Urban Leaves India: Urban Leaves Story - The beginning

Friday 15 July 2011

Urban Leaves Story - The beginning

The Urban leaves Story

Preeti, a catering officer with Mumbai Port trust, did not stop with her job of catering for the multitudes working in BPT; she thought about the impact of the food, the waste generated and began exploring ways to deal with it. She identified the space, the terrace over the kitchen, and began experimenting with various methods of organic farming using kitchen waste. This was in 2003, through trials and error she found her urban food garden equilibrium in a combination of using Amrut mitti and  pulverized kitchen waste. Slowly the garden blossomed from a handful of drums to numerous  drums and beds with vegetable plants and trees and herbs all swaying in the sea wind, holding up against it and flowering and fruiting! As the garden grew, so did its fame and urban farming enthusiasts and others begin trooping to BPT to see this garden

Once the garden began reaching its potential Preeti also grew confident and felt a need to share this knowledge and experience with as many people as she could. She began thinking about how to take this to people, how to involve different segments of society and how to take the learning from this urban farming project and turn it into a movement. 

Along with a good friend Sabrina, who came up with the name Urban Leaves,  Preeti started thinking about forming a small urban farming group. 

Devi was involved with the urban food and sustainable agriculture movement while in the US. When she and her husband decided to move to Mumbai she contacted Preeti seeking an opportunity to volunteer at the BPT terrace farm, little knowing that outsiders could not work on the terrace farm and to just be able to visit it is the best one could do. Devi and Preeti met, first at an event at Rachna Sansad (where Preeti was giving a talk), then at the ‘Poison on the Platter’ screening, then at the Sprouts World environment day event. It is then Preeti said that she wanted to go ahead with creating a volunteer group for urban farming.

Uday, long standing friend and Vedanta teacher who Preeti relied on was always supportive of the urban farming idea and wanted Preeti to spread the word.

 Jyoti, an urban farming enthusiast, along with a few friends met Preeti, thanks to the BPT terrace farm, the word about which was spreading. The visit and a follow up thank you visit paved the way for a wonderful friendship and association and Preeti asked Jyoti if she would like to be part of Urban Leaves. Obviously the answer was a resounding yes!

What all of us had/have in common is our passion and conviction about urban farming and about agriculture which is nature friendly, capable of producing safe food and incorporating natural ways of recycling waste in the urban setting. Each of us has a pet theme, Preeti swears by Amrut Mitti , Jyoti wants to grow her food and trees, Devi wants to keep food and agriculture GMO and pesticide free and Uday believed that this all led to joy and oneness !

Finally on a not too warm April evening in  2009  , we decided to meet at Preeti’s home to finally give shape to this nebulous dream that all of us had begun carrying around- thinking and talking about! Uday, Devi, Preeti, her niece Nupur, Mr.Mohanachandran from BPT and Sunil, Preeti’s husband attended the delicious dinner-cum-meeting. Jyoti was unable to come due to some personal commitments. Across Preeti’s dining table replete with delicious food, Urban Leaves was formally born. Ideas flew across the table while everybody dipped into the yummy dessert, vision and mission discussed, plans for workshops drawn out, notes written, laughter boomed and Sunil’s cautious voice kept our feet on the ground!

We reluctantly parted late in the night with promises to meet regularly ; with our heads full of ideas ; hearts full of hope and visions of hands full of greens from terraces, balconies, yards and community gardens !
In the meantime Preeti was already in conversation with Mr Avinash Kubal Dy. Director of Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP) in Mahim, about allowing us to use a small space within the park for an urban community food garden and for conducting urban farming workshops, paving way for our community food garden and the sprouting roots and leaves for our dreams and ideas!

Today many of the dreams have turned into reality; many new friends, committed to the cause,  two community food gardens, at MNP & NNP ,  school project at AB Petiti High School, regular meetings of urban food gardeners here, greens and veggies and fruits from terraces and gardens, young and old volunteers ,  food and herb gardens grown by volunteers at home, schools and colleges coming forward to create more gardens…..and we all continue to dream and hope! 

Sreedevi Laxmi Kutty
Founder member Urban Leaves