For the past 3 months there has been a new presence on the Keystone campus – a mix of Cornell University students from Ithaca, New York and local students from the Nilgiris region. Each spring (it is the 3rd year running) a batch of students are brought together in a program called NFLC (Nilgiris Field Learning Centre) – “an interdisciplinary partnership to explore questions of sustainable environments and livelihoods”. To learn more about the specifics of NFLC, please refer to this site.
A unique feature of this study/collaboration program is that each week has a different focus, one of which dealt with the exposure to markets. So what better way to learn and experience the methods of marketing than for Last Forest Enterprise to come in and share our experience with them. We explained the framework of a social enterprise and what it takes to be regarded
as such, specifically how Last Forest maintains a strict marketing code of ethics with value systems such as Fair Trade, Organic and Slow Food. We took a detour down the street, this time with the students, so that they could visit our Coonor Green Shop. This visit also contributed to our lessons on retail marketing and our non-retail efforts (giving items in bulk to others for them to sell). One of the last components to this 4 day teaching spree was introducing our guest speaker – Mr. Andre Leu, the president of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) – Organics International. He gave an eye-opening talk about organic agriculture and its true cost, specifically how much food is actually worth. For example, organic could (should!) be less expensive than non-organic because it does not use any other additive items to grow, whereas non-organic requires additives like pesticides (deeper issue is that non-organic is sold in bulk and pesticides are subsidized, and hence why less expensive than organic). Overall, a really interesting week for us! We hope the marketing knowledge we bestowed was interesting and appreciated, and above all increases the awareness about the value of social enterprises.