The waiting list is six months long.
Baskets filled with chemical-free, organically-grown greens and other colourful vegetables are in high demand, and New Caledonian residents are willing to wait many months just to get one.
Marion and Rose, two women who produce and sell the produce baskets, can barely keep up with the demand.
Marion’s family has been organic farming at La Tamoa since 2006. Marion grew up on a farm, but she did not become a farmer right away. Instead, she started out managing a bar. But having a child changed all that.
“I realised that I wanted my daughter to grow up with clean, safe food so I moved back to the farm,” Mario said.
In 2008 she moved back to her family farm and took over the reins from her father, Jean-Jacques Prothais, who is also the first president of Bio Caledonia, an association of organic farmers in New Caledonia.
Rose is from Vanuatu. She moved to New Caledonia more than 10 years ago in search of a better education for her children. Marion handles the commercial end of the business while Rose is the farm manager. It is a thriving partnership.
“I’m proud to grow organic food and the demand is growing more and more. I’m not worried about the future because I just need to produce more food,” Marion said.
“It’s obvious that agriculture must be organic, it’s not an option. We need to protect the planet, water resources and the earth, and if we don’t do that, it might disappear,” Marion said.
The ‘baskets’ are really bags made from cloth. About 80 of these are delivered each week to individuals and businesses all over Noumea. A prominent business buyer is Bio Monde Noumea.
Marion said individuals that are members of the ‘Vert Panier’ or Green Baskets Association receive a basket a week.
Association members also provide voluntary assistance in distributing the baskets thus contributing to a greater dream of supporting the growth of organic food consumption and production in Noumea.
The growing demand and a long wait list reflect the increasing consumer consciousness about the benefits of organic food, for human health and the environment.
“We also sell to a shop in Noumea that wants more because of its growing consumer base,” Marion said.
Marion said she’s lucky to have Rose.
“Organic farming can be challenging because it’s more time consuming, more work than conventional agriculture, and so difficult to find the human resources to do it properly, and to understand why you need to spend more time on the activities,” she said.
Marion’s father gave Rose a job, too, and taught her organic farming techniques.
“I realise I can do this well, having learned from Marion’s dad,” she said.