Vegetables, rice make a direct entry from farms to households

On Wednesdays and Sundays, at least four residential societies in the city get fresh, off-the-farm vegetables delivered at their doorstep directly by farmers.

Farmers supplying these vegetables expect the number of households getting veggies delivered directly to increase in the coming months because they say their vegetables are cheaper and fresher than the ones available in the market.

"We started supplying vegetables to housing societies last August. At present, we cater to around 750 apartments each week," said Dyaneshwar Bodke, chief volunteer of Abhinav Farmers Club, a farmers collective founded in the year 2000 with 17 farmers to market their produce without depending on middlemen.

The housing society of the National Agriculture Bank for Rural Development (NABARD) was the first to get the direct supply of vegetables, including some exotic varieties, last year.

"Now, we are in talks with two other housing societies for supply of fresh vegetables."

"We now supply over 750 to 1,000 kg vegetables, of which exotic vegetables comprise 25-30 kg. The demand for the exotic varieties is increasing," he said.

Over the years, the farmers' body has added another 150 members. It also has a loose network of around 2,000 farmers across Maharashtra and other states who occasionally supply vegetables when the demand peaks.

Within 17 km of their headquarters, several members of the farmers' body have built polyhouses to grow vegetables. Many of them also grow flowers.

On alternate days, several vans reach farms to pick up the harvested vegetables. Women of Self Help Groups clean and pack the vegetables in packhouses and by 10 in the morning they are off for delivery.

Six years ago, a few farmers within the group began growing exotic vegetables like broccoli, iceberg, cherry tomatoes and coloured capsicum, for supply to hotels and other private clients.

Renu Jain, who lives in a society in Aundh picked up broccoli from the farmers' club last Wednesday.

"Mostly, I buy the usual vegetables, leaving the exotic varieties for special occasions. The vegetables are fresh and reasonably priced," she said.

The Abhinav Farmers Club also supplies milk, poultry products and food grains. "Recently our society passed a resolution to buy milk from this club.

We are working out the ideal time so that maximum residents can benefit," said Prashant Waghmare, from a residential society in khadki. Out of the 600 apartments here, around 150 purchase vegetables from these farmers.

Bodke said the farmers' club also grows and sells Indrayani variety of rice to customers directly. "Each farmer can produce 200 tonne rice per season. This variety has become popular over the years," he said.

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