Currently there are more than 1,200 farms in the country, but only a small number of them commercially produce fruits and vegetables.
Al Sulaiteen Agricultural & Industrial Complex (SAIC), one of the largest agricultural farms in the country, is the main local supplier of fresh vegetables to hypermarkets here.
Reasons to support farmers markets
From savouring produce at the peak of freshness to meeting the people who grow your food, there are countless reasons to support farmers markets. Here are a few:
Taste real flavours
The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers market are fresh and tasty. They are usually allowed to ripen fully in the field and are then brought directly to you – no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage. This food is fresh from the farm.
Enjoy the season
The food you buy at the farmers market is seasonal. It is fresh and delicious. You reconnect with the earth, the weather, and the turning of the year. You’ll also learn what is in season when – making you more knowlegeable for when you have to shop at a grocery store, allowing you to pick the best produce.
Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance against big supermarkets and the like. This is especially true in Qatar which imports 90% of its food!
Shipping uses large amounts of natural resources and contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging. Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than sustainable agriculture and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products. Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimise impact on the earth.
Much food found in grocery stores is highly processed and grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification. Some of it has been irradiated, waxed, or gassed in transit. These practices may have negative effects on human health. In contrast, most food found at the farmers market is minimally processed, and many farmers go to great lengths to grow the most nutritious produce possible by using sustainable techniques, picking produce right before the market.
Promote humane treatment of animals
At the farmers market, you can find meats, cheeses and eggs from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, who have eaten natural diets, and who have been spared the conditions of feedlots that are typical of animal agriculture.
Know where your food comes from
A regular trip to the farmers market is one of the best ways to connect with where your food comes from. Meeting and talking to farmers in Qatar is a great opportunity to learn more about how and where food is produced.
Connect with the community
Wouldn’t you rather stroll amid outdoor stalls of fresh produce on a pleasant day than roll your cart around a grocery store with artificial lights? Visiting one of the farmers markets makes shopping a pleasure – and gets your day started early. The farmers market is a community hub, a place to meet up with your friends, bring your children, or just get a taste of the outdoors rarely found in Doha city.
Things to keep in mind
Unless you have a large family or share a home with with a group of friends and roommates, where someone cooks regularly, the boxes of fruit and vegetables sold at the market might be too much for you to finish before it starts going bad. So, if you enjoy fresh produce and don’t have a suitable number of mouths at home, go along with a friend and split what you buy between each other – this will also allow you to carpool to the market, and make the trip more fun for everybody! (occasionally the seller might agree to see you indivudial portions – ask).
- Don’t haggle with the farmers selling their produce as you are already getting it at a nominal price.
- Carry cash, as cards are not accepted.
- The yards in which the markets are held are maintained to be as clean as possible, do not litter.
- Don’t forget to pick up a bottle or two of Qatar’s famous honey.
- If you enjoy gardening or simply like flowers this is a great place to pick up a few potted plants to cheer up your home.
- The market’s are under strict control by the authorities.
- Don’t forget to have fun!
The markets in Qatar
Al Mazrooa in Arabic means cultivation in a loose sense and the concept refers to agricultural produce. In Qatar’s context, it means markets to promote local farm produce. The Al Mazrooa market is popular as fresh vegetables and other produce are sourced from local farms at cheaper rates and in very attractive packaging. The concept of the Al Mazrooa market is the brainchild of the agricultural development department of the Ministry of Environment.
The idea is to promote local farm produce, poultry and dairy products and livestock. Honey is one of the most popular Qatari produce in demand, especially the black type called ‘asal’.
Due to huge popularity, the season of the farmers market which then opened in Al Thakhira and Al Khor was extended by eight weeks 2013-14.
The Al Wakra market then opened. Here there will also be an enclosure to sell livestock and another to market poultry meat and products, including live chickens, fish and honey.
Qatari milk, cheese and other dairy products will also be available at the market. Some 42 farms will be taking part in Al Wakra vegetables market and sell their fresh produce.
Last season, large stocks of produce, that included a wide variety of fresh vegetables like cucumber, spinach, lettuce, khoosa, potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, cabbages, carrots, peppers and other popular vegetables were sold that were sourced from Qatari farms.
The markets will be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, possibly until May 2016 depending on the weather.
Location and timing
Al Wakra yard is located opposite the Al Wakra Hospital roundabout. Al Mazrooa yard is located in Umm Salal Ali, opposite the Veterinary Centre. SAl Khor and Al Thakhira yard is located opposite the Al Khor Industrial roundabout.
The three markets will run three days a week (Thursday to Saturday) from 7 am – 5 pm, weather permitting until May/June.
Author: Sarah Mascrenhas, Photography: Sarah Palmer
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