The OH and I recently had the opportunity to visit First Agro’s farm at Talakadu, about 120 km away from Bangalore. Considering the way we are slowly switching over to chemical-free, local and healthier alternatives for the things that we use in our everyday lives, both of us were thrilled at the chance to visit the farm. It is one of Bangalore’s well-known suppliers of chemical-free vegetables, after all!
Once we reached the farm, we were met by Naveen MV, co-founder and CEO, First Agro. We went on to spend the entire day with him at the farm, looking at this plant and that, and understanding what pesticide-free farming is all about. I must take this opportunity to thank Naveen for sparing such a whole lot of time out of his highly busy schedule, as I am sure it must be, to show us around. You were an amazing host, Naveen!
First things first, we understood the difference between ‘organic farming’ and ‘zero-pesticide farming’, as explained to us by Naveen. No, the two things aren’t the same, as we got to know! ‘Organic farming’ is just a method of cultivation; it isn’t a guarantee that no pesticides have been used in the growing, Naveen told us.First Agro goes a step further, he said, by ensuring that not a drop of pesticide goes into the vegetables/greens/fruits that they grow. They have the lab reports to prove that they are, really and truly, zero-pesticide, which not many farms – including ‘organic’ ones – can boast of. (Click here to read more about First Agro’s attempts at growing pesticide-free produce vs. organic produce.)
The consumption of vegetables and fruits which have been sprayed with pesticides or have been grown using GMOs have a truckload of adverse effects on our health, as I am sure all of us have read somewhere or the other. What is scary is that you don’t often realise the ways in which you are being negatively impacted by all the chemicals you consume this way. From PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – a hormonal disorder that is rapidly on the rise among Indian women lately) and unexplained infertility to cancer, a lot has been linked to the consumption of chemicals through food and other means. It then makes sense to try to go as chemical-free as we can in the products that we buy, doesn’t it? At least, that way, we can ensure we are doing our best to lead a healthy lifestyle and protect ourselves, in the long run.
Besides the regular cucumbers and tomatoes and okra, First Agro grows a whole lot of exotic stuff – like heirloom black rice (forbidden rice), red okra, Peruvian kiwicha, jalapeno peppers, San Marzano tomatoes, dandelion greens, Japanese mustard leaves, black radish, lemon balm, pok choy, wild rocket, and lemon basil. We were really, really stunned to taste some of the greens – the taste was so very beautiful I can’t explain it in words!
First Agro also grows several edible flowers – basil and zucchini and nasturtium flowers, for instance. This is something that isn’t very easy to find in India. I am now craving to experiment with their greens and edible flowers, all of which possess incredible health benefits that aren’t commonly known.
We are always fascinated by farms, the OH and I. We love seeing new life growing. We love seeing flowers budding and then turning into our favourite vegetables. So, you can imagine how charmed the both of us were as we walked around the huge, 100-acre First Agro farm, checking out this plant and that, sampling leaves and vegetables and fruits on the way.
BTW, First Agro also has its own beehives, and produces different types of honey – jamun honey, eucalyptus honey, neem honey, lychee honey and Kashmir white honey. We didn’t get to see any bees buzzing around (thankfully!), but we were amazed to see their bee boxes.
We were explained how First Agro ensures that locals from the surrounding villages are involved in the sorting of vegetables, and how they often usual manual labour for certain processes so as to get best results, in spite of being highly time-consuming and expensive.
So, how does First Agro keep its crops pest-free, if no pesticides are used at all?, we asked Naveen. There are various ways to do that, he replied. Using insects is one way – when a patch of vegetables is threatened by a pest, certain insects (which prey on this particular pest) are introduced. These insects eat up the pest, and the problem is solved! Another way of doing this is by putting up pheromone traps – traps that attract pests by emitting the scent of the opposite sex, imprisoning them in the process.
First Agro’s distribution arm, Sakura Fresh, delivers its pesticide-free vegetables and other produce throughout Bangalore, including some renowned hotels. First Agro has also, apparently, been associated with some other prestigious projects, such as working with some of the best doctors in Bangalore to ensure the supply of pesticide-free produce to cancer patients.
We were treated to a sumptuous and delicious vegetarian meal at the farm, cooked by the staff. It was all cooked with fresh, pesticide-free veggies, and we were left licking our fingers with delight. The freshness of the ingredients make all the difference to the taste of food, after all, don’t they? The meal was proof of this fact.
We left for Bangalore when the afternoon was just wearing off, with our hearts full of good conversation and our heads full of knowledge.
I can safely say I cannot ever see vegetables and fruits the same way after this visit – I keep thinking about just how much pesticide has gone into them, or whether they were grown humanely. It looks like we are fast converting into First Agro customers – most of their prices are at par with market prices of veggies grown with pesticides, so it isn’t going to be a difficult switch to make, really. What about you?
Disclaimer: I do not stand to any kind of gain by promoting First Agro, or recommending their products. The views expressed herein are entirely my own.