Our (failed) farmizen experience

For a couple of months we were members of farmizen, a service which I discontinued last month.

It is an app that let’s you rent out plot(s) in an organic farm for a monthly fee. You get to decide what is grown in your plot from the list of available crops, and once a week a doorstep delivery is made to your home of all that is harvested from your rented out space. The idea is that you get to appreciate what goes into farming, maybe learn a thing or two. The farm to home concept cuts the various levels of middlemen and thus the farmer gets a better deal. And you get freshest possible organic produce delivered to your doorstep.

The whole thing seemed like a great idea to me. I’ve been mildly interested in learning to grow edible plants and have a mini hobby garden in my balcony. But I signed up majorly because the condition of farmers in India is dismal to say the least. Farming is far from a lucrative profession, with news of farmer’s suicide and indebtedness always making headlines. I figured it could be a good model to try out for this reason. As for organic produce, I’m of two minds about it. The organic debate is not the point of this post, but bottom line is, I do not think organic is always better or most efficient use of resources. So that is not why I joined farmizen. The idea for me was:

  1. Get good quality fresh produce of my choice delivered to my home
  2. Pay the farmer better
  3. Learn a bit about farming and enjoy mini picnics at the farm

Three months down the line, I cancelled my subscription because I wasn’t really learning much due to time constraints. We visited the farm twice during the length of our subscription because the farm is quite far. While, the second goal was still being achieved, I wasn’t at all happy with the produce. The amount being paid per month could buy a lot more produce than we were getting, easily three times more.

But the main reason I opted out was that the whole process expects time from you. To choose what to grow, to keep a constant communication line open with the farmer (because the idea is you decide the fate of the plot and the plants in it, if you don’t pay attention it is left unattended), to visit the farm and experience the whole thing. It clicked me that the assumption here is that if we put our time and effort into this,  that somehow makes it more valuable. I think the ‘Noble effort fallacy’ is applicable here, which basically suggests that it’s fallacious to think that something must be more valuable simply because someone has put a lot of effort into it. I also realized that I had to really try and take time out to do this, and therefore it was becoming more of a chore than a hobby and consistent failure to maintain the plot was making me feel guilty.

Other problems with the concept:

  • The crops that do grow give bumper produce, for a month we got kilograms of eggplants, and only eggplants. There’s only so much one can eat. (We had 12 different beds in our plot and only 1 bed had eggplant. A few were greens, which were harvested in variable quantities, and rest of the beds weren’t yielding anything at the time).
  • The crops that don’t grow/yield are just a lot of wasted effort (farmer’s labor, resources, etc.) and it isn’t always because of weather conditions. We had a case where lettuce crop wasn’t growing properly on our plot but was growing really well two plots down the line and the farmer suspected the direction of Sun to be the culprit. This was disappointing because something like this should have been corrected by putting up necessary shades, etc.
  • Some crops like okra, bottle gourd need to be harvested twice a week or it overgrows and becomes inedible. Because the delivery is once a week, the harvesting happens once a week as well and you end up with bad crop. In hindsight, I did learn something about farming after all. 🙂
  • The quantity of greens, and everything in general cannot be gauged in advance so it sometimes results in more food wastage.
  • Maybe because they see that the harvest bag is empty, or maybe the farmers were inexperienced at farming or unaware of right time for harvesting, but I also received a lot of tiny carrots, tiny radishes which were impossible to peel and work with (I’m talking smaller and thinner than the smallest finger of my hand here).
  • Some of the produce had insect holes or was partially damaged. Maybe that’s because it’s organic. But when you pay more and receive little, and some of it is damaged too, then it’s just not a good feeling. To be fair some of the produce is excellent quality as well.
  • The App is nicely built but there are gaps. For example, the app suggests which crops would be good theoretically, but you still need to check with the farmer if you should indeed plant that i.e. is it a practical success at the farm? Often it isn’t and after a couple of weeks you’ll find that the farmer had to uproot the bad crop and the app then notifies you to choose another crop (while still showing the previous selection as an option in the list).

It’s possible that some of these points are regular occurrences in usual farms as well, and we just don’t see it when we buy from supermarket shelves. But I’m unsure if knowing all this makes one more or less likely to continue with the service. Personally, I found that farmizen isn’t the right fit for me. So I quit. I’d still like to pay the farmer better somehow. But I figure it could be done in some other, more efficient way that’s easier for me to sustain as well.

P.S. I did share most of the feedback above with farmizen folks because they asked for it. And I got a ‘thank you for writing the review’ mail back, with a suggestion to sign up for their fruits subscription instead as that might be a better fit.

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Thoughts on gods & religions

I don’t exactly remember when I stopped believing in the idea of a god because for me it was a gradual process. The inconsistencies and the questions kept piling up until one day it stopped making any sense to me. One thing that greatly helped the transition was the awareness that I’m not alone in this feeling, that there are others who feel the same way and that they call themselves atheists and agnostics. I distinctly remember the first time I heard the word agnostic and learned it’s meaning, I concluded that I was one too. Embracing atheism took a bit more time for me though, as it involved reading a few texts to get confidence and clarity.

I remember feeling fear of the unknown. Well if there’s no one above watching over me, to punish the evil and reward the good, then what is the meaning of all this? It took some time to stop searching for a divine meaning and accept the beauty of life without it. I also remember not declaring my atheism to those around me for the longest time, for the fear of being judged as morally corrupt and wrong. After all, I was a kid raised in an extremely religious society. This very stance is still offensive and/or perplexing to most people I know, especially those who are older than me. This changed once I made new friends who could say it out loud, that they do not care for religion or for god. And I could say back, ‘well, neither do I’ and experience this feeling of a load being lifted off of my chest.

Voicing this for the first time may have been difficult, but once it was out in the open, the rebel in me took over. I started taking pride in being an atheist, considering myself smarter for having figured this shit out. For a brief period of time I even crossed over the boundary to land in anti-theist space. I considered religion as the root cause of all evil in the world. I have since then come to realize that no single ideology could ever be the root cause of all that is wrong with our world, even if it is as pervasive as religion, because our world is simply too complex.

Nevertheless, religion and theism as it stands today is powerful. Powerful enough, that it makes some of us who do not subscribe to the popular opinion hide ourselves, feel guilty or wrong or threatened, simply because we do not believe in the same stories as the rest of our race. In part, the moral superiority that some very vocal anti-theists display is also a rebellious reaction for making them feel this way.

I do understand the appeal of religion however, and my intention with this post is not to strike a debate on existence of god or the relevance of religions, but to simply document the evolution of my (non) beliefs. In any case, the debate on existence of god isn’t interesting anymore, at least not from where I stand. What’s interesting is if religion can indeed be done away with? And what comes after religion? I find this short video has captured this quite well.

As for the idea of a personal god minus all the religious superstitions, or something like spirituality, I tried to explore that too for a brief amount of time, when I was still not quite ready to let go of god completely. While some parts of it are worthy, such as self reflection, practicing kindness and love, meditation etc. It is nothing than a good self-help text can’t offer and I fail to see why all the nice parts of religions or spirituality cannot simply be cherry-picked without surrendering oneself to the supernatural or having unconditional and unquestionable faith in some guru. Why does all guidance have to percolate through some centuries old textbooks or some supposedly enlightened soul? Maybe I have a commitment issue here, but I want to understand at least a few different schools of thought before making up my mind.

Moreover, it’s alright if something doesn’t have an explanation right now. Doesn’t mean we treat it as an act of god and close the chapter. It’s okay to not know a few things. It simply means there’s more to learn and more to discover. So that’s where I focus my energies now, on learning, reading and incorporating scientific inquiry in my life. Personally, it has been liberating to let go of all gods and religions from my life and I’m leading a guilt free and happier life because of it. I don’t ever see myself going back.

Story of my stuff

This environment day I want to make a case for re-using old stuff.

  • Globally, our collective consumption patterns are creating a huge amount of waste. It makes sense then to re-use whatever can still be used.
  • It if often cheaper to get something repaired or buy something second hand.
  • It requires somewhat higher effort to sell something used but donating something isn’t all that difficult compared to just throwing stuff away which is in usable condition.
  • Thrift shop finds can be classic, one of a kind pieces at extremely low prices.

Over the years I have bought, used and loved second hand items be it books from the streets of Daryaganj in Delhi, inscribed plate from a pop up market in Stuttgart, tea cups from a charity sale in Bangalore or my mother’s old clothes from her closet… to name just a few. We started our balcony garden from plants and pots given away by friends who were switching cities, and we still remember them fondly for it.

We got pre-loved clothes, baby carrier, toys, swing and what not when our kid was born and are passing it on or selling it forward as & when kid outgrows these things, which is every alternate month. We sell everything that is unused around the house or we don’t need anymore through one or the other online services. I have bought a couple of old tee shirts from street markets and regularly give away my used clothes to someone they’ll fit better or to a charitable organisation. And I have taken a pledge to not buy any expensive wedding clothes from now on but to rent them instead.  For the longest time we avoided getting a car but recently when we decided we do need one, we went ahead and bought a friend’s old car.

Because money is ample and exciting products just a click away, it’s easier to not think twice before making that shiny new purchase. But I urge you to take a moment and see if you can re-use instead. Ultimately, it’s just stuff and nobody cares how we got hold of it. And if they do, it’s their problem. There’s absolutely no shame in re-using things as far as possible whatever be your purchasing power, in fact it can be pretty cool and has the potential to become a fond memory. 🙂

 

Worst things about living with a baby

  • No matter how careful you think you are, know this: you will be peed on, pooped on and puked on. And that’s not even the worst part, that’s just the bad part. The worst part is that you will be okay with it. You will even laugh at this like it’s some sort of a joke.
  • Continuation with the point above, if you hated laundry day before know that every day is laundry day with a baby.
  • They will become the number one item on your priority list.
  • All your other relationships will take a backseat.
  • You are going to become that person who cries happy tears. If you were already that person, then prepare for the feeling to intensify a gazillion times.
  • The sleep deprivation is so real. You will feel like a zombie the first few weeks.
  • Sometimes babies cry for no reason. You can’t really fix it except keep trying to soothe them.
  • Prepare to be judged. By friends, family and complete strangers too.

Having a baby is like having a piece of your heart outside of your body. You can only protect them so much. Brace yourself for heartache.

P.S. Here’s my list of best things about living with a baby.

A little story on social conditioning

My partner is a creative cook. Kitchen truly is his lab and oh boy he likes to experiment. He’s always there trying out some new recipe he found on the internet involving some weird ingredient (often makes me wonder what the hell was he searching for that landed him there). And he’s also messy and careless (at least from where I stand) which can be a cause of irritation for me.

Now, I like to eat. And I’m fairly experimental in trying out new things too. But not when I’m hungry and this new recipe requires 50 mins prep time and mixes stuff that I know in my heart should not be mixed together. I don’t want to be disappointed you see. But not him. He’s disappointed if we ate the same dish twice in a week even if it tasted great both times.

One evening years ago when we had just started living together we were having this usual fight: him trying to make something new & me convincing him we are better off eating something which we already know how to make and can be made quickly. Along the course of this heated argument, I remember being fed up and saying something like “Leave my kitchen. You are not helping at all. From now on I’ll handle cooking alone.”

He simply replied, “This is not your kitchen. It is our kitchen.”

And that really made me pause. Kitchen was not my department alone and he wasn’t there to help me out and be my sidekick. He was there to cook the food he wanted to eat, just like me. And not only did he win this argument, with one little statement he managed to break my social conditioning too. Growing up, I had never seen men in my family cook food, let alone consider the kitchen as theirs. Most men in my family hardly ever take their dirty dishes to the sink, let alone clean the vessels. Somewhere inside I still felt like the kitchen is primarily my responsibility and I felt irritated that he wasn’t following my rules in my domain of work. All of this when I do not even like cooking everyday!

Of course all of that is behind us now. We have a little system in place where he usually picks out the recipe based on what we both are in the mood for eating, and we both cook it together in our kitchen. 🙂

 

Best things about living with a baby

  • Can sniff their heads whenever you want. Oh that delicious baby smell!
  • You can watch them smile in their sleep and feel your heart melt away.
  • Loads and loads of cuddles. ❤
  • You can have those brief moments of intense eye contact and wonder about what they are wondering about.
  • Sometimes they wake up all confused about their surroundings and then they see you. The change of expression on their faces, the instant relief and laughter, the pure joy they show because you exist around them in that moment.. This stuff is to die for!
  • Tiny baby feet and fingers. Tiny baby clothes. Tiny everything!
  • Watching that baby tummy go up and down as they breathe during their ever so peaceful sleep.
  • When they gently clutch your finger or pull your clothing.

There’s an endless list of ‘firsts’ with a baby. Every little human behaviour which is so routine for us is a whole new experience with them. Something about watching a tiny human struggle and then finally succeed in doing a mundane thing such as roll over is exhilarating. Babies are magic!

 

P.S. Here’s my list of worst things about living with a baby.

My privilege

I am a privileged human being in a lot of ways.

  • I had the opportunity to get educated from one of the finest institutions in India. I got the chance to be able to do it. Roughly 7% of population in the world is college educated.
  • Getting good education does not always correspond to getting a good job, but in most cases it does. I’m no different. My pay should put me in top 10% of the world population economically & top 5% in India easily. It might even be better than that.
  • I can read, write and speak in English fluently. Something only ~10% of Indian population can do. But this percentage is likely to improve a lot in coming years. It’s so important because it makes knowledge accessible.
  • I have a loving family. I had a happy childhood. And I have amazing friends.
  • I have never been poor, never seen poverty, never slept hungry.
  • Living in India in my economic class means access to cheap labour in abundance. At various points in my life I have had the pleasure of employing people to do just about anything for me, from watering my plants to ironing my clothes to applying oil in my hair and giving me head massages.
  • My partner and I split house work and share the load equally. I couldn’t find the exact stats on it, but a number of articles suggest this is not the norm in most homes.
  • I have a healthy body and a healthy mind. I haven’t been gravely injured or suffered a traumatic experience in my life.
  • Even though I’m an atheist, I was born into the dominant religion, Hinduism.  That too upper caste.
  • I’m heterosexual.

These are just few of my privileges which I got either by the accident of my birth or through pure luck, both things being entirely out of my control. I find it important to keep a track of my privilege, it helps with the attitude.

Also makes me wonder if I’m using my privilege well and what would be good ways in which to use it. 🙂