It was a slow transition over a period of time that prompted Kavitha Mantha to adopt conscious food habits, so much so that she chose to turn it into her profession by building a food forest — the Baby Elephant Forest — along with her husband Ravi Mantha and subsequently established an organic eatery ‘Sage Farm Cafe’. We gain a quick access to her mind
What was that moment of awakening that prompted you to venture out in organic farming — the Baby Elephant Farm — and promoting organic food through farming as well through Safe Farm Cafe?
It was a slow transition from multiple experiences. The awareness did not dawn upon us overnight. When my husband and business partner, Ravi and I lived abroad, we used to buy our groceries from a nearby store merely because that was a convenient thing to do. Buying food from that store got replaced by something popularly known as cold food in the US that was right under our apartment. It was expensive food. Say $2 for a tomato a decade and a half back. Even when the food was expensive, that became our new convenience. When the transition happened, we got thinking about how convenience drives our choices.
Secondly, when we had our kids we became conscious. As parents, what we fed our kids was of prime importance to us. That was a strong driving force.
Thirdly, we also became aware that the health cases around the world was on a rise. Say something fatal like cancer and other ailments that we didn’t even understand, was all over the world. The diet we consume is responsible for the diseases that spring up. Eating natural became an insurance policy. We decided to invest in health instead of investing in healthcare.
Kavitha, the price of organic food is higher than the price of non-organic food. Why so?
Because the demand and supply ratio do not match. If everyone grew organic food, the price would naturally fall. Having said that, I also say that if one actually understands the economics of organic food and its benefits, one would realize it isn’t expensive. Say a thousand more rupees every month of your budget for keeping yourself healthy isn’t really expensive. There isn’t going to be negative difference in your budget.
Also, people these days possess a dislike for seasonal fruits and vegetables. They want unseasonal food, which pushes the cost up. If one eats ridge gourd in the season of ridge gourd, the price will be much lesser.
Where do you get your understanding of farming from?
I have been living a life of eating organic for more than a decade now. Nothing teaches me more than being there. Also, I am surrounded by a great team of intelligent people who understand food and farming. Thus, every day is a learning — in the kitchen, on the farm, on the job.
You are all about organic good. How do you manage when you travel? What do you eat? I am sure you don’t always get organic.
I am not a vigilante of any sorts. When I am out, I eat what is given to me. When in town, I have access to fresh, organic food that I enjoy and elsewhere as well I choose to like my food, organic or otherwise.
Are there other conscious practices you follow in life, besides eating healthy?
I do. I am a propagator of recycled and thrifted fashion. That is what I mainly wear. I have a fashionista friend who has been dressing me up for twenty years now. When she discards a piece of apparel from her wardrobe, I take it.
Apart from this, I carry my bottle for water wherever I go. I have inculcated this habit in my children as well. The house I live in is a green mud house and we have our own waste management system. We have not had the municipal come in for close to two years now. The waste goes to our farm and gets composted there.
I also feel strongly about donating blood, which is why we organize a blood donation drive every six months at the cafe.