Whenever we give talks about the safe food (called “Know Your Food”) we ask the audience a question: “Do you know your doctor, dentist, and teacher? How many of you know your farmer?”
Usually, the answer is a look of surprise from the audience. That’s the crux of what has gone wrong with our food system, we value most products and services except the most fundamental one, our food! We value the producers of our food even less and the lesser we pay the happier we are!
At Bio Basics, we can trace every vegetable to the farm it has come from; we usually get most veggies from one farm at a time and a few vegetables from two of three farms. Our field manager is in constant touch with them, visits their farms announced or unannounced. I personally know all our farmers and have visited most farms. If you reach out to us with any feedback (negative or positive) we share it with the farmer and engage with them to address shortcomings. They also love to hear positive feedback from you!
Across the seasons, Jayaraman ayya, Guna anna, Anita , Vivek, Sekhar, Aravind, Saktivel, Govindarajan, Nisha and many others including our own field manager RK grow these vegetables for us. It is not an easy task, as many of us who grow veggies in kitchen gardens know . Sometimes, after the farmer has conveyed availability of a vegetable a sudden downpour, an unexpected pest or fungal attack destroys the about to be harvested vegetables. Our bags to you will be missing the item that week as we do not replace that from others. Only if another farmer of our group has the same veggie we can replace it. That’s why the misses in our bags and the apologies. For us it is only missing a veggie a week, but for them it is a loss of income which can’t be easily compensated.
Our prices are based on farmer prices; we believe that unless the farmer earns a sustainable return for growing organically he/she will not be motivated to continue. Therefore, by a paying a fair price for our food, we become active partners in keeping many farms organic. While we ensure good health for our families we also ensure safe working conditions in farms, safe food and environment for farming families and ourselves. One of the casualties of agricultural poisons is the health of farming families.
As part of this process we need to eat seasonally, broadening our palate. For instance last winter farms were overflowing with gourds and the prices were also reduced but we did not see a significant uptake. We are also learning, getting exposed to many kinds of greens ( Ponnaganni, pulicha keerai etc) and nattu kai (traditional varieties like tanpura surakkai, kuduvai surakkai , aana komban vendai). Do let us open our kitchens and palates to new and forgotten tastes in this process!
A final word – one aspect of getting to know your food – whether it is safe food or not, is to know your farmer. Since that may not be a practical possibility for most of us, choose the net best thing – source your food from some one who can ensure traceability of the food sourced; someone who knows their farmers!