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Updated: December 29, 2013 13:23 IST

Organic flavour of the year

BHUMIKA K
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GREEN AND ORGANIC: Is the way to go. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
The Hindu GREEN AND ORGANIC: Is the way to go. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Bangalore sees a revival of its garden city status with people growing their own food at home, finds BHUMIKA K.

It’s going back to roots, in more ways than one, for Bangalore. Crowned as the hotspot for the organic movement in the country, the famed Garden City has been buzzing with workshops, melas, localised weekly or monthly markets, a revival of terrace and balcony vegetable gardens, a slew of innovative products and brands — all converging at the point of food meets health, meets chemical-free life.

People in the city have developed a curiosity for all things organic. While the older lot may scoff at it for the younger lot it is a novelty. Youngsters have taken it a step further and made organic not just about oats and bran, but have formed little collectives to bake organic breads and brownies, make and bottle organic pasta sauces at home to sell.

Availability, access, awareness

Bangalore is the home of organic availability, access, and awareness — people feel there are health benefits to putting fresh organic vegetables on the table every day, they know what kind of food they want, and where to source them. There’s a wide offering too for people interested — workshops on how to set up your own terrace organic garden by the likes of Garden City Farmers, events like Oota From Your Thota (OFYT) that encourage growing your own food without chemicals, organic local markets like Dakshin Pete. From basic fruits and veggies we’ve gone all the way to readymade all-natural breakfast mixes!

“Among three urban markets analysed in the country — Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad — Bangalore is the largest, both in terms of the number of stores that sell organic food products and in terms of organic sales. With an estimated Rs. 21.4 crore annual organic food sales, Bangalore is the largest urban organic market in India,” says Manoj K. Menon, executive director of the International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture. Menon, with Nina Osswald has authored Organic Food Marketing in Urban Centres of India, based on a research study from 2011 to 2013, from where these trends emerged. Bangalore also has the highest number of organic food outlets per inhabitant, he points out.

A lot more people are making organic a part of their daily living. Mayura Kadur all of 29, with her friends Kaavya Nag and Mahima Vijendra, decided that south Bangalore was aware and ready for a local market selling organic and sustainable products, and so Dakshina Pete, was born in Jayanagar. It’s had two runs and the third edition of the Pete is expected to take place Jan-Feb 2014. Apart from organic fruits and veggies, the Pete features free-range milk and eggs, organic honey, all-natural bakes, personal care, and ready-to-eat goodies. The friends were already running Do Bandar, a brand that made handmade body products for well over a year, when they participated in OFYT.

“People who visited OFYT knew what they were looking for, had read and understood the basics of organic products. Many believe they have either had allergies or health problems because of chemicals and pesticides in their food and body products, and have felt the difference when they have switched to organic products,” says Mayura of the understanding among people. In her own home too,

Mayura's family has a garden where they grow their own bananas, tomatoes, seetaphal, lemon and more. Mayura is an example of the growing tribe of people in Bangalore, who not only consume readymade organic products but also grow at least a small percentage of their own food.

As Garden City Farmers, B. Narayan Viswanath, regarded as the pioneer of organic terrace gardening in Bangalore, points out: “It’s not such a radical new concept. Most traditional homes in India have always had a small kitchen garden in the backyard. Bangalore was called the Garden City not because of Cubbon Park or Lal Bagh. It was because every home had a garden or two.” And Bangalore is going back to its home gardens.

While some things can grow in an urban garden, many consumables have to be bought. Bangalore had 23 organic specialty stores and 157 other stores of various formats that sold organic food in 2011, points out Menon.

Most stores are concentrated in Jayanagar, J.P. Nagar and Bannerghatta Road in the South, in Rajajinagar, Malleshwaram and Dollars Colony in the North, and Whitefield, Indiranagar and Koramangala in the East.

Many of these stores have their own farms nearby. Along with an average range of about 200 products, most stores also have imported organic products, especially in the luxury food category. Restaurants serving organic food have also found a niche audience. Many have their own farms on the outskirts of Bangalore and offer a multi-pronged approach, where they also have a store selling organic fare. Bangalore is also home to one of the first Government-supported organic store, The Jaivik Krishik Mall in Lal Bagh, set up in 2006, which sells products of a farmers’ association.

While food is the centre right now of most things organic in our lives, the coming year is sure to see a surge in other products as well -- be it household goods like detergents and floor cleaners, personal care products like balms soaps and lotions, hair colour, or even organic cotton clothing.

While organic veggies and fruits are still limited to being available twice a week at most stores, hopefully by 2014, they should be available everyday, with growing demand, assured buyers, and better delivery systems in place. Organic milk and meats is the next layer of organic products to unfold on a large scale. Affordability is still a big question mark. But for many, it seems a small price to pay for something safe and wholesome.

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