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Can Organic Kitchen Gardening avert an Urban Food Tragedy?

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Where are the vegetables that I eat coming from? Who grows them and how? And how many days old are they by the time that I consume it? The answer is likely to be anything from two to five days old – is that fresh enough for your fresh vegetables?
How much of pesticide use did you approve in your vegetables and fruits?
Every type of vegetable has hundreds or sometimes thousands of varieties. With so many different types of cabbage, how come our supermarkets don’t feature them? If there are so many varieties of tomatoes, how come we have access to only 2-3 varieties over the year? If the advantage of markets is choice, how come we just don't see CHOICE?

It is slowly becoming apparent that food systems in urban places requires a massive overhaul. After several experiments with farmers and on our own urban organic farm (www.yogifarms.com), we have developed conceptual model that addresses the concerns associated with the current food system. This Alternative Food Network (AFN), looks at connecting organic kitchen gardeners, small farmers and customers, with the primary focus on quality of nutrient content of the food.

This talk will provide an insight into the conceptual model of AFN and particularly, emphasize on the role of the kitchen gardeners, as one of the main stakeholders of the network. Based on our research of examples of food sufficiency models (such as those in place in Cuba), we will share our experiences of urban food gardening: its successes, trials and tribulations.

In the end, this is an opportunity for you to learn through our experiences about what it means to enjoy farm-fresh meals, access to tastier varieties of ingredients and better health through active and informed food choices.

Published in: Food
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Can Organic Kitchen Gardening avert an Urban Food Tragedy?

  1. 1. Can Kitchen Gardening help avert an Urban Food Tragedy? Presented by Karan Manral and Yogita Mehra
  2. 2. Every story has a beginning. This one began when we stopped believing the urban myth of “good food”
  3. 3. Any Evidence? • Just ask grandma…she’s always complaining about the ingredients. • Why do mangoes and other fruits nowadays seem so tasteless? • What’s all this about the about pesticides inside our food. • Why despite our increasing education about nutrition, are we seeing more food related diseases?
  4. 4. All good research should begin with asking the right question. • Why does food quality suck? • Does food quality really suck? • Does food quality suck everywhere? • What is food quality?
  5. 5. The urban consumer? • By and large, in urban situations (in our generation), no one really seems to know. • Less and less people cook themselves, and most are eating out, or using food “products” • As more people buy in “supermarkets” instead of “markets”, there seem to be less opportunities for comparison
  6. 6. BUT, Food is now our blind spot URBAN QUALITY?
  7. 7. ALL URBAN FOLKS WANT TO KNOW ABOUT FOOD
  8. 8. TRUTH IS… WE ARE LARGELY IGNORANT OR UNCONCERNED ABOUT FOOD QUALITY, AND AREN’T DEMANDING IT FROM PROVIDERS.
  9. 9. We don’t have a clue about natural ingredients and almost no one can even understand the artificial ones…
  10. 10. What quality of food is currently available to us?? NO ADULTERATION: C- GREAT FLAVOUR: C GREAT FRESHNESS: D Great VARIETY: B Great AMBIENCE: A+ Great HEALTH: C Great CONVENIENCE: A
  11. 11. The Consensus: There isn’t much that we can do about it. The problem is universal…
  12. 12. MYTH NO 1. The Food Quality Problem is Universal NOPE, ITS LARGELY AN URBAN PROBLEM. FOLKS IN VILLAGES GET MUCH BETTER QUALITY. MYTH NO 2. The Problem is the market UMMM…THE MARKET USUALLY PROVIDES WHAT WE ASK FOR, UNLESS WE LET IT DECIDE FOR US. MYTH NO 2. We can’t do anything about it… WRONG AGAIN. SOME IDEAS FOLLOW…
  13. 13. The Farmers The Traders US  The Retailers The Supermarkets Restaurants The Status Quo: What’s happening now? Waste? Freshness lost? More costs? Quantity above quality?
  14. 14. Freshness? Greater convenience Varieties with great taste? Lower prices? Making things available out of season Health? RE-THINK: WHAT DO WE WANT FROM OUR FOOD?
  15. 15. MAYBE FOOD QUALITY IS… LOCAL (Fresh) ORGANIC (Health) MUCH MORE VARIETIES (Stimulating) REAL /SLOW FOOD (Retain nutrition) NATURALLY RIPENED Taste and health)
  16. 16. How can we change the quality of our food? Can we? NO ADULTERATION: Buy from a trusted source – who could this be? GREAT FLAVOUR: Buy from a discerning grower, where can we find them? GREAT FRESHNESS: Buy from a source close by so freshness is a given. Great VARIETY: Demand quality from your food vendor so he goes out to seek it Great AMBIENCE: This is possibly the easiest to achieve, in urban settings Great HEALTH: Stick to seasonal, organic food producers so pesticides are eliminated
  17. 17. Organic City farms in Cuba
  18. 18. Farmers Markets in France and US?
  19. 19. NYC Rooftop farms © Brooklyn-Grange
  20. 20. MOST COMMON QUESTION Why is organic food so EXPENSIVE? Needs a separate supply chain Certification is Expensive Its Supply vs Demand FACT: Its NOT more expensive to grow organic (except at industrial scale)
  21. 21. FRESH AND NON PERISHABLE Photos by American photojournalist Peter Menzel
  22. 22. OPTION NO 1: Scour the Market Develop a relationship with “your vendor” US Farmers who are producing what we want Quality sensitive veggie vendor at the “markets” The Traders or Wholesalers DEAD END Not geared for freshness and organic – it’s a market of scale primarily
  23. 23. OPTION NO 2: Buy from the organic store Look to organic specialists for a solution US Organic farmers who produce what we want Organic Store that retails only organic produce FACT: Certified organic produce is expensive, mostly non- perishable and can we trust it?
  24. 24. OPTION NO 3: Befriend the Farmers Group Convince farmers to provide you with produce US Farmers who are producing what we want Farmers groups or NGO’s who link many farmers FACT: There is unfamiliarity and communication of needs is complicated
  25. 25. Small “farmers” within 100 km  US OPTION NO 4: The Food Triangle Connect with Small Growers you Trust Small urban in-city farms and gardens Quality over Quantity Outsourcing your food needs
  26. 26. How about growing your own food? Possible? (Yes, if you look at it as a fundamental and necessary skill)
  27. 27. Organic Kitchen Gardens © The Hindu
  28. 28. Cabbage
  29. 29. Brinjal
  30. 30. Lettuce
  31. 31. Tomatoes
  32. 32. Chinese Cabbage
  33. 33. Red Radish
  34. 34. Broccoli
  35. 35. Cauliflower
  36. 36. Zucchini
  37. 37. Spring Onions
  38. 38. Zucchini
  39. 39. But what can YOU do to fix it for yourself..? (collaborate – if we lead the market will follow)
  40. 40. The Farmers The TradersUS  The Retailers The Supermarkets Restaurants Join hands with Kitchen Gardeners CHANGING THE MODEL: Creating an Alternative Food Network (AFN) Form Organic Consumer Groups Better Taste! Better Health!
  41. 41. It’s already happening in India (and in your countries) …NOW
  42. 42. © Uma Hoysala
  43. 43. © Uma Hoysala
  44. 44. © Abdul Nassar
  45. 45. © Windowfarms TM
  46. 46. Perhaps you can play a role too…?
  47. 47. bon appétit (enjoy your food)

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