Savoir Flair sits down with the founder of Dubai’s Ripe Market, Becky Balderstone.
Dubai’s Ripe Market has become the platform for local artisans and start-ups to come together under one roof (or park). The market, which now runs year-round, with indoor and outdoor events in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, offers visitors everything from organic produce to arts, crafts, fashion, and jewelry. Here, Savoir Flair sits down with Becky Balderstone, the Founder of Ripe Market, to discuss eco-friendly business, the green movement within the UAE, and what to do in your everyday life to improve the environment.
What inspired you to start Ripe Market?
I wanted to do something I was passionate about. A few years ago, my husband was working on a big agricultural project and saw a gap in the market for local food markets selling produce from all of the local organic farms. I love visiting food and craft markets in the UK and Australia, and our concept was very much based on community markets that focus not only on food but also act as a platform for talented local artisans to sell their wares. The company then grew into other areas, like home deliveries, online orders, retail stores, school programs, and corporate sales.
What can people expect at your farmers’ markets?
Ripe’s community markets have become known across the UAE as a selling platform for a plethora of small local businesses made up of unique, homegrown artisans, arts and crafts start-ups, and gourmet food suppliers. With four weekly markets currently active across Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi, Ripe helps to embrace entrepreneurship and provides an outlet for aspiring vendors to showcase their products and talents. These community-driven markets are embraced by all demographics and age groups, while providing a platform for Ripe to reinforce the importance of healthy living and raise awareness of rising health issues.
Where does the organic produce for Ripe Market come from?
Ripe works with a handpicked selection of farms chosen for their organic farming techniques, eco-friendly operating systems, and local and international organic certifications. Produce is picked within 48 hours of being sold to ensure taste and freshness are never compromised. Items that cannot be grown locally are sourced from partner farms regionally. This includes most of our fruit, such as papaya, pineapples, oranges, and mangoes.
So many things are called organic or eco-friendly. How exactly do you put those labels into practice?
There seems to be a misconception that farming is relatively new to the region, but our farmers have been growing for many years and are very familiar with organic practices. It takes three years for a farm and its practices to be certified as organic, so we are very careful when selecting our farms to ensure they have been operating organically for this amount of time. All of our farms are locally certified and have already achieved or are close to achieving international organic certifications. A lot of people are very skeptical about organic farming in this region and the local regulations, but the farms we work with take great pride and care in following all organic practices and maintaining their certifications to the highest standards. We love working really closely with all of our farms, and have had a lot of fun this year trailing new vegetables that haven’t yet been grown here. This year, we introduced kale, which you couldn’t get locally here, as well as heirloom tomatoes, pak choy, and many more.
Tell us about your decision to open Ripe’s community market in Safa Park.
We wanted to hold our community markets in a place people could connect with, a venue that could accommodate everything we wanted to do, and a place that we wouldn’t outgrow. We have thoroughly enjoyed the market season so far, and we have big plans for next season’s market. Watch this space!
Tell us a bit about your home delivery service.
We offer home deliveries in Dubai and deliveries to a number of community collection points across the UAE. We specialize in local organic fruit and veg, but now also offer, chicken, honey, eggs, milk, cheese, bread, as well as a full list of pantry items, including superfoods and delicious teas. We will soon be launching our very own range of products. Simply order online, call us, or e-mail us, and we will deliver to your home.
What piece of advice would you give readers who might be interested in starting an organic or eco-friendly business?
Follow your passion, and stay focused on what you aim to achieve.
What do you think of the green movement in the UAE?
There has definitely been a movement towards more eco-friendly practices in the region over the last few years, which is really great to see. There has been a huge shift in demand for organic food since we began the business. People are increasingly health conscious, demand more choice and, as a result, the variety of products has expanded. There are a lot more talented individuals in the region, offering more creative choices. Overall, food is becoming a lot more interesting. It isn’t only the multi-national brands on the market anymore. Ripe Market demonstrates this, supporting young, local talent and providing them with a platform to showcase their skills directly to a likeminded audience.
What little things do you do in your everyday life to improve the environment?
• I compost my green waste with Bokashi bins.
• I recycle plastic, paper, and glass.
• I shop organic when possible.
• We have also just launched our new Ripe eco-friendly bags. We give them to our customers for free in the hope they will continue to use these instead of plastic bags. I use them when I do my shopping.
Photo: Courtesy of Ripe Market