The Haryali Farmers’ Market in Lahore has become a regular on the social calendar and is always a festive affair, with health and socially conscious people attending in droves. Between 4 to 9pm the venue (Lahore Grande) resonates a fun fair vibe, with music, balloons, eatables and even a jungle-gym for the children, attracting all and sundry. The focus, of course, is on organic produce. While the event is usually an attractive, outdoor sprawl of stalls, the organisers chose to host this weekend’s event indoors due to intense heat and unpredictable rain. It may have lost a bit of the rustic vibe but not the purpose.
Since its inception last year, the farmers’ market has grown dramatically in terms of both vendors participating and crowds in attendance. "From the first farmers’ market which started with 30 vendors, this month’s event saw an increase to 54, with at least 15 others who could not be accommodated due to space issues," Mahrukh Beg, one of the founding organisers explains. A dinner table brainchild of six friends with a mission to promote healthy eating, Khalis is currently spearheaded by Reza Abbass, Bilal Rashid, Mansoor Ahson and Mahrukh. After two members of their group split ways, Sundas Usman joined the crew for her first Khalis Market this time. The bazaar offers a wide array of organic products starting from milk and produce right down to skincare.
Speaking to Mahrukh revealed that they had also invited farmers from different parts of the country to partake in the market. "We specially flew in a family from Hunza who produce gluten-free flour. Who knew people even produced gluten-free flour in Pakistan? There are so many people in our country who have gluten allergies but are never aware of the disorder they suffer from due to lack of awareness and education. The purpose of this market is to promote a healthy, organic lifestyle that eschews food manufactured with toxins and chemicals," she said.
The variety of products available was remarkable. From stalls that sold plants of cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, basil, thyme etc to bakery booths with three- tiered cakes, the bazaar offered something for everyone. A young cooking enthusiast, Maha was thrilled to find rocket and stevia plants available at the market but mentioned how many of the plants did not survive very long. Pure milk, free range organic eggs, vegetables, flavoured honey, chutnies and even salsa was available, all at reasonable prices. An online clothing and lifestyle store also had their own kiosk within the marquee, as did vendors selling Afghani jewellery and hand-woven baskets. There were several booths that boasted organic skincare products, with handmade soaps, moisturizers, essential oils, masks and lotions on sale.
Uzma Hussain of Nebu Organic Skincare, who has participated in the market since its inception last year, was thrilled by the turn-out and mentioned how more people in our part of the world were becoming aware of the benefits of using organic products due to events like this. World over, the shift to a healthy, organic lifestyle is growing day by day. The cause is also being championed by stars and celebrities alike. Whether it is Jamie Oliver’s successful case against McDonalds which labelled their hamburger unfit for human consumption, or be it super model Miranda Kerr’s organic skincare line, healthy living is becoming more relevant.
Back to Lahore, Khalis Market is also a great opportunity for cooking enthusiasts who aim to enter the restaurant business, to set up shop and generate feedback regarding their food. Food consultant and organiser Reza Abbass is the mastermind behind the Haryali Experimental Kitchen that offers unique combinations like shiitake mushroom sauce on bun kebab. Apart from the oriental and burger booths, one of the stalls also offered innovative fusion food. A popular coffee chain even handed out free samples of an organic summer drink they have introduced for the summer at the event.
Being the last farmers’ market until the end of summer (due to a lack of produce available during June to August) this particular event was well attended with people stocking up on their favourite items to help them get through the summer. In country overwhelmed by poor health consciousness and fatty, adulterated food, Khalis Market points to a positive change. It brings together health conscious people in a social setting that can influence a break from centuries of unwholesome eating habits. After all, you are what you eat.