What’s HBT?

CSA or ‘farm sharing’ through HBT

Most of us are aware that profit from food is impossible if farming and food supply is carried out in the spirit of ahimsa. In spite of the fact that food is an everyday necessity or perhaps precisely because it is one, the proportion of income spent on food decreases as income increases. It is why our country’s (and other countries’) farmers are in the state they’re in. It is also why our earth is in the state it is in.

To underline our efforts to reclaim food from the clutches of commodification we are proposing the idea of family farms/ farmers (similar to that of family doctor). We want to encourage the deepening of trust, responsibility and reciprocity within our human and ecological communities.

Beginning in monsoon (2011) 20 farmers pledged their lands and labour to the practice of sustainable farming methods. MOFCA supported the farmers with sharing of technical know-how and other farming resources, creating an assured market and a fair, consistent price for their produce and creating and managing the supply chain logistics.

Each season, depending on the acreage available and the yield estimated we offer a limited number of farm shares for public issue. As a shareholder you receive a share of the bounty for each week of harvest. In effect, you are paying the true cost of growing the food (in a sustainable and just way) and bringing it to you for the duration of the season. You are also helping in the long-term promotion of sustainable farming by enabling MOFCA to share resources among farmers and also to help consumers and the wider public learn to be more conscious about the food they eat.

Why become a shareholder?

As a shareholder and consumer of seasonal, local organic food you are investing in your health everyday. You will have access to nutritious vegetables, produced organically. By eating local and in season vegetables you will be eating them at their freshest, most natural state, and at a time when they will most benefit you.

As a shareholder you are investing in your community. As consumers have become more and more disconnected from the process of food production they have also become more disconnected from the human and ecological communities that support this process. By shareholding you will have the opportunity to personally get to know the farmers and they will know who’s eating the food they are growing. Food traditions can be celebrated and kept alive among family and friends.

As a shareholder you are investing in your planet. Even though increasingly fewer and fewer people are farming the earth, it is the responsibility of all of us to maintain the health of the earth. Through your support of organic practices you can do this. By buying local you are reducing the distance food travels to reach you- your food miles. And by preregistering as a shareholder you enable farmers to better plan their growing cycle thereby reducing wastages.

As a shareholder you are investing in learning. You will have the opportunity to visit the farms where the food is grown and be re-introduced to traditional (forgotten) vegetables and different ways to prepare and store them. Shareholding is a great way to introduce children to various aspects of food and its production, nature and the community.

As a shareholder you are investing in your local economy. Without intermediaries, shareholders benefit from reasonable, predetermined prices not subject to economic fluctuations or false scarcities. Wastages that occur from excess produce not being sold will be minimized, which in turn will reduce losses to the farmer and keep costs to the consumer under control. Farmers also benefit from fair prices paid directly to them.

The True Cost of our Food or Why Can’t my Food be Cheaper?

Accounts from HBT’s 1st winter season (Sept 2010- March 2011)

COSTS
Vegetable (-) 77,926
Transport (-) 42,500
Misc (phone, seeds, jute and partial payment for crates and bags) (-) 32,500
Additional resources:
Time for transport, pick up, sorting and packing, coordination, management, etc (60+ hours per week): Donated by volunteers
Space and resources at the pick up points : Donated by volunteers
Total cost (-) 152,926
INCOME from sales (+) 94,886
LOSS (-) 58,040
Loss shared among consumers (135) (-) 429
Initial Deposit paid by Consumers (+) 500
Balance payable after cutting losses (+) 70/-per partner *
*rounded off except if defaulted on picking up a tokri; in which case the amount is deducted from deposit.

Our first season’s accounts give some indication of the costs involved in growing and transporting food from farm to table. Of course, this being our first season there was more learning than efficiency. While we will get better at it, cheap food will never be our goal for market prices do not reveal the true costs nor the extent of exploitation, of people and resources. A model that is just and sustainable and with minimal loss is what we are aiming for.

At this point we are committed to paying farmers a rate of 25/- per kilo for any vegetable they supply. For the long duration crops like roots and tubers they receive a slightly higher rate. This is far above the rate they typically receive in the market.

For the monsoon season, we are also factoring in the costs for those items that were donated for the first season, largely labour, space and resources. Some amount of resources, donated as well as included in the costing is earmarked for long term projects (please refer to extension activities) and other supportive tasks. Keeping these in mind the investment cost for one share, for an estimated weekly delivery of 16 weeks of harvest for the monsoon season is Rs 3,000/-.

Because we believe healthy food is everyone’s birthright and we understand that there may be some that cannot afford to give a downpayment of Rs 3,000 we request those who are interested to come and speak to us. We are willing to work out a resource exchange commitment (typically time and energy) for the season.

Suggestions for a Great Tokri Experience

Schemes like Hari Bhari Tokri are highly individualised to the needs and circumstances of its members- both farmers and consumers. Especially because of this and since we are in the early stages of our project, we request your forgiveness for any unforeseen goof ups (as much as we may try to avoid them). It’s only natural! We will get better.

In the meantime, we vouch for the intention to place people before profit in the production of food. We will try and cater as far as possible to the needs of both farmers and consumers and continue to strengthen the ties between them. As partners, we request (and need) your participation in the form of questions, suggestions, feedback and offers of help.

As fellow consumers, we also advise against the expectation that your entire consumption of vegetables be local, seasonal, organic. Given the current logistics of Mumbai and the unpredictability of nature this might be unreasonable. At the same time, as city dwellers unaccustomed to eating seasonally, you and your family might need to relearn a few habits. We advise being gentle but creative as you move on this path towards eating more healthily. We will of course be happy to offer whatever help we can to enable you to do so.

Extension activities

We have become accustomed to “what we want, when we want”. We must now re-learn how to eat what Nature provides in plenty “where we are, when we are”.

Consumer education and community building to facilitate use of the tokri veggies might include; dealing with large quantities of seasonal food- recipes, preservation introducing “new” foods- uncultivated, forgotten, celebrating (slow) food- sharing traditional food preparation methods, cooking together, film screenings, food meditation newsletter, blog, recipe exchange, etc. Also farm visits. Linking to other closely related food movements- urban farming.

While we initially considered a participatory guarantee scheme (PGS) system which emphasises peer group accountability with regards to on-farm policy and practice, because of the distances between farms this is not quite viable. We decided to develop an internal certification process using various criteria drawn from the PGS standards and creating a team including both farmer and consumer representatives of MOFCA that will visit farms and understand their views and practices of sustainability. We will support farmers as they transition to organic and eventually natural farming.

Seed saving and other resource sharing and networking activities to support on-farm work has started on a small scale.

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