It’s not news that the locally grown produce movement is spreading around the world. However farm-to-table lovers in Dubai have not been able to enjoy the same access to these earthly delights – until now. After years of work, British ex-pat Yael Mejia opened Dubai’s first farmers market near the base of the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – and Dubai shoppers can finally taste of what local producers have to offer. It took several years for Mejia to make this market a reality, but her hard has work paid off – starting with produce from only three farms, the market now sells goods from eight different vendors and it continues to grow in both size and popularity.
Mejia, who moved to Dubai from London to grow her chain of artisan food shops, Baker and Spice, had been using local resources to make her her products since 1995. Unfortunately when she arrived in Dubai she was unable to find what she needed. Out of necessity she traveled around the Middle East and was successful in establishing relationships with farmers in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. However she was still not happy with her options, and she knew there were farms in Abu Dubai.
As it turned out these organic farms only sold their goods to the super-rich and their friends. Regardless of the obvious challenges Mejia saw this problem as a potential opportunity, and she set out to lay the ground work that would give everyone living in Dubai the option to buy local produce. It took Mejia two years of persistence until she finally connected with one of the farmers in Dubai. This connection led to relationships with two additional farms in the area, making up the first three farms to sell at the market.
Although the first market was modest in size, it was not modest in popularity. It received a large amount of attention from the media, and saw an impressive 4000 visitors. Mejia described the crowd as “unbelievably grateful,” and in an article from Modern Farmer, Mejia explains how “Local produce just was not available to the common man.” The market just finished its third season in May and is now located at the garden at the Emirates Towers hotel.
Not only is the market’s produce local and fresh, it is also cheaper in price. Transporting food to the desert is extremely expensive are requires massive amounts of infrastructure. Like anything else access to this infrastructure costs money which is then passed onto the consumer. Although Mejia has seen some criticism the benefits of bringing local food to Dubai still seem relevant.
Via Modern Farmer