The Outsider's Insider

A Guide to Living in Yerevan

Organic in Armenia June 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 4:45 am

After Tim’s fantastic story-telling skills….I thought that I would bore you all with basic living in Armenia info!  Sorry…but it just has to be done!

Armenians are extremely proud of the produce grown here!  It is very very common that upon meeting new Armenians, the first question that you will be asked (or maybe third or fourth, after ‘are you married’ and ‘do you have babies’—which upon giving the answer no, strangers will inquire why you don’t have any children yet) is ‘Don’t you think that our fruits and vegetables are the best in the world?’  And, they very well may be, they are truly delicious!  Every year, when I head back to the US, I know that the produce I get in the supermarket there will be a poor substitute for what I get at the shuka here (for a mere fraction of the price, though, homegrown from the garden at my parent’s place definitely matches Armenian produce).

The Prospect Shuka (Market)

Veggies...Fruit...YUM! (But, where does it come from??)

It’s very common to hear from people here that the fruits and veggies at the market are ‘organic’.  Unfortunately, I really think that this is more and more often not the case.  If you read the article located in ‘This Month’ magazine from ’09 (http://thismonth.wordpress.com/), you will find that a lot of nasty stuff could easily be leaching into the soil (DDT anyone?).  While the farmers who grow produce in the Ararat Valley may not themselves use too much in the way of pesticides (insecticides, chemicals, etc.), they really have no idea what’s really getting into their ground.  Then, there is the produce grown in greenhouses… Our well-known friend Tim Straight brought this article to my attention just the other day (hence, my decision to talk about organic in Armenia this week), http://www.ecolur.org/en/news/2010-06-07/1040/.  I think that more and more in Armenia, we really don’t know where our food is coming from, or if we do we don’t have any way of indentifying the processes used in getting us our final product.  Luckily, we have some organizations stepping up to take action and create awareness of food safety here.  Even some food production companies are sitting up and taking notice of the organic food revolution (see this article about Tamara http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=63965).  We also have an organization that is trying to regulate the organic food standard, check out ecoglobe at http://www.ecoglobe.am/.

There is an alternative in Armenia that is growing.  Green Lane is a NGO that is ‘dedicated to Armenia’s organic foods and agricultural development.’  You can order produce from Green Lane each week and have it delivered straight to your house (a feature that I love, because I’m too lazy to make it to the shuka).  Not all of their products are organic, but they let you know which ones are and which ones aren’t.  I have to mention that the prices are a little bit higher than you will find in the shuka (and of course there is no bargaining), but I think it’s worth paying a bit more to support such a great organization!  I highly recommend ordering eggs from them, they are outstanding!  It is also the only place that I have seen whole wheat flour, and last time I checked you could order tofu!   http://www.greenlane.am/

We need to look at it from the perspective that organic food production isn’t merely good for our bodies, but I think it is one of the only ways to ensure sustainability in our natural resources.  Our world is a pretty precious place, and Armenia is an incredibly beautiful country….I’d like to keep it that way!

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10 Responses to “Organic in Armenia”

  1. Kirstin Says:

    Lori, you are the best! Such an interesting article and great update on organic food in Armenia! I had heard of course a lot about the wonderful and organic vegetables and fruit here but was wondering how organic it really is. I will check out Green Lane – the prospect of tofu is so exciting!!! Thanks for this!

  2. I’m so glad that I can help!!!!

  3. Anoush Says:

    Cool info

  4. Gina Says:

    Not boring at all! This was such useful information! Thanks & keep the Outsider’s Insider’s tips & info flowing.

  5. Peich Says:

    A lot of the produce here like much of the former Soviet Union is grown locally which affirms the adage of buying local. How many of us locals have seen the old, rickety Zhiguli filled to the roof with cabbage heads?

    It’s only in the winter and early spring when I ask where those mandarins come from — usually Spain, neighboring Georgia, or Crimea.

    I like to suggest that you also keep our resident agro-dude — Fred of USDA — in mind. He knows the ins-and-outs of the agriculture, livestock business here.

    • One thing I love here…supporting local agriculture! It’s harder to do in the States, but here….that’s mainly what we have. I just want it to be protected. Even my in-laws say that the produce is not like what it was when they were younger!

      • By the way….Fred…if you are reading this (or Teresa) let me know your take on it!!!

      • Fred Says:

        Sorry, got to this late. The organic issue in Armenia is an interesting one. You will hear a lot about “ecologically pure” produce which, of course, isn’t technically organic.

        The folks at Ecoglobe and Green Lane are doing a lot to clarify the situation. Ecoglobe is able to certify products as Organic (with a capital O) according to EU or US requirements. This is good for us here, but it is also really good for producers hoping to export organic products. Meanwhile, Ecoglobe is a great source of organic locally grown products. I must add that their sweetcorn is among the best I have ever had! (sorry Iowa)

        *********please note that the above are my opinions and do not represent any official statement from my employer blah blah blah.

  6. Tim Says:

    Great blog, Lori! I have been resting assured for all my years here in Armenia that the silver lining of an economic collapse is that they can’t afford to use pesticides. Alas, we have to start thinking about that issue here, too, and probably should have all along…

    On the zhigulis driving into Yerevan with their vegetables stacked to the roof, I have a rather special theory about them….. Maybe that is a good blog subject for a little bit later……

  7. So, I just received this e-mail today! If I had known this, I would have delayed this post until September, but OH WELL!
    Lori

    Dear Friends,

    This is the third year that together with you we have been supporting our farmers to expand chemical-free production.

    Unfortunately we face serious problems every summer because of the heat. As you may already know we are a non-profit organization, and the extra 10-20% that we add to the price of the products cover the salary of the two members of the Marketing Team, and the vehicle rent cost.

    In the summertime a great amount of produces get spoiled, and sometimes our customers sometimes complain of the low quality of some products (strawberry, tomato, soy milk, etc). We occasionally have to raise the prices of the products not to suffer high losses, which, certainly, may negatively affect our reputation.

    Unfortunately, during these 3 years of cooperation with you, we couldn’t find an organization which would assist us in getting a refrigerator-vehicle which would enable us to avoid such problems and assist the small farmers in the summertime as well.

    We invited our farmers yesterday, apologized for the predicament and for not being able to completely fulfill their hopes, and asked them to sell their products in the markets in summer.

    We are sorry, but we have to stop the deliveries for about 3 months.

    The weather in Armenia gets cooler in September, and we promise to resume the deliveries then and to improve the quality of our service.

    During this period we will organize farm visits to different regions of Armenia. We often visit our farmers and see how they grow their products, help them with our advice, provide them with free organic seeds, fertilizers and pest management tools. We trust our farmers.

    You know that you support them and inspire trust, thus contributing to improvement of people’s health and environment.

    During the Farm Tours you can buy the products right on the farm, and even harvest the fruits and vegetables yourselves if you wish.

    Thank you for cooperation and your trust.

    Sincerely

    Nune Sarukhanyan, PhD

    President of ,,Green Lane,,

    Agricultural Assistance NGO


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