Isloo Fresh: Organic Farming in Islamabad, Pakistan

On a weekend trip within the city we toured the Isloo Fresh Farm in Bain Nala, just 45 minutes from downtown Islamabad. Having been a longtime customer of the farm thanks to their participation in several nearby farmer’s markets, we were excited to see first-hand where some of our favorite fruits and vegetables come from.


Background

Isloo Fresh started in 2013 as the brainchild of three local farmers–Faisal, Ali, and Qasim–who produce dairy, cheese, and organic produce, respectively. Since then, they have expanded their operations by partnering with local citrus farmers to provide healthy, fresh, and locally grown foods to their customers. In addition to their organic farm, they sell their goods at farmer’s markets in Islamabad and Karachi while also doing home deliveries.


Getting There

Driving to Isloo Fresh is relatively easy and straightforward, although the road is narrow and unkempt in some places. We rode in an SUV, but plenty of motorbikes and smaller cars had no trouble getting through. Use the map below to calculate the route and distance from your location.

 

 


Visiting Isloo Fresh

We pulled up to their farmhouse, which looks more like a quaint AirBnB, and took a quick tour of the yard before gathering around Qasim for a quick explanation of the grounds.

The Farmhouse.

Qasim explained that on their 7.5 acre farm they raise livestock, grow vegetables, produce dairy, and experiment with various fruit trees. After giving us the lay of the land (as well as some clippers) it was time to take a walk and see for ourselves!

Just a couple hundred feet from the farmhouse lies several greenhouses with rows of lush, healthy vegetables. Some of the many things currently grown include broccoli (including a very cool purple variety), Swiss chard, bok choy, kale, turnips, radishes, arugula, romaine and red lettuce, and several other greens. With an empty bag and a sharp knife, we went to work collecting all we could carry.

A great haul of bok choy.
My broccoli haul.
Purple broccoli.

The purple broccoli was especially neat – I’ve never seen anything like it before. Unfortunately that was the one item we were asked not to pick, as they are saving them for seeds. Next time, maybe!

After getting our fill at the greenhouses, we moved on to the chicken coop. Upon first entrance, the first surprising aspect is that there is no sign of the foul odor that is usually associated with such enclosures. Qasim explained to us that although more than 300 chickens live there, there is no odor because of the soil they use for ammonia management. The coop is also covered by a tin roof with straw insulation, which made it very comfortable and cool inside.

The scent-free chicken coop.

The hens were a bit confused as to why so many of us were invading their space, and their squawks let us know they weren’t happy about it! As we made our way around, we plucked a few eggs from their nests which were so fresh that they were still warm. It doesn’t get any more farm-to-table than that.

Then it was time to pile back into the car and head over to a nearby citrus orchard owned by a very nice man named Shaheen, who lived in Los Angeles for many years before coming back to Pakistan to start his own farm. There he grows oranges, grapefruits, and a mandarin hybrid native to the Pakistan and India called the Kinnow.

The orchard is smaller than what you might see in the expansive farms of South America, but every tree is planted with purpose. Shaheen knew exactly which tree produced a slightly sweeter or more tart fruit and could point out those that were ready for harvest. He even had a tree growing ruby red grapefruits, which he said he brought back from California in a suitcase long ago.

We roamed through the orchard, picking the finest and most ripe fruit, and ended with a laudable stash to take home.

From there, we headed back to Isloo Fresh to have a picnic on their lawn and enjoy the nice afternoon day. Who knew such high quality fruit and vegetables were available so close to the capital?

Our picnic buddy.

For the finest agricultural experience in Islamabad, be sure to check out Isloo Fresh. Qasim and his associated could not have been nicer and more accommodating to our group. His passion for organic farming is evident in the care, success, and wonderful taste of his crops


Contact

To inquire about a tour of Isloo Fresh or to arrange home delivery of their produce, contact Qasim on their Facebook Page or via email at isloofresh2015@gmail.com.

 

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