BBC Good Food’s July issue features a 2 page spread on Wingreens!

Is it possible to do social good, protect the environment and make a profit in agriculture? Anju Srivastava of Wingreens proves you can.

As told to Puja Ganguli. Photographs: Anil Chawla

Wingreens in BBC Good Food(3)

I had a career in advertising for over 25 years before I started Wingreens Farms five years ago in the heart of Haryana. Essentially, I set out to prove that by enriching farmers and the land around us, an organisation can grow faster, bigger and much richer.

We rent land from local farmers at twice their produce income. This way we are able to breakthrough decades of resistance to moving from traditional crops (like wheat and mustard) to new crops such as basil, lemongrass, peppermint, oregano and lettuce. We then invite the farmers and their families to work with us, which further enhances their income.

In summer, we grow oregano, thyme, marjoram, Italian basil, sweet Asian basil, lemon basil, camphor basil, sacred basil, peppermint, mint, lemongrass, peanuts and chickpeas. In winter we grow lettuce, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale, broccoli, celery, parsley, dill, roses, spinach and garlic. We also sell potted plants for home and kitchen gardens.

We grow microgreens of almost any herb or vegetable in season, of which wheatgrass is the most popular. Microgreens are young seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs harvested less than 14 days after germination. They are usually about 1-3 inches long and pack in more flavour, and more nutrients than the entire plant.

We grow produce using a mix of microbial cultures and other methods that restore the ecological balance of the soil, naturally negating the use of pesticides and chemicals, and hugely increasing productivity. An emphasis on water harvesting and drip irrigation has helped us reverse environmental degradation and enhance the farmers’ profitability. In fact, we save over 2,50,000 litres of water per acre annually by using efficient irrigation systems, and grow only water-conserving crops in areas with water shortage.

How ethical is Wingreens? Wingreens received organic certification for their wheatgrass, sprouts and microgreens around a year and a half ago. According to Anju Srivastava, the initiative was started with a focus on sustainable agriculture, not organic produce. However, the scientific methods they adopted to grow their produce resulted in them becoming an organic practice by default.

Innovation is the heartbeat of Wingreens and new products are launched every season. Two-and-a- half years ago, we had a farm laden with fine basil. The mandi vendors offered us a next-to-nothing price for it, so we decided to make pesto. We took the mixer-grinder to the supermarket and started making pesto in the store. There was no fresh dip available on shelves then. Today, apart from pesto, we specialise in condiments such as salsa, dill tzatziki and hummus as well as infused oils. We sell around three tons of dip every month and the demand continues to grow.

So far, we have developed growing practices for over a 100 different herbs, vegetables and flowers. This year we are hoping our herb teas take off. Freshly grown and dried lemongrass, peppermint, basil, rose petals, chamomile and hibiscus mixed with green tea will be retailed at stores, not mandis. We plan to work with farmers in other geographies soon.

Wingreens is not just an agricultural initiative, it is also a social one, with a focus on women’s empowerment. We were a women-oriented enterprise from day one: the “WIN” in Wingreens Farms stands for ‘Women’s Initiative Network’. The rural women we employ – who have mostly never been to school – today receive training at the Wingreens Farms Training Institute about food safety, food hygiene, food preservation and processing along with communication skills. We also sponsor the education of their children.

Wingreens retails in most Nature’s Basket, Spencer’s and Modern Bazaar stores in New Delhi. Free delivery anywhere in India for orders over Rs.800. Visit wingreensfarms.com for details.

The Dream…

“A few years ago in the heart of Haryana, a dream was sown. A dream to turn around the destiny of local farmers and landless women labor through innovation in agriculture and marketing. All our products are a befitting symbol of this endeavour. Their flavour enriched by the love of the people who grow them. Their purity further enhanced by their hopes and blessed by their gratitude. For them, these are not merely products…They are their lives… their fortune…and they are delighted to share them with you. We’d like to thank you for helping us make this dream come true.”

This man asked for ketchup…you can’t imagine what happened next!!!

Fresh Wingreens Tomato Salsa

A man, not a rich man but a poor man, walks in to a restaurant and sits down. Let’s call him Mr. Man. All the servers seem confused and contemplated executing the ‘right to refuse service’ law. However Mr. Man, after incessantly taking care of his few belongings, calls upon a waiter and asks for a plate of fries. The waiter reluctantly brings it to him, and Mr. Man proceeds to raise a request, “Can I have some ketchup to go with this?” A look of shock and awe ensues upon this waiter. Dumbfounded as he was, he says, “I’ll be right back sir” and walks over to the back office. Mr. Man, now more confused than ever, is soon greeted by the manager of the restaurant who says, “I’m sorry sir, but I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave”. Mr Man begs the obvious question, “Why? I may be poor but I have money to pay for this I assure you”. The manager, now more stern than before, “Sir, you must leave this restaurant immediately. We don’t serve your kind here.” Mr. Man feels subjected to the superiority complex of this snooty manager and his classist waiters, and leaves. 

The manager walks back in to his office and calls an emergency staff meeting. All waiters, bus boys and janitors proceed to go in to the office with a stench of nervousness lingering over them. The manager is silent for some time, and then begins to tell everyone, “Whoever forgot to put up the ‘SALSA ONLY’ sign is fired!”

 

We make our products the natural way.WE GROW THEM