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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Foodie Focus: An Ethical & Socially Responsible Food Business Starts With The Sourcing Of Ingredients

Pictures from the Farmers Market on the Terrace
where I like to shop for my ingredients during the season (Nov-April)
Out of season the farmers sell their produce at The Farm House in Al Manzil Hotel


One of the things I look forward to most in Dubai is 'The Farmers Market on the Terrace' which takes place during the cooler winter months (November to April) at the fabulous gardens of Emirates Towers. Really if you haven't been, you must. It is a true farmers market, where you get to buy farm-fresh, local and organic produce, that has been just picked by the local farmers and brought to the market by them too. In case you are wondering, yes in Dubai, there is farming! And yes there is organic farming!



While Dubai is a city filled with food markets, food exhibitions and festivals and all things food events, the farmers market on the terrace is my absolute favourite because it is in fact a real farmers market. In this market you get to buy straight from the farmers (no middlemen) which means you actually get to know those who grow your food, and we all know how necessary that is (today more than ever). Getting to know these farmers and their produce allows you a chance to know them, find out more about their farming practices and even ask them to grow stuff for you! I have on many occasions asked some of the farmers for produce that was not on display, and found out that because they do not produce it in large amounts it was not there at the market, but were really nice to bring some for me the next week. You do not get a chance to do this anywhere else, at least no where where the farmers are not present! Establishing these relationships of trust and support are vital for the community, after all when you buy local, and from the farmers, you are supporting them and ensuring that they continue to exist which in return ensures that we continue to have this choice. I for one am all for freshly picked, local, organic produce that does not taste like cardboard and brings flavour and aroma back to my kitchen, aren't we all? Most importantly, buying from the farmers market also means organic is way more affordable than when purchased from the stores. One thing every body tells me about why they are not consuming organic produce is that it is expensive. Well here you go, shop at the farmers market and see for yourselves how affordable it becomes, and really you do not want to sacrifice your health by consuming all these chemicals.

The Farmers Market on The Terrace, is really a fun place with all the farmers and shoppers forming a community, the buzz of buying and selling, produce, tasting and smelling, talking weather, soil and quality... that I only knew back in the day is one of the things this market brought back to my life. Food demonstrations, artisanal produce (local and regional all represented by the farmers and their families), amazing snacks, live cooking and a hang out place like no other in Dubai. The market truly has a spirit of its own and very different to the typical Dubai experiences. You even find many chefs there sourcing their restaurants' supplies, bloggers, known food writers and everyone who is a foodie really. And this is only natural because food lovers can't resist a farmers market!

So make sure to be there this coming season, support the local farmers (as a food business or individuals), give back to the community in support, why not? Why not prioritise local over imported, why not thank these farmers growing this produce and supplying us with these goods and this choice by getting to know them, buying from them and supporting them? This is what a community is after all!

Meanwhile, wet your appetite with this video, where I captured a day at the farmers market this past April. That day, I also chatted with Yael Mejia, the founder of this farmers market, to know how it all started, what initiated a farmers market in a city we know as 'the desert!' and how she put the whole thing together and the idea behind it... Watch and listen to Yael tell you how from the desire to operate her business ethically and responsibly, she found herself establishing the UAE's first and so far only real farmers market and in the process changing the food conversation in the Emirates!

Please note that because The Farmers' Market On The Terrace was busy and close to Sheik Zayed Road, the background noise is very loud as you can imagine. I had enhanced the voice to make it better and this is as good as it gets and as real as it gets too :)





A call to food-business owners
No concept/business will ever take off and succeed without the embrace of its local community. Without the support and love of the community within which one is no one thrives. The same applies to these local farms and farmers. Without our support, they will not thrive, while with it they will flourish and be able to offer us more. There is nothing greater than supporting the community we are in, and nothing greater than being ethical and socially responsible in the way we operate a business. Support these farmers and source your ingredients locally wherever possible. Yes there are limitations, but wherever possible the offering can be local and seasonal, there is nothing better anyway. On the same line, taking care of your customers ensuring to offer them the best on all fronts, most importantly where health is concerned, really should not be a question. Increase your organic offerings, and wherever possible offer only that. Why should the customers who support your business suffer from ingesting chemicals and foods that are not good for them?

Just a thought in hopes that more and more food businesses will support local and organic.


On this link, Dubai's best loved Shakshooka recipe. Yes you heard it right: The Baker & Spice Shakshooka Recipe :)



Yael Mejia is the founder/owner of Baker & Spice London and is overseeing the business in Dubai. She is also the founder of The Farmers' Market On The Terrace.

Baker & Spice Dubai 
are doing it for themselves. The main driver is the quest for taste, quality and context. Scratch Making, Scratch Baking – the “new” buzz words for all things genuine and artisan, are the beating heart of the business. 

"We have a long tradition of making things ourselves, rather than just buying in, and are constantly pushing the boundaries to develop and refine our recipes." Describes Yael.

"Baker & Spice is making food from scratch: we make our own sausages, dry-cure bresaola, home cure fresh fish. We jam, curd, chutney, pickle and preserve, and bake all our daily bread using original recipes and traditional artisan methods. We run like a home kitchen, using only raw ingredients, inspired daily by the fresh produce to hand. Local and regional seasonal produce features in the dishes we serve. Every day brings something different to the table. During the local growing season (November – April) produce is picked for us early in the morning at local farms and is in our kitchen by midday." 

Twitter: @BakerandSpiceME 
Instagram: @bakerandspicedubai


The Farmers’ Market On The Terrace – "Our Way of spreading the love"
Having discovered organic farming in the Emirates in 2009, we set about making the produce available to all through the first and still only weekly farmers market in Dubai. The farmers' market on the terrace, looking forward to its 6th season this December, brings the farmers and their bounty (the complete range of locally grown vegetables and herbs) once a week, every Friday to the magnificent gardens of Emirates Tower Hotel.

This market is a not for profit, community-led initiative that is genuinely dedicated to the farmers and local farming. By not charging the farmers to participate, it supports their efforts and broadens choices available for customers who want fresh, local, organic produce.

Website: www.bakerandspiceme.com
Twitter: @FarmersUAE



Please note that out of season the farmers sell their produce (daily, year round) at
The Farm House Dubai located in Al Manzil Hotel. 
Instagram: @thefarmhousedubai




Ramadan Mubarak
Appreciate, Love & Giveback a little this Ramadan :)

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