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Have you ever felt lost in the concrete jungle that is Mumbai, devoid of any real greenery and wondered when things will change? Well, it all starts at a personal level, as they say, and Fresh & Local helps you achieve just that. An initiative by Adrienne Thadani, Fresh & Local helps create edible landscapes in urban areas by making gardening easy and accessible.

The initiative has grown from strength to strength in the past half a decade or so, and we sat down with Thadani to learn more about her efforts to make Mumbai a greener, healthier city.

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IB: The term “urban farming” or “urban gardening” might seem alien to many. Could you shed a little more light on it?

Adrienne: When we started, almost everyone told us “urban farming” was, by definition, an oxymoron. We knew this wasn’t true, because right atop the growing global trends, there was a movement to know where our food comes from. Mumbai has had a network of city farmers active since at least the 80s.

To me, the first step was trying to break down people’s misconceptions of what farming looks like. In 2012, we started Flyover Farm, a community rooftop farm on Mohammad Ali Road, with the main goal of showcasing what urban farming could look like in Mumbai. The aim was to share the experience with others, which would hopefully inspire them to start growing something as well. Since Flyover Farm’s inception, it has had over 3,000 visitors. We’ve worked with several NGOs and schools in the city to teach and promote rooftop gardening as well.

We are trying to show that it’s easy to get started if you have the right information and not to be scared of messing up or a few plants dying. We are also working on a new rooftop garden that, hopefully, will appeal to people.

IB: What are the benefits of growing your own produce, or simply maintaining your own garden in an urban setting?

Adrienne: A garden can often be hard work, and requires discipline and responsibility. To me, incidentally, these are actually great reasons to have a garden! Furthermore, it’s great to be able to harvest your food when it’s fresh, because that way you to know where it comes from and what’s gone into it.

And of course, greenery, even if it covers a small window, can bring joy and life into a space. It’s great for us because it makes these dense urban environments greener, while also helping feed bees and butterflies that are losing their habitats (globally) at an incredibly rapid rate!

IB: How can someone living in a small city apartment take up urban gardening?

Adrienne: The first step is to pick the perfect place. It’s important to ensure it’s getting enough sunlight for what you want to grow, and that it’s going to be easy for you to water it.

Make sure the watering process doesn’t damage structures or belongings or even annoy your neighbours! Once that’s achieved, it’s all about getting your hands on a container — which can be almost anything that will hold the soil in and let the water drain out, really.

After that you need to pick your plants and an appropriate soil mix. Nurseries in Mumbai are improving by the minute, and thus there is more access to readymade potting mixes and herb and vegetable saplings.

IB: Do you conduct classes?

Adrienne: Yes, we conduct workshops and volunteer days at Flyover Farm. Here’s a little preview.

IB: What are Fresh & Local’s future plans?

Adrienne: Moving forward we want to upgrade Flyover Farm to address the increasing pollution and water issues.

As we grow, we hope to open our own garden centre where we can teach, showcase, R&D our products and eventually, sell a line of products that will make urban farming incredibly accessible to a wide range of city residents.

Image Credit: Fresh & Local

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