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).
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!