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10.07.2017

“Did you know that on an average, a farmer gets fifteen percent of the retail price of their produce?” Rahul Pabreja asks us this weekend, around the same time a bunch of farmers are setting the Maharashtra government’s agriculture policy proposals on fire. “Through the farmers’ market they get ninety-five percent of the returns.”

His new project isn’t (yet) quelling large-scale farmer agitations, but for a start, it will cover your weekly supply of red rice and zero-pesticide squash. Rahul and his bestie + business partner Mithran Jayan, associates of Bandra’s Sunday farmers’ market, are putting the finishing touches on their brand-new shop, The Farmers’ Store, a brick-and-mortar extension of the sweetest Sunday market in these parts.

Haldi, Wealthy & Wise

We duck under a cute blond barn-roof entrance to peek into a long, narrow shop-front on Ambedkar Road. Motes of sawdust are still dancing in a bright, empty white room. When the fruits and vegetables turn up (largely from local farms around the state) they’ll be stocked in blond wood baskets that remind us of old-school sabzi shops, even if the colour scheme makes us think of a wine bar in Khan Market where we once lost an entire weekend...well, never mind.

When it opens this week, The Farmers’ Store will stock fresh produce, dry fruits, spices and more. Grains will be filled into big dispensers so you can take what you want and pay by weight, “making it easier for us to control waste,” as Mithran explains. “We’re trying hard to be zero-waste as soon as possible.” Bring a shopping bag so you can “take what you need, no frills, no packages,” Rahul says. “We don’t want to pass extra costs on to you.” (Brown paper bags will be made available, of course.)

When you shuffle in in your pyjamas, you’ll also find A2 milk; gluten-free bread made by Jennifer at The Village Shop (she used to run Birdsong Café) and eggs from Bangalore’s Happy Hens, the free-range poultry farm where the birds eat more greens than you do. Turmeric will come from Lakadong, Meghalaya; spices from the western Himalayas; essential oils from Jharkhand and tea from Kodaikanal.

“Remember, everything comes from and goes back to rural farmers - I can’t stress enough that none of this is sourced from corporate farms or aggregators.”

Feeling All The Fields

All this certified organic produce is sourced from agriculturist pals who make up the large all-India network of the farmers’ market, which was started eight years ago by Kavita Mukhi and is one of the city’s oldest. (If you don’t know Mukhi from the market, you probably know the company she founded, Conscious Food, and are oil-pulling with its coconut oil already -- don’t feel shy, so are we.)

Rahul grew interested in her work a year ago, on his own quest for a healthier life. “The store’s a natural solution to making the supplies more available,” he explains. It ensures high-quality produce, he says, because the farms who’ve partnered with Mukhi for years have been organic longer than most other urban suppliers. But the shop’s also a good way for them to assure fixed prices for farmers, a significant motivation. “Remember, everything comes from and goes back to rural farmers - I can’t stress enough that none of this is sourced from corporate farms or aggregators.”

It’s such a small, sweet counterpoint to headlines about rural distress, we’ve almost forgotten to ask about the snacks. They’re working on a raw bar, Rahul says. Well, your salad days are already here.

Getting there: The Farmers’ Store opens this week at Siffin Apartments, Ambedkar Road, Bandra, next to Le15 Patisserie. Track them on Facebook here.

Sponsored: Remember to take an Uber for your next visit to The Farmers' Store.  

Photo: Instagram.com/fit4fanny 

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