Primarily, our products are certified by Control Union Certifications and that guarantees the integrity of the product. CUC is an international certification body. Certification is issued only after an audit by the CUC where they take soil, leaf, and product and water samples, inspect the processes, systems, guidelines and checklists in place. All these samples are sent to an offshore laboratory for testing to see whether there are any residual traces, heavy metals and other chemicals. Certification is a process which can take up to 3 years depending on a particular property having used chemicals before weaning themselves out of it. For certification to be issued CUC establishes that the soils and all the other components of the production system are rid of harmful artificial substances, including any residual materials. Even if a property has completely stopped using any kind of harmful substances, traces of residue continue to be in the soil and plant leaf matter up to a period of one and a half to two years. The certification body generally takes a 3 year period for conversion before they completely certify that a property is free of any harmful substances.
As a secondary measure we also employ the Good Market Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) certification. In a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), producers and consumers volunteer their time to develop standards and systems, inspect farms, and ensure that products are organic. The goal is to keep costs down and make organic food more accessible and affordable. PGS can also serve as a stepping-stone for small-scale farmers and make it easier for them to get export-level certification in the future. The Good Market Organic PGS standards are based on the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Norms for Organic Production and Processing.
As a third step in our commitment to encourage small holder farmers to embrace organic methods of cultivation we offer the Saaraketha internal standard of guarantee for organic cultivation and processing. This is another inexpensive method to encourage those who are beginning their journey of transition to be certified organic producers; this is a process where internal Saaraketha compliance auditors inspect farms, implement guidelines to ensure the compliance standards required for certification are in place and prepare farmers and farms for subsequent third party certification. The Saaraketha Organic standards are based on the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Norms for Organic Production and Processing.
Sustainable grown food is food that is grown in an ecologically and ethically responsible manner. Sustainable food doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Put simply, it is food which is grown and prepared with as little impact on the environment as possible, for a fair price, and which makes a positive contribution to our local economy, the environment and most importantly your health.
It Promotes Personal Health
Sustainable farming focuses on raising food that is healthy for consumers. Industrially raised food is grown with many pesticides and chemicals and is processed with additives and preservatives. These toxins have been linked to a range of diseases and disorders including infertility and birth defects, and can potentially create damage to the nervous system and cause cancer. The cost to your health is incalculable - would you rather pay a hospital bill vs a few extra rupees spent on eating food which will help keep you away from hospital? Next time you go out grocery shopping count the hidden cost to your health and the health of your children.
It Tastes Good!
An added benefit of eating sustainably is that sustainably-raised food simply tastes better. Not so long ago, herbs and spices and sugar were used to enhance the flavor in our food. But in recent decades our taste buds have been corrupted through the use of cheap chemicals, salt and sugar to fill that role. We've forgotten how wonderfully delicious fresh food tastes as we've become acclimated to food that's polluted with preservatives. The more you try it, the more you'll learn that sustainable, local food just tastes better.
It Promotes Public Health
By supporting sustainable producers, you are promoting farming practices that do not endanger public health. Antibiotics are widely used in industrial livestock production, and there is a large body of evidence indicating that this excessive use is leading to antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs that threaten public health. Sri Lankan farmers are heavily reliant on subsidized fertilizer and the result? Polluted water ways, lost soil fertility, threatened eco systems, chemical laden fish and produce. Chemicals in our Vegetables and Fruits, arsenic in our rice, the water we drink. Remember we have to clean what we pollute - count the cost of public funds spent and the drain on the taxpayers wallet. Wherever unsustainable practice thrives it is a cost to public health. Think about it - These are all created in one eco-system and how we contribute, what we take from the earth to build our house, to the food we eat, to how we move around - everything is linked. These are simple reasons you should consider being sustainable.
It Supports Livelihoods and Entrepreneurship
Creating Dignified Vocations. By eating sustainably, you're supporting a true Sri Lankan tradition - the small, independent family farmer. Family farmers are being forced out of business at an alarming rate despite 70% of our population being known for agricultural practices. Choosing Sustainable means you encourage the creation of Sustainable farms which are an integral part of the local economy, creating new jobs and investments in the community.
It Helps Protect the Environment
Sustainable agriculture produces food that does not harm the environment. Industrial crop farming, including crops used for animal feed, are dependent on chemical fertilizers known to cause long-term depletion of organic matter, soil compaction and degradation of overall soil quality. Monocropping, using land for growing only one type of crop, not only reduces the genetic diversity of plants, but also makes plants more susceptible to disease, creating the potential for pests to easily destroy an entire crop. Industrial agriculture also consumes large quantities of fossil fuels due to the heavy use of synthetic fertilizer.
Our farmers are from all parts of Sri Lanka. We have upcountry farmers low country farmers we have rice farmers, spice farmers, vegetable and fruit farmers. There are 2 categories of farmers we have landed proprietors who have larger tracks of land 20 30 acres who are proprietary farmers who we have strategic partnerships with to grow dedicated products for us. They form a bulk of our supply chain, because for supply chain reliability and consistency we need to have volume and people who understand this.
We also work with smallholder groups which are clusters of individual farmers through another agency on the ground who manages these clusters. This process with smallholder farmers is far more challenging because you are trying to consolidate product, trying to manage 40 different individuals.
Reliability of the supply chain, consistency, quality all of these can have certain imbalances. In keeping with our philosophy we keep growing that network but to ensure practical volumes we also have proprietary farmers who work with us.
This is the most challenging part of our operation. We have a very limited supply of High grown products because 95 or 98% of high grown products are heavily chemically induced. This is why we have a challenge with our high grown ranges. We continue to expand that range, we are going with a salad supplier, cabbage very limited supplier. Most of them proprietary farmers because traditionally all high grown products are heavily chemically induced. So Yes they are organic in our case, and Yes the sources we buy from are certified organic but that is the most challenging part for us.
Because there are stringent participatory guarantee systems in place. There are audits and control mechanisms in place and there is third party inspection through the certification body that happens. And we have made it rewarding for them. It's more than policing them, we have made them realize it is actually rewarding, because we pay them a premium as opposed to conventional product and we also have a method of testing these products. In our initial journey we tested the products through the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) (www.iti.lk) to ensure our farmers don't step out of line. It was used as a deterrent measure so they know their products are tested.
It's a process of trust where we've created a community of people who understand and value sustainable practices and are being rewarded for it. So we have built and nurtured that trust and we tell them it's about them also contributing to uphold that trust.
No matter what control mechanisms you put in place there can be loopholes but it is the philosophy of trust that works for us. The trust our customer places in us and the trust we carry through to our farmers.
Sustainable farmers leverage organic methods of Pest control alternatives and homemade remedies which include concoctions of neem Seed and various other herbs. They cross cultivate and engage in inter-cropping. Some farmer clusters even resort to certain traditional Kem Methods. For the Heirloom Rice cultivations they use neem, Ash and some use fly paper which is a natural resin gum which is strapped to strategic points for trapping pest. There is no 100% guarantee but it is the only method farmers use. This is also why organic products are not perfect. It doesn't look visually uniform or perfect. They might look cosmetically imperfect but they are far more superior in their nutritional content. Their flaws are due to their exposure to the elements of nature. But they might not look as beautiful as their chemical sprayed counterparts.
The manure used for all our products is all organic manure. Compost, and rock phosphate are things the farmers use. Most of the manure is bio nutrients, they use green materials for nitrogen fixation, green leaves like gliricidia. They also use a whole range of concoctions that can keep insects away and keep termites away. They use it with organic inputs and compost which have to adhere to certification which does not allow the use of dung from hormone fed animals to be used as manure. The source of the dung has to be identified and it has to be kept mixed with other green materials until it properly turns into compost. It is all part of the certification process.
Farmers also do something called Vermi Compost where they use worm culture using Earthworms which are bred in a compost material such as a barrel with a tap at the end. The barrel is filled with compost material to breed worms who produce a highly nutrient enriched fluid that is the best manure for their crops. If you look at highly polluted pesticide-laden soil earthworms do not thrive in such soil. Earthworms thrive in clean chemical free soil as well as all the micro organisms in the environment that all contribute to soil health and overall fertility which is key to sustainable farming. Chemical Fertilizers kill all these organisms and leave the soil clinically supported like a patient on a drip with no natural mechanisms to support them.
This is a good question. You go out to buy organic and feel like you've spent a lot of money of fruits and vegetables don't you? And you wonder if it's worth spending so much for food. It's tempting to take the easy route and go buy non-organic foodstuff when "Money" is a factor. But first take a look at your family's medical bill and then your diet. If you continue to eat poor cheap unnatural and processed food you will still pay a higher cost than if you ate right in the first place. Food IS healthcare while medicine is Sickcare.
We are more expensive than our competitors because we are certified organic. We pay our farmers a premium. We give you a clean, sorted, graded product. It is triple washed and prepared, does not need to be washed again, even the raw produce is value added for your convenience, for your safety and wellbeing. So yes it is expensive because it's a lot more labour intensive than the conventional produce and also more prone to pest attacks and have lower yields. Still want to keep buying conventional ?
No you don't. You can immediately start ordering online when you visit our Online Shop page. You will be asked to register a username and password which we urge you to keep safely and use carefully to avoid having your account compromised. However if you choose to become members of our Facebook page you get access to some cool content from recipes to health tips to sustainability related events.
Yes we can but please understand we process orders from about an average of 50 customers who each order about 15 products in one delivery cycle. When we process each order over the phone there maybe discrepancies in terms of weight, in terms of product, we may not be able to ensure 100% accuracy and verifiable information. Also please understand it places a huge burden on our little team where we would like you to use this tool we have developed for you since our frontend staff would be hard pressed to process orders if 50 or more customers call in every day.
There are two things reasons for this. In the future we are looking to change this structure. Because these are perishables and fresh produce. For example we can't specify how much a mango would be how much a papaya would be. We know our range of weight can be from 600 grams to a kilogram. You as a customer may you order 1 kilo of papaya. Nature does not produce 1 kilo papaya in uniform size which means your papaya could 900 grams or 1200 grams. So we cannot invoice you at the point of order we can only confirm your order. Because it is at the time your order is packed that we would know the real weight. Also these are perishable products and we a dependent on external suppliers and a product that you order though we have it in our availability list when it gets to us it might not be in a quality that we are not comfortable to send to you. So we would rather disappoint you with unavailability than disappoint you with bad quality which means we can't give you an invoice because at the time we pack it might not be available or the weight maybe different to your original order.
We adjust it for physical weight for availability and then your order which may have included 14 products you may end up getting 12 products and your total net weight which might have been 5 kilograms you may end up getting 5.7 kilograms. This is why we cannot invoice you immediately after you order.
In future this is also an issue for us because we never get paid when you order we only get paid when we deliver. Most often due to busy lifestyles and other factors things slip through the cracks we don't get paid for 2 or 3 weeks and it burns our cash flows. In the future what we would ideally like to do is to have a fixed system where we get you to place the order and pay for that value and then either be credited to your credit card or what value that was over invoiced we either credit to your credit card immediately online even if you don't order with us next week we can credit the amount with the right invoice coming to you on delivery.
Yes you can but ideally we would like you to use the delivery channel we have prepared for you. www.saaraketha.com/shop is a fully fledged ordering system which handles your order, provides availability of our weekly list and schedules your delivery day according to where you live.
It is designed to make life easier for you and for our small team so we can bring the freshest produce to your door with the least hassle to everyone involved.
Because you have a far better range and a greater choice of both product and categories in our Online Shop listing. There are certain products we cannot bring to the Good Market because they lie around the entire day not in ideal conditions. The Online Shop product gets harvested, sorted, packed, and gets to you straight from our pack house to preserve the peak of freshness.