed up, paying Rs 3,000 for one ‘share’ and getting 3 kg of assorted vegetables every week in exchange.
“Hari Bhari Tokri helps farmers and consumers become partners, creating a community where they can interact directly with each other,” said MOFCA co-founder Ubai Husein.
Founded 18 months ago, the association was born out of the desire to eat more natural food and help people cultivating organic produce expand their markets. “The myth is that there is no market for organic vegetables in Mumbai. The truth is, there are numerous people who want organic vegetables but do not know where to get them,” said Husein.
Hari Bhari Tokri has accordingly partnered with 25 farmers from Vikramgad in Thane district. The farmers have pledged 4 acres of land, which are expected to yield 400 kg of vegetables. MOFCA is supporting the farmers with technical knowledge and an assured market so there is no wastage of vegetables and giving them a fair and consistent price for their produce.
“I joined MOFCA a year ago and am growing organic vegetables on my land. It is reassuring to know that there is someone to help and support us through losses, bad monsoons etc,” said Jayendra Sutar, 40, an organic farmer since 2006.
Each week, tokris of vegetables from these organic farms are delivered to pick-up points across Mumbai. Subscribers can get their tokri from the location closest to their home. They can also visit the farms for a picnic or to help farmers with harvesting and packing.
The network has worked perfectly for Rangaraj. “The vegetables provided by MOFCA are of a higher quality than the vegetables we get in the market. They were fresh and tasty,” says the 43-year-old, who is one of 150 shareholders.
For her, as for other shareholders/ consumers, it’s a comfort knowing exactly where the produce has come from and how it was grown.
“We have developed a very disconnected relationship with food. We do not know the source of our food,” said Ibtisam Sarela, 40, a counsellor and shareholder with Hari Bhari Tokri. “I signed up because I wanted my daughter to know the benefits of the organic food movement. I wanted her to return to her roots.”