02 Nov 2015 | 05:29am IST
Striving to revive lost Goan tradition of organic farming: Manral
Peter Fernandes, Karan Manral and Yogita Mehra are deeply involved in kitchen gardening and organic farming in Goa. They are inordinately interested in this and their work includes, growing food crops, training people via kitchen gardening workshops, collaborating with farmers to promote locally-grown produce in Goa, helping organise events like the annual Konkan Fruit Fest and also helping set up several small organic farms. VIKANT SAHAY met with Karan Manral to find out about their new venture Openseeds
HERALD: You all have developed a unique concept and a niche in the field of kitchen garden. Tell us more.
KARAN MANRAL: Openseeds is aiming at giving access to organic, open-pollinated seeds for people who are interested in growing food (fruits, vegetables, herbs and some flowers) of good quality — either at small gardens at home for themselves, or in larger spaces for a small food business or organic farm. Our first website – www.theseedstore.in – offers a wide variety of vegetables seeds for now, but will also add some fruit and flower seed selections in the future. We have no hybrid products.
HERALD: How do you ensure quality control?
KM: We extensively test a wide variety of vegetable seeds in our gardens and farms to and select only those which meet quality parameters like taste/flavor and are unusual in some way. Also, we check on germination rate and several other parameters. Many of what we seek and offer for sale are heirlooms/desi seed varieties, which we aim to promote both as a measure to conserve India’s food bio-diversity and also because they grow well in our warmer and humid climate.
HERALD: How do you save the seeds to enhance its longevity?
KM: We do not save the seeds beyond a season and as we are into totally organic mode, we do not do nitrogen packing. We sow some of the seeds and if the demand is more, we source it through our verified, quality checked farmers who can cater to the needs of our customers.
HERALD: What special produce do you have which you can be proud of?
KM: All our products are unique to ensure that the traditional varieties of food items do not disappear from your kitchen and replaced by hybrid ones. For example, we hardly see the purple and black carrots these days. Also, as the cuisine world has played up iceberg lettuce, people now are growing only iceberg lettuce. However, we grow at least 8 to 10 different varieties of lettuce which many of my customers like. Very few connoisseurs of food now a days look for flavour. It is the looks and presentation which matters. Farmers too are growing vegetables and fruits which cater to volume, weight, colour and shape. We are already aware that farmers are not growing pulses, soyabeans etc as the yield time is quite high.
HERALD: Where do you see your company go in next five years?
KM: Our dream is to grow in contract farming. I am confident that with more awareness, people will take up healthier, more flavoursome vegetables to their kitchen and at the same time will protect and save their age-old tradition of having safe organic food. We foresee that people will bring back the good old desi variety and we will help them re-introduce through their kitchen garden to begin with.