Spring is here and there is not a more perfect time to enjoy the outdoors. On the outskirts of the city of Cairo, Egypt you can find endless greenery. Where do those juicy local fruit and vegetable come from? A growing interest amongst city dwellers for organic and ethically sourced food has been on the rise; this has laid the ground for the concept of Agritainment, a concept where Entertainment meets Agriculture.
We sat down with Iman Mostafa, owner of Hazel Farm in Egypt, and asked her about opening her farm to the public and how she applies the concept of agritainment to her farm. Iman earned her master’s degree in Sustainable Development and has more than eight years of experience working for international organizations.
How would you define agritainment and why did you get into it?
Agritainment is when farming meets entertainment. Operating the agritainment concept means offering something for everyone, keeping them entertained and making them feel at home at the farm. The concept is to offer fun and also an educational experience.
I began applying the concept as a means to generate another source of revenue that encompasses the seasonal nature of the agriculture business, and most importantly it suited my character and passion. I love bringing people together, encouraging them to connect with nature and having them learn about agriculture and appreciating quality food made with love. I have always wanted to increase awareness of organic food and clean eating and I am happy that I can do this through Hazel Farm. By hosting people for a day they get to know more about organic food. It is very rewarding for me to create a memorable and happy experience for the visitors.
How long have you been doing this?
I have always been eager to go back to nature and protect the environment. I am a firm believer that looking for clean and organic food is the norm and not a luxury. I started working in my family farm since 2020. A year later, I decided to design a plot specifically to host people and began planting a variety of organic crops and this is how Hazel Farm was launched in December 2021.
What can someone learn and expect by paying a visit to your farm ?
People can see and learn about the different types of season’s crops through participating on a farm tour. They will learn about the whole process of organic agriculture from sowing to harvesting as well as fascinating facts about individual crops seen on the tour. Because the crops are organically sourced, it is safe for individuals to harvest, smell, touch and taste the crops. Those who visit will be able to plant their own seeds either in a pot, which they can take home or in our soil to which they can later visit on their next trip to our farm. You can also enjoy “from farm to table” meals and appreciate the relaxing country style farm setup with your loved ones.
How does agritainment play a role in helping us appreciate food ?
People who pay a visit to our farm see for themselves the process, time and effort it takes to harvest an organic crop. In addition to this, participating in the actual process whether through planting, or harvesting is bound to build a level of gratitude towards organically sourced crops. I believe that this is actually the fastest way for the farm to build trust, credibility and a sense of ownership with the consumers . Also, visitors are bound to appreciate the difference in color, freshness and taste between these organic crops and the conventional ones.
What is the importance of learning where our food comes from?
It helps us appreciate and feel grateful for the food we have because we get to know that the process is not easy. It also makes people more mindful and thus make healthier and informed decisions about food.
What do you think of the current awareness level when it comes to agriculture and food in the region? Also, how could it be improved?
Generally, it is lacking. People are still not fully aware of the importance of clean food for our health. Yet, over the past few years the awareness on clean eating and organic food is increasing at a fast pace, and several segments of society are looking for “clean” food. The widespread of diseases and the COVID 19 was a trigger for people in the region to shift to healthier lifestyles.
Awareness can be improved by encouraging farmers to shift to cleaner operations through availing the organic fertilizers at a lower price and facilitate their access to export market. At Hazel farm, we are setting an example by raising awareness about clean food through hosting people and involving them in the process.
What has been the biggest challenge so far ?
The biggest challenge so far in agritainment is the diverse operations of the business and the complex management system to ensure that the customers will receive a memorable experience. Operations include the agriculture work on the farm, the restaurant and hospitality services, the outreach activities, the customer service, the sales and delivery of vegetables, the sales of events tickets and the marketing. There is a need for a whole team that implies a high cost for a startup.
Why do you think it’s important to teach the next generation of children about agriculture?
In this age of digital technology, it is crucial for kids to get the chance to connect with nature…get to touch the soil, the plants, know where their food comes from, and play in open and green spaces. A farm is a complete ecosystem that includes plants, animals, insects and people. It is a complete life that children should be exposed to. Spending a day on the farm will help the kids learn many values like taking care of the animals, appreciating the farmers, knowing that everything God created has a role in providing us with the food we need.
Everyone loves nature and connects to it, it is a human instinct, we just need to reactivate it. At Hazel Farm, we host school trips, family days on the farm and other types of events that of course include kids. In the past few months, I was happy to see the different reactions of kids at different ages and how they are eager to explore and play. This is absolutely rewarding and makes it all worth it.
WE SAID THIS: There is definitely an awareness gap when it comes to Agritainment in the region and we are excited to see more ways to connect with our environment.