It was three years ago that I met Vishal at the Navdanya Earth University near Dehradun. At that time, he had come to inform himself about organic farming as he was planning to set up an organic “from farms to homes” business in Mumbai (Thane). This time, I finally got the chance to visit his business and to learn more about it.
Vishal had several experiences which made him aware of the impacts of conventional farming. When he met a farmer in a hospital who had become severely sick from the use of pesticides, this was the “final straw” for him – he quit his previous job and dedicated himself fully to his dream of helping small farmers to make a living from organic farming and at the same time ensuring that consumers will get products non-hazardous to their health as well.
So far, he has set up an office for his business, forged collaboration with three farmers groups à 15 farmers in three different regions and he is regularly delivering their products to 40 customers and occasionally to another 40 customers. He currently knows of further 40 customers who are interested and plans to start delivering to them as soon as there will be 10 customers per region. He has registered his business on “Just Dial” and has got a number of positive references and word-of-mouth recommendations. Due to his “trust-based” scheme, he has been able to offer the products at reasonable prices to consumers while still giving fair profits to the farmers. Through his work, he has been greatly supporting the usage and saving of indigenous seeds and helped farmers to become independent from external inputs. He has also regularly been attending farmers markets and set up a trial retail store, with the plan to open a real store at the office location within the next three months to come.
Vishal is planning to expand his delivery range within his district (Thane), where he hopes to reach 2000 consumers within the next two years to come. He also plans to expand to surrounding districts, where he already has potential customers but is still waiting for their numbers to increase so as to optimize the geographical space. He is also planning to set up region-specific centres all over India in order to support the idea of local food. A long-term plan is to create his own brand so as to be able to sell his products in other people’s shops all over India. Finally, he would like to set up a Learning & Development Centre at his own farm in Ambernath within the next six months where he would like to establish a seed bank and offer workshops in organic farming.
Having followed Vishal´s work for three years by now, I have perceived him as a highly motivated, passionate person and I am sure that he has both the desire and the skills to realise his vision. Knowing a lot of Indian organisations by now, I can also say that his degree of reliability and integrity is unique by Indian standards. :) As an Agroecologist, his vision could not be more consistent with what I think our future food system should look like. Vishal’s motivation is not profit-oriented and his interest is 100 % to improve the socio-economic situation of farmers and health of both farmers and consumers. I really wish that he will get all the support needed! The most important things which are required right now are human resources and funds.
If you have questions to Vishal or would like to support him please add Naturesgram on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/naturesgram) or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you very much / Bahot Dhanyavad! :)