Mehr Fardoonji is 92 years old, owns Oakcroft Organic Market Gardens and runs a food group in Malpas, Cheshire, unloading and delivering the food herself. She opened an account with Suma in January 1980. 11 years before I, dear reader, was born!
I went to visit Mehr. She told me about her extraordinary life as we sat in the sun drinking home made raspberry cordial. She showed me around her gorgeous home and introduced me to the family that now rent the market garden, growing organic produce for their local veg box scheme.
Mehr is from India but when her father passed away in 1937, her mother decided it was time for a change. Mehr was 7 at the time but her, much older, brother was ready to go to university. So, with an uncle based in Manchester, they decided to move to the UK. They planned to stay for just 3 years, but when the war broke out in 1939, they were stuck here.
Mehr completed her university education in England before travelling back home to India overland, a journey of 7 months which included a spell working in a Kibbutz, an agricultural community where people voluntarily live and work together on a noncompetitive basis.
She spent the next 6 years both living in the foothills of the Himalayas as part of the Bhoodan land gift movement, redistributing land from the wealthy to the landless. And working in the Gandhi Indian independence movement, which eventually lead to the end of British occupation and developed a philosophy of truth-focused, non-violent resistance in India.
Mehr desperately wanted her mother to return home to be with her, but her brother had established a life for them in England. She’d agreed to visit for 12 months. But while she was here, in a bid to get the family back together, her bother bought her a house, with 4 acres of land, in Malpas, Cheshire, where she has now been for the past 63 years.
From her experience growing in India, Mehr transformed the equestrian land into a thriving market garden. She also planted the woodland where her late Husband is now buried.
She’s been growing and selling organic vegetables from her market garden since she was 30. Mehr told me that her mum had always been keen on health foods and organic produce and had raised her as a vegetarian. She described her as a remarkable, wonderful woman and explained that anything good she has done is because of her mother.
Mehr heard about Suma through word of mouth back when we were first established and has been telling people about us ever since. She places a huge order with us every 2 to 3 months so all her local friends and family can eat delicious, sustainable food. Mehr loves the fact that we’re a co-op as she hates big organisations. She says she finds that Suma are so kind and efficient.
Also, organic growing is super important to her and she has been registered with the Soil Association from the very beginning. Mehr still lives in the house, teaching yoga and enjoying the land. When she passes away, she will be be buried alongside her husband, and the land and house will be left to the Soil Association to protect and maintain its organic status.
By 2030 we aim for 75% of Suma brand products to be organic. Read our full sustainability report here.