Back to the land

FARM-TO-TABLE

Back to the land

 
While her peers, equipped with management degrees, are busy attending corporate board meetings, planning their next trip to the MNC headquarters on foreign shores,  travelling in chauffeur-driven cars and meeting clients over power lunches, Aparna Karjagi (25), CEO of Greenlife, is busy talking to small farmers in and around her native village, educating them about organic farming.  Ask her what drew her towards a job which has no weekends, no vacations and no fancy lifestyle and she replies, “This is what I have always wanted to do. It gives me great joy to give back to community.”
 
Born in a tiny village in Haveri district in Karnataka, Aparna’s ambition was to get a management degree and return to her village to work for the cause of the farming community she was born into. In 2006, she graduated with a Master’s in Business Administration, and worked as operations manager in an IT company. But her heart was in her village. So when the job offer of CEO at Greenlife, a non profit organic farmer-consumer cooperative, came her way, Aparna grabbed the opportunity.

What attracted her to Greenlife Souharda Coop was the concept of a cooperative wherein organic producers and consumers come together for mutual benefit, where ownership is shared and decisions are made democratically.

Win-win formula

As Aparna says, “It is not about making profits, but creating value for the members. Consumers are assured of the authenticity of the organic product, since the entire product cycle from seeds to final product is a transparent process in our coop and the producers, especially the small organic farmers, are assured of a fair-price market for their produce. The customer feedback system we have adopted ensures service of the highest quality for all.”

Most of the profits from the cooperative go towards educating the farmers’ children, in concurrence with Aparna’s firm belief that education is vital to the empowerment of small and marginal farmers.

Organic is the way ahead

Aparna works long hours, interacts with farmers, offers them guidance and educates them about the benefits of traditional farming practices, which she says, has always been organic by default. She ensures that Greenlife delivers quality organic produce at the consumer’s doorstep within 12 hours of the order being placed.

Greenlife offers fresh vegetables and fruits, cereals and pulses, spices, milk products, organic foods and beauty care products. The goal, as Aparna sees it, is to promote organic products, produced through sustainable agricultural practices which not only save the environment by preserving biodiversity, but also save the small marginal farmers in the long run.

“In times when economic growth is mistakenly thought to be supported only by industrialisation, small and marginal farmers end up paying the highest price, often with their lives. So it very important to provide fair prices for farmers if their presence in the agricultural market is to be maintained,” she explains.

Let’s hear it for fair trade

In today’s market scenario, with commodity prices being fixed by people other than the grower, consumers end up paying high prices and middlemen turn out to be the only beneficiaries. “A cooperative is the best solution, where the gap between the consumer and producer is neatly bridged. And of course, the benefits of consuming organic food are well known today,” she says.Aparna would like to see the cooperative movement scale great heights.

“Amul’s story is inspiring. I hope our cooperative achieves similar success, but the only way it can happen is through the strength and commitment of the members,” she says.

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