The Dubai-based Pantry Café’s #homegrown campaign encourages children to grow seedlings. Co-founder Yana Kalwani tells us about the importance of gardening and using local produce.
Dubai-based Pantry Café's #homegrown campaign teaches kids planting
Are you a keen gardener? What do you grow?
I love spending time in the garden, especially with my children. While they find it a great space to burn off excess energy, I find it to be a wonderfully relaxing and meditative space – a place where you can connect with nature and take great pride and satisfaction in watching things grow. In my garden, we mostly have easy-to-grow herbs and a few vegetables. Not only do they physically reconnect us with nature, but also the sense of pride and satisfaction you get from knowing that you grew your food yourself really does make it taste better.
Why is the use of home-grown ingredients and local produce important, in your opinion?
As a home-grown brand ourselves, it is important to us to support other efforts in the region. There is a misconception that the UAE needs to import everything in order to function as a society – that we need to bring in external talent, produce or ideas. But that simply isn’t the case. There is such great potential here and such outstanding produce available on our doorstep, so it is important to nurture, support and invest in it wherever possible.
What products and companies do you work with?
We source many of our organic herbs and vegetables from Organic Oasis. They have a wonderful farm in Al Khawaneej [Dubai] that you can visit and see organic farming in practice. We get all our coffee from RAW coffee – another wonderful Dubai start-up that provides outstanding quality beans that are all organic, fair trade and ethically and sustainably sourced. Beyond simply sourcing food and ingredients, we support and engage with other local start-ups wherever possible.
How did you come up with #homegrown, and what do you hope to achieve?
The incentive for the campaign was to subtly remind people of Pantry Café’s values – not only of our commitment to providing fresh, natural, wholesome food, but also of our #proudlyuae status. For us, this means that we are incredibly proud of the community that we come from, and enjoy engaging with it and supporting it.
Do you have any future projects lined up?
We are excited to be opening a brand new restaurant in Abu Dhabi in the next few months. The concept – a departure from Pantry Café – is authentic pan-Latin cuisine.
What role does gardening play in a healthy society?
Gardening teaches us valuable lessons about where our food comes from, and about the important relationship between taking care of our environment and taking care of our health. We believe this is especially important for children growing up in the UAE. Of course, they are all taught about farming at school, but most of them don’t have gardens of their own, and may have never been to a farm – for them, food simply comes from the supermarket. Gardening provides them with living laboratories, where they can experience first-hand the satisfaction of growing real, healthy, quality food. This will hopefully encourage them to take a greater interest in healthy eating and where their food comes from. It’s also a fantastic way of taking a break from our technology-filled lives. So many of us live behind our screens these days, and gardening is a hobby that the whole family can get involved in.