When one talks about healthy eating, the first word that comes to mind is ‘organic’, a trend that is increasingly becoming popular among Pakistanis.

Organic food is defined as fruit and vegetables not grown from genetically-modified seeds and is free from pesticides and harmful chemicals. Organic products are then made by using these fruit and vegetables without preservatives and artificial additives.

In Pakistan’s bigger cities, finding organic food is a novelty, primarily because we are fed commercially-produced food, where quantity and shelf life are favoured over nutrient value. However, with more awareness about the inadequacies of the urban food supply system, more people are turning to healthier options, giving rise to the phenomenon of farmers markets in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, that offer locally-grown produce, along with a chance to interact directly with the farmers.

Their business model is similar to that of most marketplaces; they provide a space for vendors to showcase their produce and consumers to meet them, exchange knowledge and buy their products. Khalis and Haryali generate revenue from the stalls, as well as from sponsorships by food-related brands; KFM and IFM (with fewer stalls and more stringent standards) are more of a community-building effort, and the emphasis is less on revenue generation.

Rizwan Naeem and Asma Shah were the the first to kick off the trend in 2013 with the Khalis Food Market in Lahore. Later, it separated into two markets, namely: Khalis (run by Naeem) and Haryali Entrepreneurs Market (run by Mahrukh Beg).

Islamabad followed a few months later with the Islamabad Farmers Market (IFM), founded by Qasim Tareen in collaboration with Kuch Khas, a community centre. Tareen was an amateur farmer who needed to sell his fresh produce. According to him, Islamabad is surrounded by small farms, irrigated mainly by rain water and has access to the northern areas and hill stations, which make it a perfect location for an organic food market.

The popularity of the IFM led to the founding of Karachi’s Farmers Market (KFM) by Sarah Nasiruddin (owner of an urban farm and interior designer) with Laila Jamil, Muzzamil Niazi, Tofiq Pasha, Maheen Zia, (organic farmers) and Tareen (from IFM) as its core founding members.

According to Tareen, “food marketing labels such as natural, pure and fresh have been grossly abused; this has led to consumer doubts and hence the need for such markets.”

For Naeem, the concept is to create alternatives for health-conscious consumers along the lines of whole foods markets abroad. “As much as it was a socially-responsible act, making money was definitely an active part of it.”

Their business model is similar to that of most marketplaces; they provide a space for vendors to showcase their produce and consumers to meet them, exchange knowledge and buy their products. Khalis and Haryali generate revenue from the stalls, as well as from sponsorships by food-related brands; KFM and IFM (with fewer stalls and more stringent standards) are more of a community-building effort, and the emphasis is less on revenue generation.

Since the amateur farmer community is very small, they are well-acquainted with each other (vendors and buyers) and getting the word out is not difficult. For example, Nasiruddin says the first KFM was held in her lawn with 300 attendees (including vendors and buyers) by invitation. For others (or new) vendors, they get in touch with the markets on their social media pages and websites.

The products range from organic vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, grains, oils, herbs, along with hard-to-find ingredients such as fresh figs, cherry tomatoes, avocadoes, kale, banana peppers, mushrooms, organic honey and fresh cheeses. Many vendors bring prepared products to sell as well such as salads, chutneys, natural beauty and skincare products.

KFMs and IFMs have a strict procedure in selecting vendors. They have to fill an application form (Rs 1,000 for KFM and Rs 500 for IFM), using the SAFA (Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture) system developed by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). It is based on a series of questions ranging from capital and land ownership to greenhouse gas emissions. Once a vendor fulfils the SAFA criteria, a visit is made to the vendor’s farm. Vendors once approved, become regulars at the market and require no further verifications. In order to reduce the carbon footprint, KFM and IFM also enforce minimal decoration on the stalls, no standees or banners, biodegradable packaging (no plastics) and only edibles on display.

IFM charges Rs 500 per stall and KFM Rs 1,000. Khalis’ rates are based on single and double stalls, varying from Rs 4,000 to 7,000, with an extra amount charged on hi-voltage appliances.

KFM, Khalis and Haryali do not operate in the peak of summer due to the heat outdoors and less variety in terms of produce. They usually start in September and end in March or April. IFM is the only exception which operates throughout the year. The venues for these markets are not fixed and change every year, ranging from commercial parks to school courtyards, as small farmers can’t afford to pay high rents.

The products range from organic vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, grains, oils, herbs, along with hard-to-find ingredients such as fresh figs, cherry tomatoes, avocadoes, kale, banana peppers, mushrooms, organic honey and fresh cheeses. Many vendors bring prepared products to sell as well such as salads, chutneys, natural beauty and skincare products.

To ensure quality, the nutrient information is clearly labelled on the prepared foods. According to Tareen, “we especially ask producers to mention the salt, sugar and fat content, because some customers have medical conditions and it is important to be honest about what the product contains, and for them to know.”

As the vendors are mostly small-scale farmers and producers, the items are priced accordingly (usually steeply). The founders believe that because of the antiquated methods used, organic food takes longer to produce compared to non-organic food. It is not surprising, therefore, that regular customers belong to the upper-income segment and include celebrities, expats and foreigners, as well as concerned mothers and the health-conscious young and elderly. Khalis and Haryali boast an average attendance of 2,000 and 4,000 people every week; for KFM and IFM, the footfall is lower.

Nasiruddin says to make KFM more welcoming and fun, a band plays music during the market hours, there are also yoga and painting classes for everyone to give a sense of a ‘nice day out’ to families.

In addition to the weekly markets, the founders have experimented with different retail options to increase reach. Haryali has a brick-and-mortar store. Khalis did venture into online, but due to issues related to shelf life, warehousing and a scattered demographic, it did not last. KFM has recently started an online store, but their deliveries are limited to Clifton and Defence only. If it works out, Nasiruddin says they will increase the scope to all parts of Karachi.

Despite the popularity of these markets, major constraints are the prices, which are beyond the affordability range of most people. Another factor is lack of mass awareness. “Genuine brands have to work extra hard to teach customers how to spot the difference between fake and authentic vendors,” says Saba Gul Hassan, a certified dietician, life coach and CEO, SGH Health (a company that makes high-fibre and protein granola cereals), and who used to be a vendor at Khalis. Certification, supply, accessibility and delivery pose further challenges. “We need home-grown solutions; importing organic items from far away countries is not a sustainable answer to our supply issues,” says Tareen. In his opinion, this can to an extent, be remedied by revisiting indigenous local farming methods, food preparations and distribution methods. Moreover, better agricultural research, government support, farmer awareness and lots more organic food everywhere will help popularise it. A start has been made.

Source Aurora

Moisture required for composting

Moisture is a parameter closely related to microorganisms, because, like all living beings, they use water to transport nutrients and energy elements through the cell membrane. The ideal moisture of the compost is around 55%, although it varies depending on physical condition, size of the particles and the composting system. If moisture drops below 45%, microbial activity decreases, the degradation phases cannot be completed and hence, the resulting product is biologically unstable. If the moisture is too high (> 60%), water will saturate the pores and interfere oxygenation through the material. In processes in which the main components are substrates such as sawdust, wood chips, straw and dry leaves, the need for irrigation during composting is greater than in wetter materials such as kitchen waste, vegetable, fruit and grass clippings. The optimal moisture content for composting is 45% to 60% water by weight of the base material.

Organic farming is on of the emerging field in future, organic means naturally produced plants and raised animals using natural things and avoid to use synthetic fertilizers and other farm materials. This video briefly shows the pros and cons of organic farming

Natural or Organic cultivating is a strategy for yield and animals creation that includes significantly more than picking not to utilize pesticides, composts, hereditarily altered living beings, anti-infection agents and development hormones.

Naturally generation is a comprehensive framework intended to streamline the profitability and wellness of differing groups inside the agro-biological system, including soil life forms, plants, domesticated animals and individuals. The central objective of natural creation is to create ventures that are feasible and concordant with the earth.

The general standards of natural creation, from the Canadian Natural Benchmarks (2006), incorporate the accompanying:

ensure the earth, limit soil debasement and disintegration, diminish contamination, upgrade organic efficiency and advance a sound condition of wellbeing

keep up long haul soil richness by enhancing conditions for natural action inside the dirt

keep up organic decent variety inside the framework

reuse materials and assets to the best degree conceivable inside the venture

give mindful care that advances the wellbeing and meets the behavioral needs of domesticated animals

get ready natural items, stressing cautious preparing, and dealing with strategies so as to keep up the natural trustworthiness and indispensable characteristics of the items at all phases of creation

depend on inexhaustible assets in privately composed agrarian frameworks.

Natural cultivating advances the utilization of harvest pivots and cover edits, and empowers adjusted host/predator connections. Natural deposits and supplements created on the ranch are reused back to the dirt. Cover edits and treated the soil fertilizer are utilized to keep up soil natural issue and ripeness. Protection bug and malady control techniques are worked on, including crop pivot, enhanced hereditary qualities and safe assortments. Coordinated irritation and weed administration, and soil preservation frameworks are important devices on a natural homestead. Naturally affirmed pesticides incorporate “regular” or other nuisance administration items incorporated into the Allowed Substances Rundown (PSL) of the natural norms. The Allowed Substances Rundown distinguishes substances allowed for use as a pesticides in natural farming. All grains, rummages and protein supplements sustained to animals must be naturally developed.The natural models for the most part restrict results of hereditary designing and creature cloning, engineered pesticides, manufactured manures, sewage muck, engineered drugs, engineered sustenance handling helps and fixings, and ionizing radiation. Restricted items and practices must not be utilized on affirmed natural homesteads for no less than three years before gather of the confirmed natural items. Domesticated animals must be raised naturally and sustained 100 for each penny natural bolster fixings.

Natural cultivating presents many difficulties. A few yields are more testing than others to develop naturally; in any case, almost every item can be delivered naturally.

The unimaginable success and sustained growth of the organic movement over the past many decades has LED to several positive changes for the overall food offer, that embrace the enhanced convenience of unpolluted food. however there’s a standard misperception among several within the natural health community that every one organic food, and significantly all organic manufacture, is adult mistreatment fully no pesticides, herbicides, or different external inputs.

In truth, some organic foods square measure, indeed, adult with chemical inputs, which can return as a surprise to some. however the great news is that these inputs aren’t constant because the inputs used on standard manufacture, and don’t contain any artificial ingredients. In most cases, natural and organic pesticides square measure developed fully from plant and herb parts, and truly promote the health of each plants and soil.

Is your organic produce really pesticide-freeDepending on the dimensions, scope, and focus of a specific organic farm, variable cultivations standards will be de jure utilized and still be thought-about organic. Small-scale, family-operated biodynamic organic farms, as an example, is also ready to with success grow all their manufacture mistreatment fully no chemical interventions any, whereas larger-scale organic farms may have to use bound chemical solutions to their crops in accordance with the official organic standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Organically created fruits and vegetables square measure adult in an setting absent of artificial chemicals, yes, however the notion that they are adult while not chemicals in the slightest degree is fake,” explains Doug Smith from ElephantJournal.com regarding the difficulty. “The reality is, most state laws enable organic farmers to spray an entire gamut of chemical sprays, powders and pellets on their organic crops. That is, if they’re ‘organic’ or natural chemical sprays, powders and pellets.”

Some organic inputs could have questionable safety records, say some
Are these approved-for-organic growing chemicals safe? affirmative, however presumably no, in step with some. because it seems, bound natural pesticides and pesticides like rotenone-pyrethrin, as an example, or Spinosad, is also probably harmful to humans. the previous was joined in a very 2011 study printed within the journal Environmental Health views to probably inflicting brain disease, whereas the latter is claimed to be extremely cyanogenetic to insects and fish.

Sure, not all organic crops square measure adult mistreatment these chemicals — several organic growers, in fact, really do use solely all-natural cultivation ways that cause no risks to human health. however some organic crops, as well as some types of organic lettuce, have allegedly tested considerably higher certainly organic-approved pesticides and herbicides than their standard counterparts have for rather more harmful artificial pesticides and herbicides.

What will this mean for you and your family? whereas the goal here isn’t to tarnish the organic label in any means — organic certification is presently the most effective and most trustworthy system we’ve for regulation the assembly and sale of unpolluted, chemical-free food — it’s vital that readers bear in mind of the very fact that chemicals square measure still generally used on organic foods. Natural News readers can recall that we have a tendency to self-addressed this issue recently because it pertains to organic apples, a number of that square measure de jure sprayed with antibiotics to shield against leaf blight.

At constant time, organic growers WHO are within the business for years insist that even if bound organic growing chemicals is also used on some organic crops, the follow is safer and much superior to traditional growing ways. One organic farmer, commenting on Smith’s assessment of the difficulty, states: “I’ve ne’er place something on my crops that i could not eat,” and goes on to elucidate that his ways square measure a lot of safer for the earth and other people “than what I did before i used to be organic.” and plenty of others within the field echo this sentiment.

Sources for this article include:

Organic gardening is not just a matter of replacing chemicals such as artificial fertilizers and pesticides with more natural products, as it is often simplistically described. There is a great deal more to it than that, in both theory and practice.

Basic principles
The organic approach recognizes the marvelous complexity of our living world; the detailed and intricate ways in which all living organisms are interconnected. It aims to work within this delicate  framework, in harmony with nature.What is an organic gardening 3-agriculture information bank (agrinfobank.com)
Feeding the soil
Conventional fertilizers are generally soluble, their ingredients directly available to plants. The organic way, on the other hand, relies on soil-dwelling creatures to make food available to plants.
Unbelievable as it may sound, a single teaspoonful of fertile soil can contain more bacteria and fungi than the number of humans living on the planet. These microorganisms, which are invisible to  the naked eye, break down compost, manure, and other organic materials that are added to the soil, to provide a steady supply of nutrients for plants to take up. Their activities also help to improve soil structure. soil fed in this way tends to produce healthier plants that are better able to withstand attack from pests and diseases, or have a much better chance of recovery.
Natural pest control all creatures, whatever their size, risk attack by pests and diseases. They are part of a great food chain. Ladybugs prey on aphids, robins eat Japanese beetles, and toads devour slugs, as an organic gardener, you can capitalize on the situation by  creating the right conditions to attract these unpaid pest  controllers—the gardener’s friends. There are other strategies in  the organic cupboard, too barriers and traps, pest- and disease resistant plant varieties, companion planting, and crop rotation all provide realistic alternatives to the use of pesticides.What is an organic gardening 2-agriculture information bank (agrinfobank.com)

Managing weeds
Weeds can be a valuable resource as a compost ingredient or food for wildlife, but they can also smother plants, compete for food and water, and spoil the look of a path or border. organic
gardeners don’t use weed killing sprays, but there are plenty of effective alternatives, both for clearing ground and for keeping weeds under control: hoeing, mulching, cultivation, hand-weeding,
and the use of heat in the form of flame or infrared burners.

What is an organic gardening-agriculture information bank (agrinfobank.com)Conservation and the environment
By taking a holistic approach to the use of finite resources and by minimizing impact on the environment, organic growing makes a positive contribution toward creating a sustainable future for
all life on earth. This means recycling and reusing, instead of dumping or burning or buying new; providing habitats where wildlife can flourish; and avoiding the use of non reusable
resources. It also involves choosing locally available materials, rather than those transported over long distances.

Welfare considerations
Animal welfare is an important element of organic farming. There is no place in the organic philosophy for factory farming, such as battery and broiler hen houses or intensive feedlots. as a logical
extension, organic gardeners do not use by-products—such as manure—from intensive agriculture. There is concern for people, too—standards governing the trade in organic food are gradually
converging with those concerned with “fair trade,” to provide better livelihoods for those employed in farming, particularly in developing countries.
The use of animal manures is an integral part of most organic farming systems, but it is quite possible to garden without using any products of animal origin if you prefer. garden compost, leguminous green manures, leaf mold, and plant-based fertilizers are all “animal-free” organic gardening ingredients.