On Old Mahabalipuram Road in Semmancheri on the outskirts of Chennai lies The Farm—a dairy, restaurant, environmental learning space, food shop, an upcoming centre for permaculture. From being a farm and dairy when it was set up in 1974, this year it was turned into a holistic, self-dependent place with a restaurant, an environmental learning space, a food shop, an upcoming centre for permaculture. They are now tying up with artisans across the country to showcase handmade products—food, paper products, yoga mats—via pop-ups.
Run by 38-year-old Arul Futnani and his parents and partner Shalini Philip, The Farm’s endeavour is to present artisanal food and holistic experiences. The place is frequented by city folk and IT employees around the area for a quick, wholesome meal.
Arul explains how the menu took its current form. “We were inspired from our travels and by the food habits of people who work with us at the farm and the region they come from. On the menu, we have Sindhi Alu Tuk, Bengali Chingri Malai Curry, North Indian Rajma Chawal, Northeastern Naga Pork and Bamboo, and food of our own choice, such as pizzas and grills. We have artisanal breads like Sourdough and French style baguettes that are freshly baked each day. We have Little Cheese Plates, which feature Ricotta, Labneh, Feta, Bocconcini and Tomme, made in-house using fresh milk from the farm.”
When they started the restaurant in 2009, their aim was to get to a point where the farm would be the single largest vendor, and the restaurant would be the farm’s biggest customer. The experiment has yielded good results. “Our clients relate to the concept of the farm because we are living in times where people are looking to move away from industrially processed food. They want fresh, clean and organic food,” says Arul.
Through the retail shop, they connect the farmer with the customer by selling fresh paneer, cheese, breads, crackers, pickles, jam, etc. Rajma is sourced from Uttarakhand and Nagaland; lettuce, potatoes, strawberries, zucchini and carrots from Ooty; sundried tomatoes, dried apricots, apricot kernels and roasted barley from Ladakh; chamomile flowers from Leh, and coffee from Kodaikanal.
Mozzarella in brine made from buffalo milk from the farm and Bocconcicni are priced at Rs 160 for 100 gm each and Tomme de Semmancheri made from cow milk is for Rs 315 for 100 gm. Paneer is for Rs 137.50 for 250 gm, Banana Walnut cake loaf comes for Rs 263 and a flourless dark chocolate cake sets you back by Rs 210. These are from usual products as they have no preservatives and no added colour or flavour. A meal for two costs Rs 1,500-1,800.
While the area around The Farm was undergoing a development phase, Arul and his family decided to keep the land instead of giving it up to builders. They process the farm waste in a manner that reduces their carbon footprint.
Some of the waste is reused.
“We accumulate the leftover squeezed lemons from the day’s work in a big vessel of water with soapberries and put it in the oven that is still warm. By morning we have a naturally aromatic and detergent-less solution that we use to wash our pans, glasses and cutlery. The ash from the oven goes into the scouring of bigger pots,” smiles Shalini.