Himalayan Haat - An Accidental Farmer's Farm-to-Bottle Biz
Hello green folks! Today, I’m chatting with Divya Chowfin, the founder of a #greenbiz, Himalayan Haat – a farm to bottle enterprise, where they “use the naturally grown produce from the farm to create homemade and preservative-free preserves, coolers, seasoning salts and herbal infusions”. A niche, handmade green business that also provides employment to the women of that region and carries on the legacy of living green that Divya’s father infused through his conservation and farming work. Let’s dive into our tete-a-tete, and I hope that this will motivate you to embrace a #greenlifestyle or start a #greenbusiness.
C. Tell us more about yourself & where you’re based, your green business and how & when you started.
D. I moved back to run my parents’ farm in the mountains of Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, after living in Delhi for over decade. My late father was a farmer and forest conservationist who spent most of his life farming and planting a forest, fruit orchards and herbal gardens. I am privileged to be able to continue his legacy. Today, because of him, we live on a beautiful farm, surrounded by thick forests that we protect fiercely. We practice chemical-free jungle farming, where we farm in between wild trees and share what we grow with deer, birds and wild boar!
At Himalayan Haat, we use the naturally grown produce from the farm to create homemade and preservative-free preserves, coolers, seasoning salts and herbal infusions. These are all made by hand in small batches in our farm kitchen. More importantly, we employ and train women from neighboring villages to harvest, chop, grind and package all our stuff.
C. Why do you do what you do?
D. Leaving Delhi to return to the mountains of my childhood years was the best decision that my husband and I have made. We are able to live in nature’s lap, while creating income opportunities for the local community. We grow our own food, collect our drinking water from a perennial spring, rear chickens for eggs, bake our own bread and whip up butter and peanut butter from scratch. We are responsible for our own trash, which means we try and avoid packaged goods and recycle as much as possible. The Himalayan Haat ladies use washable cloth headscarves instead of disposable caps. Living here has made us more environment-conscious than ever before. Our brand, Himalayan Haat, reflects our philosophy of clean living and eating.
C. What kind of products or services can one source from your brand – please tell us about your offerings (whether this is a product or educational package or a service)?
D. We make a range of seasonal preserves, coolers (juice concentrates and syrups), sauces, seasoning salts and herbal infusions.
C. What is the price range and are these available through exhibitions or even online?
D. The products range from 150 to 350/-. These can be ordered on our website www.himalayanhaat.org in Delhi/NCR, or www.placeoforigin.in and www.qtrove.com for shipping across India. A couple of stores across different cities also stock our products. We also participate in some exhibitions such as the annual Women of India organic festival in DilliHaat and the Rajpur Nature Festival in Dehradun.
C. What is your philosophy and thought process behind this venture (i.e.is this a self-help venture or a social enterprise etc)?
D. I started Himalayan Haat with a vision to empower the local community, especially the womenfolk. The mountains are plagued with alcoholism and the ladies here battle to keep their kitchen fires burning. In addition to employment, we educate the women about respecting the environment and the forests that they rely so heavily upon.
Secondly, we want to use nature’s bounty to create wholesome, high-quality and preservative-free goodies that we can share with others.
C. Which products are your favorites and why?
D. This is a hard one. I love our strawberry range, especially the Chunky Strawberry Preserve. It is loaded with strawberries and has minimal sugar – and of course, with no preservatives, thickeners or colors. Strawberry is regarded as one of the most pesticide-laden fruit out there. Ours are completely chemical-free, and that makes it all the more special! I also enjoy the refreshing herbal infusions, such as the Lemongrass-Chamomile Infusion, that are loaded with health benefits.
C. How do you think using green products impacts a person’s lifestyle and the planet’s wellbeing?
D. Harmful chemicals and artificial products have infiltrated what we eat and drink, what we use on our bodies, and what we use in our homes. When we buy and use #greenproducts, we not only do our own bodies and our environment a favor but also encourage the production of such products. I also think that this is about an attitude change. Once we understand how our consumption patterns affect our surroundings, it is easier to make the transition to green products.
C. What has been your challenges in growing a green/social biz?
D. Changing age-old mindsets can be a big challenge. For example, villages have relied on forests for wood and fodder for decades. However, there are more people and limited resources today. Forests are depleting and water sources are drying up. In fact, forest fires are often caused by villagers so that the monsoon brings lush green grass for their cattle. Keeping our forest protected is one of the biggest challenges we face here.
In addition, our remote location means that stuff isn’t easily available. For example, we need to source and transport bottles, labels and packaging material from Delhi.
C. What tips would you offer someone who wants to start a green business?
D. I’d say go for it! There is a growing appreciation and need for local producers making wholesome, good stuff. Don’t compromise on the quality and ingredients – even if it means not scaling up as quickly as you want to! Lastly, authenticity is key. I feel that my own lifestyle needs to reflect my brand’s vision.
C. Please share any links through which people can find out about your products.
D. You can get more details about us, our vision and our products on our website www.himalayanhaat.org .
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