“We look forward to Sundays. The chemical free and naturally grown organic vegetables that I buy there allow me to put food on the table that I know is so tasty and healthy for my family. The bonus is that the price of these vegetables is the same as what I buy in the market!!!”
– A housewife from Bhopal
Chemical free natural farming is the need of the hour because the fertilizers and pesticides residues in food have created havoc in people’s health and body resistance. The same fertilizers and pesticides have put agriculture into a downward spiral of diminishing returns driving farmers to poverty and suicide.
Sri Sri Farmers Market (SSFM) selling naturally grown produce was launched by the Art of Living in the three cities of Bhopal, Siliguri and Ranchi as a pilot project on August 3, 2014. Currently, the markets are held every Sunday but as more farmers take up natural farming techniques and production picks up, the market will offer home delivery throughout the week.
Groups of 20 to 30 farmers per market are hand-held by the ‘Sri Sri Institute of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Trust’ (SSIAST) of the Art of Living, providing them technical inputs from sowing to harvesting using chemical-free, natural farming techniques. The SSFM provides the platform for these farmers to market these vegetables without any middleman involvement.
The consumers get the produce at the same price as in the regular markets, while the farmer gets 3 to 4 times what he would get in the wholesale mandi.
Between the three cities, over 500 acres of land is under organic farming and about 250 to 300 farmers operate in the chemical-free, natural farming model. Pilot markets have been running successfully in the three cities.
How does the journey look so far?
Entire produce sold out
100% reduction in cost of fertilizers
and pesticides costs to farmers
Nearly 300 farmers using chemical-free,
natural farming methods over 500 acres of land
How did we work?
A pilot of the Sri Sri Farmers Markets in five cities was approved by the SSIAST management in Bangalore. State YLTP coordinators from these cities were invited to the SSIAST headquarters in Bangalore for initial training on natural farming techniques.
These state coordinators then selected suitable blocks in their states and trained the farmers in natural farming methods. The farmers were taught to prepare bio-fertilizers like Beejamruta, Jeevamruta, Amruta Ras, Panchagava and garbage enzyme to be used while preparing the field for sowing. Jeevamruta is highly cost effective and is prepared by using besan (gram flour), jaggery (molasses), cow urine, dung, soil and water. This enzyme helps to multiply the micro-organisms in the soil that convert the nutrients in the soil into a chelated form that the plants can absorb.
What did we learn?
We have seen that customers who normally go for non-organic produce prefer naturally grown produce especially if it is priced at the same as that day’s market price. Demand being much more than the supply was clearly evident when our Farmers Markets were sold out within hours of being open.
This customer behavior means that there is a clear opportunity for farmers to adopt natural farming techniques because it helps them to reduce costs, preserve the productivity in their fields and get a fair price for their yield.
How can you contribute?
We are looking for partners who can help us to expand this successful pilot in 50 other cities across the country. Partnerships can include providing mobile vegetable sales vans, controlled storage facilities, co-branded market outlets and regional logistics partnership.