From farm to table: tradition meets tech at Sara's Organic Farm



Fri, 20 Oct 2017 - 02:12 GMT


Fri, 20 Oct 2017 - 02:12 GMT

Photo courtesy of Sara's Organic Farm

Photo courtesy of Sara's Organic Farm

CAIRO - 20 October 2017: Healthy or easily available? Chemical free or locally grown? Safer or tastier? Sometimes having to choose between the myriad types of produce to buy for our family can become a confusing decision. Thankfully, organic foods have exploded in popularity, providing health enthusiasts with an almost-ideal choice for ensuring their wellbeing, preserving the environment and providing a tasty and nutritious meal.

“Growing up in Switzerland, my grandparents had a farm and my mother was an avid gardener. Fresh, healthy and organic produce was the norm,” Sara-K Hanning Nour tells us as she welcomes us at the farm, located on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road. A strong believer in organic and the good it does for the environment, farmers and consumers, Nour launched her project in 2011 when she first came to Egypt.

“I was in awe at the beautiful produce available in Egypt, but unfortunately, due to lack of regulation [and awareness], much of the produce is also pesticide ridden and exposed to pollution; and the source of food is unknown to the average consumer,” says Nour. “It was clear to me that we had to try growing organic food.”

Setting out with a few kilos of cucumbers at the Farmers’ Market in Zamalek, Sara’s Farm entered the organic market product by product. The project later settled at Desert Lake Farms, where Sara’s organic produce is currently sourced on 972 acres of arable land. “There has been a swift development throughout the past four to five years,” says Khaled Mahmoud, vegetables and seeds manager at Sara’s Farm. “This land was like a plague, full of grass and woodland. The reclamation work set out from scratch, starting with digging the wells, paving the soil and establishing clusters for grapes, mangos and so on.”


The project currently consists of two brands; Sara’s Organic Food and Lara’s Premium Produce. Sara’s Organic food is grown sustainably on the farm following the European Commission organic standards. Lara’s Premium Produce is sourced from hydroponic pioneers in the market who grow without the use of pesticides, or from small farmers who allocate a percentage of their produce to be grown without chemicals and pesticides. In 2017, the growing farm sourced 700 tons of fruit, 32 tons of organic vegetables and 29 tons of premium vegetables, all in line with European Union (EU) organic requirements. “Each year we have increased the amount of produce that is either organic certified or premium. We manage to sell everything we produce, with demand for more,” Nour says.

Capitalizing on “a wave of awareness taking place in Egypt,” Nour’s project has focused on “slow growth and high quality,” she explains. It has also embarked on a mission to educate people about the benefits of clean food, which is “healthily grown and healthy to eat” and to invite its customers to see firsthand where and how their food grows.
“Knowing your food is essential for your own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of farmers, animals and the environment,” Nour says. “It allows for a green and natural environment in line with a healthy and mindful lifestyle.”

To cater to their customers’ curiosity and concerns, Sara’s Farm organizes day-long events in collaboration with schools and individuals, says Zeina El-Badry, events and exhibitions manager at Sara’s Farm. They also host a bi-monthly picnic where farm visitors are welcome to come and see how the crops are grown and ask all the questions they have. Schools organize the trips to the farm to introduce the children to the concept of organic farming, which is not very popular in Egypt, Badry explains.
The students are invited to take a tour on the tractor and explore how organic food is grown and what crops looks like, plant mint seeds, feed the farm animals, paint rock pieces and enjoy two meals prepared with newly-harvested vegetables and freshly-baked bread.

“Since January, we have welcomed over 400 students from numerous schools,” Nour says. “We plan to host more workshops, events and a farmers’ markets at our farm in the future.”


How organic is Sara’s Organic?

Sara’s Organic Food is grown according to the European Commission’s organic standards, which respect an overall system of farm management and food production. According to EU legislation on organic production “foods may be labelled ‘organic’ only if at least 95 percent of their agricultural ingredients meet the necessary standards,” which includes a set of regulations for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping.
“At Sara’s Organic Farm, we abide by these principles by conviction. We believe that everyone should have the right to access clean, healthy and pesticide free food,” Nour says. “When I had my first daughter Lara, this became as important as ever—we want only the best for our children.”

Applying an all-inclusive philosophy of sustainable farming, the project takes into consideration the fertility of the soil, the biodiversity of the environment and the welfare of the animals, as well as providing better working conditions for its 45 farmers, engineers and technicians. She adds that they are safeguarding the soil against degradation and fighting against depleting natural resources.


Is organic too expensive?

Although the organic market has flourished worldwide in the past 20 years, the relatively-high cost of pesticides-free produce remains discouraging for many customers who refuse or cannot afford to spend 20 or 30 percent more on groceries. In Egypt, the challenge is even bigger; the weak demand and the limited availability make it difficult to buy organic food at a convenient price.

The price of one small basket of Sara’s organic food and Lara’s premium line’s freshest products reaches an average of LE 300; one kilogram of premium potatoes sells for LE 11.25 and 500 grams of organic white eggplant costs over LE 7; almost three to four times the price of conventionally-grown produce.

The price “represents the real cost of the food,” says Nour who explains that one reason behind the higher cost is that growing organic is more labor-intensive, as a lot of work that chemicals can do is done manually, like keeping weeds at bay, or controlling pests.
The yield of organic crops is usually lower, entailing a percentage of loss, Mahmoud explains, adding that, “90 percent of organic pesticides and organic sources for calcium and iron has to be imported” and so comes at a high price.

In addition to the basic needs for organic cultivation, sustainable farming also means “treating everyone involved in the process fairly; which entails fair wages, respecting animals’ rights and safeguarding the environment,” Nour adds. “The benefit to the consumer is that, for every kilogram of produce, he or she is getting more nutrients and less harmful substances than from a conventionally-grown crop. Also, they are paying a price that is more fair to everyone involved in the production of food,” she explains.

Sara’s Organic Food and Lara’s Premium Line are available at a number of supermarkets, such as Gourmet stores, Carrefour supermarkets and Nature’s Market online shop at Customers can also choose the freshest vegetables, fruits and herbs of the season from Sara’s Organic Food website, make their own “Sara and Lara’s basket,” and have it delivered to their home, in a hand-woven, reusable basket. Follow them at



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