MAY 22, 2023

OGMO Foods: Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Good for India

In an era when the youth find farming non-lucrative and unattractive profession, when the youth in rural areas are moving towards cities to earn their livelihood, it is surprising to hear about the journey of OGMO foods.

It all started when Sanjeeta asked her care takers son about his preferred location for work and his instant reaction was that he would like to go to city and work. This response made her question the reasons for the boy’s preference of leaving the serenity of his environment to move to the hustle and bustle of city, raked with pollution, traffic jams.

She realized that limited access to technology and finance, lack of market, inadequate storage facilities and poor credit facility are some deterrent for the young to take up farming as a career.

The inception of OGMO Food is an exciting journey as was recalled by Sanjeeta.

Ms. Sanjeeta had purchased a small piece of land more than a decade ago, hoping to start farming some day after retirement. She was keen to do natural farming and left the land unused for several years (10 years), to detoxify the land.

For long, visiting farm was just a weekend activity with children for her. There was nothing much do there. They would spend some time there, watch birds and return back to the city. One fine day they decided to slow down their activities in city in order to connect more with nature. And that’s how OGMO came into existence.

She named her farm OGMO, which literally translates to organic move. A movement towards going green and to promote the benefits of plant-based lifestyle for better nutrition in more sustainable and ethical ways.

She had simultaneously started a small start-up venture called ‘OGMO Foods’, with a drive to innovate products that create positive impact on the community. On the other hand, this venture was also giving some financial stability to the women employed in her factory.

Her visits to farm increased drastically after she started the manufacturing unit there. This gave her the opportunity to interact with local farmers and understand their ways of living & farming during free time.

It was disheartening to see small farmers struggle for livelihood and existence in the village. She witnessed them borrowing money to buy costly life-threatening chemical fertilizers and pesticides to get more yield, without knowing the harmful effects of it on the land and on their health. Though most of the resources to raise a crop is born by the poor farmers, majority of the profits are pocketed by the traders and middlemen who buy their produce at much lower prices.

Many farmers developed respiratory problems due to inhaling pesticides. The soil has become hard which does not allow water to percolate causing stagnation and floods. And many have abandoned their land which became non-productive due to consistent use of heavy chemicals. And despite toiling day and night they are caught in the debt trap to meet the expensive demands of chemical farming.

A vicious cycle, they cannot find ways to come out from. That was when Sanjeeta realized the kind of hardship the farmers go through in India. She wanted to do something to make their lives better by setting an example of how easy and profitable natural farming could be for them, beneficial for the land and the consumers.

Sanjeeta sought help from a few experts in the field of natural faming and took the plunge into watermelon cultivation as our first produce. And soon, they were on the field tilling, sowing, watering and weeding.

The initial days of convincing the farmers, to understand the ways of natural farming were very difficult. Every evening Sanjeeta would invite some of them at their farm and explain them the benefits of growing poison-free food, low-cost of cultivation, uses of natural pesticides and fertilizers and to make farming a profitable business model.

Her care taker has 6 cows and she had a liberal supply of cow dung and cow urine throughout the cultivation period, to be used as fertilizer. Roughly ground green chilly, garlic and ginger mix was used as natural pesticide for the crop.

The entire village was surprised to see the dark green foliage with long and much spongier leaves bearing fruits weighing more than their size. Each fruit weighed nearly 4 times heavier than the chemically grown watermelons.

After the wait of 70 days, the first fruit was cut opened to check the outcome in front of anxious onlookers at the farm. The intense red coloured flesh brought in a huge smile on every face, and the extremely juicy and sweet taste of the fruit made everyone’s jaw drop.

“We can’t believe you can grow something like this without chemicals. Thanks for giving us hope. This (natural farming) looks exciting.” One of the onlookers (farmers) exclaimed in delight!

Sanjeeta’s small initiative has already created a good amount of interest among the farmers of their village.

A small dream and tiny step to motivate local farmers switch to chemical-free farming has given confidence & high hopes to the entire village.

And thanks to many friends and experts from the world of natural farming, all of the 24 tons of natural watermelons were completely sold-out within few days. Sanjeeta see’s the success of her natural watermelon farming as a stepping stone to encourage farmers in her village.

Now OGMO has become more than just a business project, it has become a full scale life mission for Sanjeeta.

For Sanjeeta the most rewarding was working as farmer & when people appreciate the natural produce they bring to market.

What started as a small experiment has now become a full scale life mission for Sanjeeta a mission to educate local farmers about the benefits of natural farming and to make it a profitable business model again.

As the COVID-19 sweeps across the world, the food industry is experiencing a shift in consumer preferences.

The two major influences being – WFH and stockpiling, which could change the way ‘what we eat’ and ‘how we eat’.

The current pandemic offers a unique opportunity to rewire our future food system and to make agriculture more sustainable, which will in turn can boost healthy production to meet the growing demand for high-value food products.

People want comfort food with clean label & local ingredients and also want to eat their way to stronger immune system. And agriculture is our only savior. Yes, it’s time to repair the cracks.