Farmers’ markets

Organic farming is all about not using pesticides and other chemicals to kill invading insects and to increase farming yields.

The move towards organic farming has taken off worldwide, but although it is well established in most western countries it has been slow in evolving in most parts of South East Asia.

This has been due to a number of factors including the hard work needed to control pests naturally, without the ease of using chemicals, plus other farming issues, such as the food industry not being able to deal with small farmers because of a long distribution chain and the fact that most of the profits go to the wholesaler and retailer and not the farmer.

Also, the health benefits for both farmers producing the food and the consumer from eating organic are not well known in most areas.

In Bali, where you would imagine organic farming was already well established due to the way the Balinese have preserved their culture and traditions, farmers, as so many others around the world, are still using chemical fetilisers on their rice fields and other crops despite the yearly costs and the fact that they need more chemicals to produce a certain amount of harvest each year.

It has to be said, in recent years with help and education from local NGO’s, farmers have been reducing the amount of agro-chemicals they use and instead have been using more organic fertislisers and natural pest control agents to increase their yields.

Slowly farmers are getting the message that organic farming is the way forward and many are returning to traditional farming methods that are not reliant on man made chemicals.

As farmers move towards organic systems they have come to realise the need to organize themselves and that working together to share the burden and profits is more beneficial to them than before when they worked alone.

However, whilst many farmers have switched to organic farming, marketing their produce has been a problem for most of them.

As a way of addressing this problem, one group of eleven small organic farmers got together and decided to set up an organic farmers’ cooperative and a weekly farmers’ market.

The farmers’ market is in Ubud where they sell their produce direct to buyers and educate people about the health benefits of eating organic and supporting small local businesses, which they see as benefiting the whole community.

The market is held every Saturday morning in Pengasekan, just outside Ubud on a terrace provided free of charge by Pizza Bagus, who support the goals of Bali’s chemical-free farmers.

The small cost to farmers of the equivalent of 2 US Dollars a week covers the group’s overheads and provides a much needed outlet to sell their produce.

From 9:30 to 2pm you will see an abundance of fresh organic produce to buy, which includes vegetables, salads, herbs, local fruits, rice, soy milk, eggs, jams, virgin coconut oil, honey, bread and other homemade baked goods, essential oils and natural skin creams.

The market is so popular that locals, ex-pats and tourists queue to buy the fresh organic produce and even people from places such as Kuta, an hours drive away, travel to buy from this market.

While farmers and customers have been “going organic” the Indonesian government has no national policy, so farmers have been developing their own local policies, which include having a strict policy on the quality of foods sold at these markets.

Meanwhile, the government is taking a pragmatic approach by setting up standards and a certification board. However, small farmers are unable to afford such certification, so farmers’ markets are a way forward for most and consumers can go and see for themselves whether what they are selling is organic or not.