Abu Dhabi farmers' market

Local Harvest is intent on bringing fresh locally grown produce to you Discuss this article

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A new brand grouping the best in local produce and products is hoping to establish a presence in the market. Launched in December 2012, Local Harvest promises customers healthier and longer-lasting options and aims to become the prime choice for grocery shoppers.

The Abu Dhabi Farmer’s Service Centre (ADFSC) is behind Local Harvest and in our quest to learn more about the brand and what it represents, we met with ADFSC CEO Christopher Hirst.

Any Abu Dhabi resident who does their own shopping knows the trials and tribulations of buying fresh produce. In addition to wrestling others for the ripest pieces of fruit, you often have to sift through piles of damaged products to find a few worth taking home. Alternatively, you can purchase items flown in from far away corners of the Earth; however the atrocious prices never guarantee flavour or longevity. ‘This will be one of the key advantages of buying our products,’ Christopher tells us. ‘Because the brand represents items that are grown locally, then you are guaranteed a longer shelf life, as well as more freshness.’

The Local Harvest logo consists simply of two leaves, however buying products with this seal implies that you are purchasing the best batch of items in that family. Christopher shows us a chart that is used to classify vegetables. ‘In a pile of cucumbers at the grocery store, you will often find a wide variety grouped together. We use a special classifying system to determine the best cucumbers according to this chart.’ All farmers are trained to classify their produce according to this system; the result being that the seal signifies a superior standard to be found among all kinds of products. ‘People might be unaware of this,’ Christopher adds, ‘but there are in fact around 80 kinds of vegetables grown locally, however availability does depend on the seasons.’

Where can you find these products? ‘There are several large chains of stores that have been very supportive in purchasing these items from us,’ Christopher says. Brands such as Carrefour, Spinneys, Geant and Lulu Hypermarket are currently offering these products in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Additionally, the ADFSC operates 15 outlets called Souq in the city, which sell only local products. In addition to produce, there are also meat and dairy items, as well as honey, dates and more. The main Souq supermarket is located in the Mina area of the city, near the fruit and vegetable market.

At the moment, not all the items stocked on the shelves indicate their origin. While there are some prepackaged goods bearing the Local Harvest seal, many of the items are bought in bulk by stores and simply sold in piles. ‘This is currently one of the issues we are working on; basically we have some initiatives planned in the coming months to raise the brand’s visibility in the market, as well as help consumers identify with it as a reliable choice.’ Although it is not always visible, one way of ensuring that you are buying this product is simply to ask your retailer.

An additional service that the ADFSC is currently undertaking is making the fresh products available to mass caterers. They are targeting local schools, businesses and organisations, and using an online ordering mode, are delivering specific products to various customers once a week. ‘The reason we do this for groups as opposed to individuals,’ explains Christopher, ‘is that it wouldn’t make financial sense to deliver orders to single individuals. By catering to groups, we are ensuring that we keep our costs to a minimum, while maximising profit to the farmers and suppliers.’

The ADFSC has been working with local farmers over the past two years. During that time, the nonprofit government organisation has assisted local farmers in improving techniques to better accommodate sustainable farming, as well as establish a stronger presence in the local market. ‘Our ultimate goal is to assist these farmers in preserving and benefiting from their industry.’ By opting to buy local products, you are not only acquiring fresher products, but also assisting a local business become sustainable.
To learn more about the ADFSC, visit www.adfsc.ae (02 813 8888).

By Sara Taher
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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