the farmers come to town

At their latest market, Nallakeerai celebrates innovative farmers, serves their produce and launches an app to connect with them directly

There’s a scented rice variety called jeeraful , that smells of jeera (cumin) when cooked. “A farmer is bringing it all the way from Chhattisgarh to Nalla Sandhai,” says R Jaganathan, the founder of Nallakeerai. The event, a mammoth platform for organic produce from across the country, is something that Jaganathan always dreamed of.

“Consumers now have the awareness on organic food. But many don’t know where to find authentic produce,” he says. “They want a sandhai (market) for genuine organic products.” And organic farmers want recognition for their products — “Farmers don’t want their fruit and vegetables to be mixed with the regular kind, with no regard for the effort they took to raise them chemical-free.” Nalla Sandhai is Jaganathan’s solution to both problems. “We want to connect farmer and consumer,” he says.

At the event, to be held over two days, the Nallakeerai team hosts a farmer’s market, a food festival featuring traditional South Indian fare, talks by experts on how ‘Food is medicine’, and cultural programmes featuring songs sung during sowing and harvest seasons. “Nalla Sandhai is all about thanking the farmer,” says Jaganathan, “We have picked eminent, path-breaking farmers from across the State to be conferred with awards.”

Movers and shakers

P Gomathinayagam from Puliangudi is being given a lifetime achievement award. “He started an organic farmers association, the first of its kind in his village in 1975,” says Jaganathan. Bernard Declercq from Puducherry who has revived over 100 varieties of indigenous vegetable seeds, Madhu Ramakrishnan from Pollachi who has created a 100 acre forest... 12 such people are being recognised at the event.

The farmer’s market will be divided into various sections: for vegetables, fruits (hill and country), spices, rice — there are 100 traditional varieties — and traditional snacks such as adhirasam , pori urundai and groundnut barfi . “People can meet the farmers as well,” says Jagan. He adds that his team has sourced 20 varieties of banana to be showcased. “This includes pachai , malai , sevvaalai , and elaki ,” he adds.

Another feature at the event is the ‘ethnic food festival,’ open for lunch and dinner. Jagan and team present food from Chettinad, Kondunad, Nanjilnad, Madurai and Tirunelveli, and Thanjavur and Kumbakonam. “There’s paruppu soru , chola paniyaram , and kuzhi paniyaram to try,” says Jaganathan.

The tech connect

Nallakeerai is all set to launch its Android app on the first day. “It will provide information on what kind of organic produce is available at various locations,” explains Jaganathan. “Farmers can login to let consumers know what they have grown.” He hopes the app will bridge the gap between demand and supply.

A key aspect of the event, explains Jaganathan, is the STOP movement. “It stands for Sugar, Turmeric, Oil, Pulses,” he adds. “We want to create awareness on how harmful white sugar is and how much water a single kilo of sugar requires for its production. Turmeric is good for the body; we want to promote its use in cooking,” he says.

The STOP movement is for oil varieties produced from edibles procured from our farmers — such as groundnut, sesame and coconut, as opposed to imported sunflower and palm oil. “We urge people to use locally-grown pulses and not imported ones,” he says.

Jaganathan hopes that the event is the beginning of a bigger movement. “We want this to be a regular affair,” he says. Having worked with farmers for 15 years, Jagan says this platform is his way of giving back to them. “I want to thank them for all that they’ve done,” he says.

Nalla Sandhai will be held on August 11 and 12 at Chennai Trade Centre, Nandambakkam. For details, call 9841221220.

Nallakeerai is all set to launch its Android app. It will provide information on what kind of organic produce is available at various locations

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