Ever tasted raisins you couldn’t stop munching on? Did you know that the colour of commercially available raisins comes from sulphurization? Have you heard of indigenous grape varieties like Sharad (black grapes) and Sonaka (green grapes)?
Located in Sangli in western Maharashtra, Umrani Farms is an organisation that specialises in indigenous raisin production, and they produce some of the best we’ve ever tried– plump and juicy in texture, with a cleaner but more complex flavour unlike commercial varieties.
For nearly three decades, Umrani Farms had been growing and exporting grape varieties through their company FreshExpress. Their attention shifted to raisin production in 2020 as a result of market disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which left many grapes on the vines unharvested. What started in 1993 as an intergenerational farm has snowballed into a movement to bring back forgotten grape varieties. They follow the approach of sun drying raisins as an extension of their sustainable farming practises. Today, Umrani Farms is 95 percent led and operated by women who seek gainful employment after working on their own farm plots in the mornings.
Their efforts in natural farming and focus on growth promoters for crops—known as biological sprays and inputs—have made farms self-sustaining in the formerly drought-prone region. Today, along with raisin cultivation, Umrani Farms also makes foods like moringa powder, ginger powder, jowar and maize flour, and dried lemongrass
Why We Love Umrani Farms
- Quality of the products – Having been in the agribusiness for several years, they are known to be reliable exporters of their high quality produce. When compared with commercially available raisins, we found the ones from Umrani Farms to have a much more distinct and nuanced flavour, as well as being juicier and more plump in texture.
- Bringing back forgotten varieties – Focussing on indigenous grape varieties, they actively promote local varieties like Sharad (black grapes) and Sonaka (green grapes).
- No sulphurization – There is no use of chemicals to alter the colour of raisins, typically induced by sulphurization in the commercially available alternatives. The natural grapes cultivated at Umrani Farms come in shades of brown and black.
- Focus on natural growth promoters – Dried limboli (neem seeds) is used as a vital ingredient to enrich the soil. Other biological inputs include jeevamrutha, a natural fertiliser consisting of cow dung, pulse flour, cow urine, and jaggery. Along with distributing the same to women farmers in the community, they also hold training programmes for the same.
- Conversations around financial literacy – Umrani Farms actively engages with their women farmers to educate them about financial independence and natural farming practices.
Note from the Producer
“I had an idyllic childhood spent in the lush greenery of Assam in north-eastern India. I was shocked when I moved to our farms in the Southwest tip of Maharashtra in Jat district, and found that things we always took for granted, like abundance of ground water and greenery, were a luxury. Sustainability is the foundation on which Umrani Farms was built, not because it is the catchword of current times but because there was no other way to pursue agriculture in a drought-prone area in western Maharashtra, India. Natural, regenerative farming is not only the key to a better future, it is our only hope of having any future at all!”
— Nina Patil, Founder of Umrani Farms
The Locavore Bite
TL Bite offers a glimpse into how a partner producer runs their operations, and reflects their core principles and values. The idea is to provide insights into their practices and highlight their positive efforts descriptively. We have identified seven key areas of assessment – origin and source of ingredients, composition and integrity of the products, workforce policies, production practices, community-related initiatives, approach towards preserving or celebrating traditional knowledge and the materials used in packaging. While this assessment may not be entirely comprehensive, we hope it helps you make an informed decision about why you might want to support them, and the ways in which to.
The information below offers you a snapshot of where Umrani Farms stands on these parameters. We have put this together based on several rounds of conversation with Nina Patil, the founder of Umrani Farms. Click on a piece of the pie below to find out more.
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If you’re interested in finding out more about Umrani Farms, read our interview with them here.
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How to Buy
If you would like to learn more about Umrani Farms, or try different types of raisins, check out their website. If you’re interested in supporting them in other ways, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a paid partnership with Umrani Farms. We strive to keep the practices of a producer transparent and honest across all forms of partnerships.