Go indie and grow: how to “mainstream” indigenous farm products

Go indie and grow: how to “mainstream” indigenous farm products

14 Nov, 2019

No need to reinvent the wheel. For agripreneurs who wish to participate in the food heritage market, Javara Indigenous Indonesia founder and CEO Helianti Hilman, publicly recognized as the forefront promoter in sustaining Indonesia’s food biodiversity heritage, interviewed during LEAF 2018, has the following tips:

1. Train farmers to be food entrepreneurs and artisans

Rediscover food biodiversity and heritage by working with the farmers and indigenous communities who have the knowledge of these. We set up Javara Academy-School of Food Artisans to promote rural entrepreneurship. Farmers need mentoring in terms of branding and marketing [and even accounting for sustainable profit]; but recognize that farmers and the indigenous communities are also mentoring us. They are valuable contributors within the supply chain.

2. Establish an identity/brand for the products

We also have to build the understanding of this indigenous community, because sometimes they are too nice, they are too open, and people are taking [advantage] of that. Our farmers get the protection for the geographical indication; [we make sure that] the brand of the geographical origin is already protected.

3. Get certified as a group

Some products have large volume, even if we are collecting it from, say, 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 indigenous farmers. If you do that aggregation, then you can do the [organic] certification, because it becomes affordable.

4. Create a story behind your product

If the volume is too small, then you don’t certify until you have a certain volume. What we did is we built a very strong story behind it. Certification is about traceability, it’s about trust; if you can build the trust and traceability, then it’s easy. For us, the easiest way is we invite them to come and visit and see [for] themselves.

5. Cultivate influencers to market your food

You have to create the market, [so] you need to educate the influencer. High-profile chefs like a challenge; they like to be given rare ingredients. Every time we received all these rare ingredients from the indigenous community, we would send it to all these high-profile chefs, and they would create a recipe for us.

6. Choose your market

Our choice is to support the farmers, to support the indigenous community. If some of our products become very niche, then let it be, it’s okay. There are still many other options of products that we can also profile to a more mainstream customer because it’s higher in volumes, and more affordable.

Inspired by indigenous farmers and food artisans striving to preserve Indonesia’s food biodiversity, indigenous wisdom and spiritualism, JAVARA was founded in 2008.

Javara works across agricultural value chains from production to distribution in order to preserve Indonesia’s biodiversity and bring community-based, organic products to broader markets. To date, Javara has created over 600 artisanal products and works with over 50,000 smallholder farmers across Indonesia.

Know more about Javara here.

This article, “Go indie and grow: how to “mainstream” indigenous farm products” first appeared in Redefining + Revitalizing Agriculture, Leaders and Entrepreneurs in Agriculture Forum (LEAF) 2018 Terminal Report